Israelis Can't Resist Following the the Occupation's Pied Piper

At the heart of the debate over the settlements there was always this question: Whose side are we on - that of the Palestinian subjects of the occupation, or that of the state that oppresses them?

In Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's documentary film "The Law in These Parts," former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar is presented as the person who removed, with one decision, the legal obstacle to settlement on Jordanian lands. In doing so, Shamgar created a situation in which no peaceful solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is visible on the horizon. Shamgar does not come out of it looking good. Moreover, he doesn't quite remember the crucial decision. But Shamgar is no fool, and one sentence he says in the film is worth recalling: Why are you blaming the judicial system for what the political system did?

Shamgar was right. It's not the judicial system that can really muzzle the ox while he is threshing. We saw that with former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, if we didn't realize it with President Aharon Barak.

Alexandrowicz burrowed into something we are all supposed to have in our personal and journalistic memory. None of these issues has been a secret in the past four decades and, in addition, throughout all these years there have always been people who have spoken of the disaster awaiting us as a result of the settlement policy. We should also recall that Yigal Allon, then the deputy prime minister and education minister, handed over the keys to the settlement in Hebron as far back as 1967. He gave them to a frisky messianic group led by a rabbi who wouldn't have eaten at the same table as Allon, but Hebron linked those two, ostensibly in the name of a religious text.

Later came Shimon Peres. He also wanted to help and, as defense minister, nurtured the settlers of Sebastia. All under the aegis of the ideology of the Greater Israel movement, which in its first leaflet wrote: "No government in Israel has the right to give up Greater Israel." This antidemocratic text was not written by Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, nor by Rabbi Haim Druckman. This platform - on which Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir was raised - was written by secular poets and generals in an orgy for which none of them has begged forgiveness.

Nor should we falsely blame everything on the ideological basis of that same bizarre movement. Nor on the petty politicians who participated in this bloody adventure. Even Rabin, who was afraid to get rid of the Hebron settlers on Purim in 1994 after the massacre in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, and fell victim to a gunslinger in the service of ideology formulated by his friends and teachers - even he is not central to the story.

What is central is the state itself, as described by Akiva Eldar and Idith Zertal in their book "Lords of the Land: The War for Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007." The state - which from the very beginning of the occupation did not cease to conspire and to sabotage the chances of establishing a Palestinian state.

It is not only the state that lies behind all this, but everyone who refused to oppose its actions. Because at the heart of the debate over the settlements there was always this question: Whose side are we on - that of the Palestinian subjects of the occupation, or that of the state that oppresses them? Israelis - no matter what the ethical question confronting them - cannot resist following the piper and his patriotic tune.

The most pertinent question about the future was directed to Minister Allon in 1972 by an 11th-grader: What do you suggest that students our age in Nablus do? Allon spoke about peace of course but made no suggestions, because he was opposed to a Palestinian state. Then Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, it was said, sent a clearer message: They'll live a dog's life.

Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is in prison. When he is released, just as Nelson Mandela was released, what will they say to him - all those who remained silent when the last piece of Palestinian land became "indivisible," except after great bloodshed?

Read this article in Hebrew