Boston artist Steve Mills - realistic painting

Monday, May 31, 2010

NEW BOOK:'Disappearing Palestine'


Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair

Published by Zed Books in Britain and
the United States in October 2008

For details about how to buy the book
in the UK: from Zed Books, click here or from Amazon UK click here
in the US: from Palgrave click here or Amazon US click here

To purchase an e-book copy, click here

Advance praise:
“This is an impressive and timely book written by one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Palestine-Israel conflict. Its insight into the devastating impact of Zionist settler colonialism and its account of the current reality on the ground are unique. A must read for those seeking peace and justice in the Middle East.”
Nur Masalha, Director of the Holy Land Research Project, St Mary’s University College (UK), and author of The Bible and Zionism (2007)

“No one is a keener observer of Zionism’s true goals, from its bald usurpation of land and resources to its bad faith about seeking real peace. The book provides an unusual depth of evidence and sharp analysis, and a devastating indictment of Zionism. It is a penetrating piece of scholarship and a gem of easy readability.”
Kathleen Christison, former CIA analyst and author of Perceptions of Palestine (1999)


Extracts from the book:
To look at the contents page click here

On the rise of the Jewish state (in PDF) click here HERE DOWN THE PAGE

On the settlement enterprise (in PDF) click here    HERE  DOWN THE PAGE

From the back cover:
Palestine is fast disappearing. Over many decades Israel has developed and refined policies to disperse, imprison and impoverish the Palestinian people in a relentless effort to destroy them as a nation. It has industrialized Palestinian despair through ever more sophisticated systems of curfews, checkpoints, walls, permits and land grabs. It has transformed the West Bank and Gaza into laboratories for testing the infrastructure of confinement, creating a lucrative 'defence' industry by pioneering the technologies needed for crowd control, surveillance, collective punishment and urban warfare.

In this insightful and authoritative new book, leading journalist Jonathan Cook examines the many different guises in which these experiments on the Palestinian people are being carried out. Accessible and comprehensive, this is a powerful analysis of one of the most enduring and entrenched conflicts in contemporary world politics.

About the author:
Jonathan Cook is the only western journalist to be based in Nazareth, the capital of the Palestinian minority in Israel. He was previously a staff journalist on the Guardian andObserver newspapers, and has written about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also for the TimesLe Monde diplomatique, the International Herald TribuneAl-Ahram Weekly,Counterpunch and He is the author of Blood and Religion (2006) and Israel and the Clash of Civilisations (2008).

Jonathan Cook News Archive,  last updated on Thursday, 04 February 2010
Rise of the Jewish state 

