Friday, July 6, 2007

A Righteous Man in Sodom -- Dror Etkes.

Haaretz published a good piece today about how the West Bank settlers grab land and keep Palestinian villages from expanding.

Here is the Hebrew link:

and here is the English link

The article was written by Amos Harel, who has coauthored the definitive study of how Israel stole and continues to steal Palestinian land in the West Bank and Gaza.

Let me say off the bat that I can't stand Israelies who demonize the settlers. The immorality of the settlements attaches to the entire Israeli society, me included. I have nothing to say about the morality of the settlers, either, most of whom I put in the "captive children" category (captive of their post-Holocaust trauma and Zionist ideology). Of course, excusing doesn't mean exculpating.

Here is the lead:

"West Bank settlements have been allocated huge amounts of land, but use very little of it, according to a Peace Now report.

"Only nine percent of the area under settlement jurisdiction has been built on, and only 12 percent is being used at all, the report said, citing Civil Administration figures.

"But despite their huge unused land reserves, 90 percent of the settlements exceed their boundaries, and about one-third of the territory they do use lies outside their jurisdiction, the report added.

"The findings attest to the government's ongoing cooperation with the settlements' expansion, Peace Now charged: On one hand, the state earmarks huge tracts for the settlements, out of all all proportion to their size, in order to prevent Palestinian construction in those areas. Yet once an area is closed to Palestinians, the settlers begin seizing adjacent Palestinian lands, often privately owned, that lie outside their jurisdiction."

You know, there is a famous midrash brought by Rashi in the beginning of his commentary on Torah, in which the nations of Canaan accuse the Israelites of stealing the land. "You are listim (thieves)." Now, had the Jews written that midrash today, they would have said thinks like, "No, this is not stealing at all...actually, these territories are disputed; we are administering them; we are able to do things for the benefit of the settlers because of the Fourth Geneva Convention which allows us to do things for the benefit of the inhabitants (even though, technically speaking, it doesn't apply); anyway, we build settlements on public land; the Palestinians themselves have lots of illegal building." Yada, yada, yada.

All the above is crapola. The only real justification I understand is what the Midrash answers: "The earth belongs to the Lord. He decides to whom he can give it. He gave it to you; he can give it to us." (By the way, I wonder what the nations responded to that.)

In other words, if the "Pals" don't like it, they can go to hell, or to Detroit, whichever they prefer. (No anti-Detroit jokes.)

But Israel can't say that, right? And so they have to lie, they have to steal through deception, and they have to do it quietly, so the world -- and even the Israelis -- don't know.

That is why Dror Etkes is one of my heroes. He doesn't sit in Tel-Aviv and kvetch on Shenkin St. He and Hagit Ofran, who is taking over from him, know every piece of land being stolen from the Palestinians in Eretz Yisrael. The evil done in the West Bank can only be done in the dark, like ganavim be-layla.

Will publicizing this stuff succeed? To me, that's not the point. The point is that, like my hero Magnes, he stands up and denounces the immorality and the arrogance of power.

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