It's Time for a Diagnosis: Israel's Settlement Disease Is Terminal

Now it's official: the settlements are a punishment. A collective one, of the sort considered a war crime under international law.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A Palestinian protester burns tyres during clashes with the Israeli army following a protest against the Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus July 11, 2014.
A Palestinian protester burns tyres during clashes with the Israeli army following a protest against the Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus July 11, 2014.Credit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

We should be grateful to the Netanyahu government for its straightforwardness. It determined this week that the settlements are a punishment – from now on, it’s official.

We should also ask the same government to order the cessation of all investigations, real and fabricated, of “price tag” attacks, because then the nationalization of roughly 4,000 dunams of land belonging to five Palestinian villages, in response to the murder of the three teenagers, is a price tag that is much heavier (and a greater crime) than all the defamatory graffiti, burned mosques and slashed tires. It is also a clear case of collective punishment, of the sort that is considered a war crime under international law.

So leave the investigations of trifling incidents alone. Leave the shrieks over the appropriations alone too; they will not change anything. The battle has been decided. The settlers have won. The settlements have accomplished their goal. The two-state solution is dead. Anyone who does not believe that should go to Gush Etzion.

It is not clear when or how Gush Etzion became a “consensus.” Suddenly – like the man in the old song made famous by Shlomo Artzi, who got up in the morning feeling like he was a nation – Gush Etzion arose and felt it was a national consensus.

Everyone is in agreement that it has been agreed upon; Gush Etzion from time immemorial. And it is not the only bloc that is agreed upon; so are the Jordan Valley and Ma’aleh Adumim, with its terrifying and hilly area, and Ariel goes without saying. Look at the map and you will realize how the supposed Palestinian state-to-be was put to death. From what remains it might be possible to establish another amusement park, “Mini-Palestine,” but no more than that.

The 4,000 dunams that have been stolen, something more than 1,000 dunams for each murdered Israeli teenager, have not slept much. It is true that this is territory that falls under the jurisdiction of Gvaot, but who’s counting?

What is there to count anymore, when within a year or two the hills will become Gvaot, another (Jewish) city in occupied Palestine with thousands of pioneering, principled and Zionist settler families, with a community center built by the national lottery and a swimming pool, boarding schools for girls and yeshivas, all on stolen land. The euphemistic term is “state-owned land,” deep in the bosom of the warm and pleasant consensus, and no country on earth recognizes it, nor can a single criterion of justice tolerate it.

Gush Etzion of the consensus was established after the 1967 war as the mother of all Israeli acts of recognition of the right of return. Not the Palestinian right of return, of course, only the Jewish one.

Land that had been conquered in 1948 was returned to its rightful owners, whose descendants returned en masse to their stolen land. How very just. It is true that the current area of Gush Etzion is seven times larger than the original, but who’s counting that either? The main thing is that the children have returned to their borders and the right of return was granted, and generously.

The right of return of 650,000 Palestinian refugees who lost their world in 1948 must not even be mentioned. But a handful of Gush Etzion’s offspring is allowed to return. Returning to Ein Tzurim, Kfar Etzion and Masu’ot Yitzhak is a matter of right; returning to the adjacent villages of Zakaria, Ajur or Beit Natif is heresy. That, after all, is Israeli justice, which did not even seek out a fig leaf for itself in Gush Etzion.

But Gush Etzion did not become just another abandoned district of deprivation and dispossession. It became a consensus. Why? Because. Because that is what the settlers said, what the politicians decided, what was written in the newspapers and what was broadcast on television. The Israelis were never asked, but they all know already that everyone agrees because that is what they were told. Ibei Hanahal, Ma’aleh Amos and Ma’aleh Rehavam — whoever heard of them?

Twenty thousand settlers, 20 communities, not including Efrat, which is independent – and see, we have returned to Alon Shvut, to Tekoa, to Bat Ayin. The Green Line? A tired old joke. Now comes the retaliatory action of the government of the Bar-Ilan speech to wipe it off the map once and for all (as if that did not happen long ago).

The Israelis who shout for the two-state solution say in the same breath that the settlement blocs belong to us. And they do – they are our disease, our terminal disease, which somehow remains to be diagnosed.

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