President Herzog's Merry Visit to Israel's Apartheid Schools

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the West Bank with his wife and settler leaders, on Tuesday
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The president of the apartheid state and his wife conducted a state visit this week to “white farms” in the West Bank. The new president, who is considered a leftist, visited two of them, one violent and the other bourgeois, both on stolen land according to international law. In one, he toured an ulpana, or girl’s religious school, while  in the other he visited a Montessori school. That’s the beauty of the white farms: They contain “the whole Israeli mosaic,” as the president put it.

How nice, really, that in this apartheid land there is a school that bases its teaching method on a “free learning environment.” The Sela’it settlement is just the place to demonstrate freedom.

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It was an exciting visit, according to the report on the Arutz Sheva website. Isaac Herzog was enthralled by “the splendid human landscape of Samaria.” And really, where else do you find such a wonderful human landscape like in the Har Bracha and Sela’it settlements? How wonderful that the president devoted one of his first official visits as president to these white farms. Obviously, he didn’t bother to see the residents of the adjacent townships, not even through binoculars.

So let’s remind the president just where he went. Opposite Har Bracha is the village of Burin. Presumably, Herzog has never visited there and never will. The residents of Burin live under the constant threat of violent attacks – on their property and their lives – from settlers in the area, with the army’s backing. It’s hard to tell when the thugs come from Yitzhar, from the violent Givat Ronen outpost, which is an outgrowth of Har Bracha, or from Har Bracha itself. Presumably, they come from all of these settlements. B’Tselem documented 17 such attacks in the past year and a half.

When Herzog and his wife are photographed alongside settler leader Yossi Dagan and Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, he is giving these programs the highest seal of approval the state can offer. Not one presidential word about the assaults, the uprooting of trees, the torching of olive groves, the attacks on farmers and burning of houses. Just the “splendid human landscape” of Samaria, which is not just splendid, but 100 percent Jewish.

The second place the president visited is equally repulsive – Sela’it, a bourgeois secular settlement, one of the most affluent. Here you don’t see the occupation. The separation fence lies east of the settlement, which calls itself a moshav. Here the Herzogs could see another type of apartheid, if they had any interest in the local reality – the apartheid that is hidden from view, and so is maybe even worse than the more open version. No fence, no checkpoint. Part of Israel.

A neighboring Palestinian village, Hirbat Jabara, for several years remained west of the fence – like Sela’it, just without the freedom – until the separation fence was torn down and rebuilt specifically to put the village beyond the fence and beyond the view of the sensitive Montessori types in Sela’it. Life is good in Sela’it: a Montessori school, no fence nor occupation visible from the balcony, no checkpoints, and, most importantly, no Arabs. Instead, there's a view that stretches to the sea. It’s no wonder that in the last election, 75 percent of the residents voted for the left and center parties – more than in Tel Aviv. They’re not really a settlement; after all, they’re just dwelling on land the state confiscated for “security needs.”

This was an important presidential visit. It demonstrated yet again that annexation occurred long ago. Herzog did not travel abroad, he was traveling in the heart of Israel. If Har Bracha is part of the state, the state is an apartheid state. Herzog offered recognition of this, for all to see. The president completely ignored the existence of most of the population in the area he visited; for him, as for all Israelis, it does not exist.

When Herzog meets with European and American dignitaries, he will tell them how much he supports the peace process and the two-state solution, and they will fawn over him. Like him, they are all for peace and justice. Just like another president, Balthazar Johannes Vorster, who headed the previous apartheid state, and who was also a friend of Israel.

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