Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another Road to Hell...

From Hasbara Buster comes this little gem:

It's not true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Some ill-intention-paved roads also lead there.

Case in point, the one being built in the West Bank between the legal Jewish settlement of Eli and the illegal Jewish outpost of Yuval. The road will run through privately-owned Palestinian land, in a fresh instance of thievery of Arab real estate.

Before we continue we must clarify that the terms "legal" and "illegal" refer to Israel's own description of both population centers. Under international commitments it has signed, Israel can't build any more settlements. At the same time, it wants to. The solution to this dilemma has been to disguise new settlements as extensions of existing ones "to accommodate natural population growth." If anyone wants to build hundreds of new homes (for Jews, that is) in the West Bank, all they must do is propose a project that is contiguous to existing structures.

The fellows now building the road, however, didn't have enough patience to wait until an extension from Eli reached Yuval, and directly went there and established their outpost. Much to its regret, the Israeli government had to tell them, "sorry, guys, we'll have to classify you as illegal; there's nothing we can do about it."

The private Palestinian owners whose land has been stolen to build the road have protested to the Israeli authorities. As Haaretz reports:

In fact, the Civil Administration, a government body that governs civilian aspects of daily life in the West Bank, has itself already issued an order to stop the work


So that the rights of Arabs living under Israeli occupation are respected after all? Wait; notice there's no period at the end of the quoted passage; let's see how the sentence ends:

but it has not been enforced.


Why am I not surprised?

***



Under a Hasbara argument highly popular among Israel's apologists, the country has already withdrawn from Gaza and Lebanon and has been attacked with rockets from both places. That's why it can't consider further withdrawals, for instance from the West Bank. The Israeli population is firmly committed to a 2-state solution and wants to evacuate most of the settlements, and it's only Arab intransigence that prevents an agreement. But the day a Palestinian leader arises who is prepared to talk peace, the Israeli side will be there, prepared to make all sorts of painful concessions.

This is a bad-faith argument for more than one reason. In the first place, the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza were not part of an agreement; the only retreat carried out by Israel under an agreement was that from the Sinai, and not a single missile has been fired on Israel from there. It's not like the Gazans promised something and then didn't deliver.

In the second place, the argument explains why Israel can't withdraw from its existing settlements, but it doesn't explain why it is tolerating and, in fact, encouraging (through the provision of State services) the construction of ever more new outposts and roads.

In the third place, what does "most" mean? 51% of the settlements is most of the settlements. The argument doesn't clarify that the settlements Israelis are not prepared to painfully concede are the ones currently driving two long wedges into the West Bank and making territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state all but impossible.

Finally, asserting that Israel can evacuate the West Bank because it already evacuated Gaza is like someone claiming that he can quit cocaine anytime because last year he quit smoking. The situations in both territories are radically different. The settler population in Gaza was small and concentrated. They hadn't built roads that criscrossed the territory, nor did they roam it at will harassing the local population.

In the West Bank, on the other hand, the militarized settlers have created a state within the state. They have resources to carry out public works, they issue internal building permits and they have patrols dedicated to the repression of the native population. The State is absolutely powerless to stop them from stealing land, uprooting trees, burning fields or harrassing the Palestinians.

The balance of power between Israel and the settlers is very much like that between the Sicilian government and the Mafia, or between the Brazilian government and the São Paulo narcos. The State can take a few symbolic measures, but never seriously crack down on them. That's why the State can issue orders against the construction of a road, but it can't actually stop the work. To use a rude but fitting popular metaphor, while a majority of Israelis hate the settlers, the settlers have Israel grabbed by the testicles. There's nothing the State can do to them. So we need not speculate that when the time comes the State will deal with them appropriately; the settlers just won't allow that time to come.

The prospect of a binational state, in which they'll have to share their country with the Palestinians, is hell to Israeli Jews. Too bad they didn't stop their fanatics in time, because now, with all the frantic settlement building taking place, and with Jewish outposts scattered all over the West Bank, a situation has been created in which it's impossible to unscramble an egg, and the country is firmly on the road to that perceived hell.

7 Comments:

At 5:03 PM, Blogger YMedad said...

You write: "the withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza were not part of an agreement; the only retreat carried out by Israel under an agreement was that from the Sinai, and not a single missile has been fired on Israel from there."

So, while I would agree that a peace treaty, fully discussed and arranged, would be best but if Israel withdraws fully from what the Arabs claim is their territory, why continue the terror?

Unless, of course, you presume that more terror will get you more territory, regardless of the new situation which to any Western observer would seemingly indicate that peace is within reach.

And one point about "not one single missile": all the tunnels that for the past few years guns, bullets, rockets and dynamite have been coming through start in...Egypt and the contraband is smuggled through...Egypt in the main. So, let's not go too easy on Egypt's indirect responsibility for the terror and infraction of the peace.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger Gert said...

YMedad:

The piece isn't mine, I reprinted it.

"[...] would be best but if Israel withdraws fully from what the Arabs claim is their territory, [...]I've read your blog (Views from Shiloh), so I know that these territories aren't Arab according to you. You LIVE in them.

"Unless, of course, you presume that more terror will get you more territory, regardless of the new situation which to any Western observer would seemingly indicate that peace is within reach."There is a new situation??? One "which to any Western observer would seemingly indicate that peace is within reach"??

Which situation might that be? The new Government of Israel?

No, honest, do enlighten me if you can...

 
At 6:01 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Sorry about the slightly garbled layout of my response. Not sure how that happened...

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger YMedad said...

Yes, I see that now. Hasbara Buster.

As for the "new situation", I meant the new geophysical reality of no Jews in Gaza.

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Gert said...

For all I care Jews would be welcome in Gaza and the West Bank, as long as they accepted Palestinian rule (just and fair, of course). Unfortunately many settlers (see e.g. Women in Green) want to have their cake and eat it too: insubordinate to the State of Israel but all the while relying on its army for protection.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger YMedad said...

a) the demographics of the revenant Jewish population across the Green Line is some half a million (Judea & Samaria - 300,000 and 200,000 in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods) which approaches 12% of total population (Arabs in Israel are 18%).

b) members and activists of WIG are maybe 1000.

c) we tried your solution between 1920-1947. didn't work.

 
At 12:17 PM, Blogger Gert said...

So what is your solution then?

I'm all ear.

 

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