A settlement is a settlement, even if it’s composed of people who say that they “did not come to settle the land. We came to see a full rainbow and the rising of the moon,” to quote settler Inbar Gal, community coordinator of the Jordan Valley settlement of Rotem (Merav Moran, Haaretz Magazine, March 4).
Granted, residents of this settlement are motivated not by the messianic ideology of Jewish control over the entire Land of Israel, but by pseudo-religious ecological spirituality. Nevertheless, they completely ignore the fact that their environmental, spiritual, architectural and social ideal is located in occupied territory.
Many Israelis see the Jordan Valley as having a different status from the rest of the West Bank. But in reality, the Jordan Valley is an integral part of it, as well as of the Israeli occupation, and most of the valley’s residents are Palestinians.
Rotem was built using the infrastructure of a Nahal Brigade outpost set up in the 1980s. In the early 2000s, young families and singles were invited to join the mixed secular-religious settlement that was established there. Today 50 families live there, and more than 30 others are on the waiting list.
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All the construction at Rotem is done with alternative materials. The houses are made out of buses, the remnants of other houses, mud, wood or hemp, and they were built by the residents themselves. But none of that makes Rotem any less of a settlement in occupied territory. Nor does the fact that the houses aren’t connected to the sewage system and there are no paved roads or streetlights. None of this alters the reality that this settlement violates international law.
Rotem is currently in the process of registering the homes built there in the residents’ names. “I have a hard time with the idea of ownership of the land,” one resident said. “I’m like in John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ – I don’t understand why the land needs to be my possession. But my wife wants there to be something to leave the children.” Yet the house he will bequeath to his children is one that was built illegally in a settlement located in occupied territory, and his continued possession of it requires military control over another people. None of that bears any relationship to Lennon’s utopian song.
There’s no way to square this circle. The principles of sustainability, however important and creative they are, cannot legitimize the occupation, just as the principle of social cooperation can’t go hand in hand with dispossession and exclusion. Rotem residents complain that left-wing activists come to the area and “generate tension,” charging that they “don’t understand the local reality. They come from outside and generate provocations.” What the residents themselves don’t understand, or pretend not to understand, is that the only provocation is their settlement’s very existence in occupied territory – with streetlights or without them. And we need to relocate them to a place called the State of Israel.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.