Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Concerning Settlements

I just got back from an event at the Yakar Center for Social Concern marking the English release of Akiva Eldar and Idith Zertal's Lords of the Land about the Israeli settlement movement. One point that surprised me was that many of the settlers Israel has in the West Bank are there involuntarily. I don't understand all the legal issues, but the net point is that once you have a house in a settlement, you are unlikely to be able to unload it except with government compensation, and the Israeli government has been refusing to extend the Gaza compensation regime (such as it is) to places like Ariel which it wants to use as a bargaining chip. When you consider a lot of those "settlers" were probably put there to begin with when the Shamir government just planted tons of Jews immigrating in the Soviet Aliya in West Bank settlements, this picture becomes even more problematic.

What actually left the biggest impression on me, however, is just how strong militant religious Zionism is here in Israel. Is there any other country in the world today where right of conquest is routinely invoked to justify control over territory? Plenty of people in the audience were also quite quick and quite natural with arguments based in theology that settling all of Eretz Israel was not only acceptable, but an actual obligation for the Jewish people. And no, this isn't an isolated band of nuts who happened to show up at this event to counter it. I hear similar things from otherwise ordinary people here in Jerusalem. I understand this is, not even the Israeli right, but a segment of the Israeli right. However, that segment is also much larger than I thought it was before coming here, and, more to the point, has kept Israel moving in their direction at one pace or another for most of its history, even though most Israelis think they're nuts.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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