Despite the mythical narrative promoted today, Israel’s victory on 
the battlefield was rarely in doubt. during the first stage of the 
offensive, before britain’s departure, Jewish forces were in effect 
fighting a civil war against disorganized Palestinian militias, which 
had not recovered from their crushing by the british army during 
the three-year Arab Revolt a decade earlier. In the next stage, after 
Israel’s declaration of Independence, the Arab armies entered the 
war but were unprepared and lacked coordination, as the Israeli his- 
torian shlomo ben-Ami notes. The Arab leaders were less concerned 
about defending the Palestinians’ national rights than ‘establishing 
their own territorial claims or thwarting those of their rivals in the 
Arab coalition’.  Neither the Palestinian militias nor the Arab armies 
were a match for the Israeli forces: in fact, they were outnumbered 
throughout the fighting. As benny Morris points out: ‘It was superior 
Jewish firepower, manpower, organization, and command and control 
that determined the outcome of battle.’ The ‘ruthless, successful 
offensive’ by the new Jewish state set a pattern for its behaviour in 
the future, adds ben-Ami, by unleashing ‘a momentum of territorial 
expansion that [its] leaders ... would not allow to be interrupted by 
premature diplomatic overtures’.
The ruthless offensive of 1948 included dozens of massacres and 
rapes, the destruction of more than 400 villages, including com- 
munities that had signed non-aggression pacts with their Jewish 
neighbours, and the purging of the Palestinian inhabitants of a dozen 
ethnically mixed cities.47 This outcome is celebrated by Israelis as 
their War of Independence, but mourned by Palestinians as the Nakba 
(Catastrophe). As the historian Walid khalidi observes, Israel’s rapid 
and comprehensive dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 
was ‘one of the most remarkable colonizing ventures of all time’. 
strikingly, Palestine was colonized ‘in the wake of the (at least verbal) 
espousal by the Western democracies of the principle of national self- 
determination’ and ‘in the modern age of communication’. 
Tales of atrocities are legion on both sides of the fighting, but 
perhaps one incident more than any other gives a flavour of the Israeli 
leadership’s intentions during the war. In July 1948, the neighbouring 
Palestinian towns of Ramla and Lydd, halfway between Jerusalem 
and Tel Aviv, were almost entirely emptied of their inhabitants on 
ben-Gurion’s orders, despite the fact that they had been designated 
part of the Arab state under the UN plan. As Lydd was attacked, a 
large number of men sought refuge in the local dahamish mosque. 
When they eventually surrendered, they were massacred by Jewish 
forces led by Yigal Allon and his deputy, Yitzhak Rabin, a later 
prime minister. some 176 bodies were reportedly recovered from the 
mosque. Allon then rounded up the 50,000 inhabitants of Lydd (today 
the Israeli city of Lod), who were forced at gunpoint to march many 
miles to the Jordanian border; some died en route of exhaustion.49 
Years later Rabin recalled how ben-Gurion indicated what he wanted 
done with the inhabitants: ‘Yigal Alon asked: what is to be done with 
the population [of Lydd and Ramla]? ben-Gurion waved his hand in 
a gesture that said: “drive them out!”’ 
As Israel signed the armistice agreements with its Arab neighbours 
in 1949, at the close of the war, the Jewish state found itself in 
possession of 78 per cent of Palestine, far more territory than the 55 
per cent allotted it by the UN Plan.51 Under the same agreements, 
the tiny coastal strip of Gaza was occupied by egypt, and Jordan 
acquired control of the West bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem, 
the consequence of an earlier secret pact with Israel that prevented 
the two armies from engaging in serious fighting. 
The UN classified some 750,000 Palestinians as refugees, the great 
majority of them by then living in makeshift camps across the Middle 
east.53 ben-Gurion was determined that they should not be allowed 
to return. ‘Land with Arabs on it and land without Arabs on it are 
two very different types of land’, he told his party’s central commit- 
tee in March 1949.54 Fearful that the UN might insist on the return 
not only of the refugees but also of the areas of Palestine like the 
Central Galilee not assigned to the Jewish state under the Partition 
Plan, he cautiously referred to these regions as ‘administered’ rather 
than as part of Israel. His worries were unfounded, however. In May 
1949, as Israel was admitted to the UN, Pappe notes, ‘all distinctions 
disappeared, along with the villages, the fields and the houses – all 
“dissolved” into the Jewish state of Israel.’ 
For a considerable time, government officials, private citizens and 
especially soldiers enjoyed free rein looting Palestinian homes of their 
valuables. one government minister reported seeing the army take 
1,800 truckloads of property from the single, largely deserted city of 
Lydd, while another admitted that ‘the army does what it wants’. 
The government sought to reassert control with new emergency regu- 
lations.57 one, passed in late 1948, ended the legal definition of land as 
‘abandoned’ and instead declared the Palestinian owners ‘absentees’; 
their seized property was then reclassified as ‘state land’. In an 
attempt to make this land grab appear legal, the same regulation 
invested authority in an official, the Custodian of Absentee Property, 
whose job was supposedly to safeguard the property of the Palestinian 
refugees. According to a statement in 1980 from the Custodian, about 
70 per cent of Israel’s total territory was ‘absentee’ land – that is, 
rightfully the property of Palestinian refugees.
Although officially a trustee, the Custodian – and in turn the 
state of Israel – was soon reaping the profits from rental income from 
buildings, farmland and religious endowment land; from his new- 
found ownership of large Palestinian businesses; and from the sale of 
produce from the refugees’ olive and citrus groves, their tobacco, fig, 
apple, grape and almond crops, and their quarries.60 of items from 
the large store of confiscated merchandise – from clothes to furniture 
– the army was given first refusal. Remaining goods were put up for 
sale, with priority going to disabled war veterans, soldiers’ families 
and government employees.61 Palestinian bank accounts were seized 
too. When ben-Gurion was told that refugees’ deposits totalling 1.5 
billion Palestinian pounds had been discovered in the banks of Haifa, 
he noted simply in his diary: ‘The banks are willing to hand this 
property over.’ 
The historian Michael R. Fischbach reports that a UN committee 
set up to evaluate Palestinian losses produced a very conservative 
estimate in the mid-1960s that Israel had confiscated at least 1.75 
million acres of land (or seven million dunams, in the traditional 
unit of measurement used by the ottomans)63 – about a third of 
Israel’s total territory.64 This land was valued at close to $1 billion 
in the prices of the day and would be worth many hundreds of bil- 
lions more today.65 If confiscated Palestinian moveable property such 
as bank accounts, jewellery, artworks, safe deposit boxes, bonds, as 
well vehicles, furniture, agricultural equipment and herds of animals 
was included, the total was pushed far higher. To the Palestinians, of 
course, their homeland was priceless. None of the successive Custo- 
dians, however, regarded their role as the protection of the refugees’ 
property. Mordechai schattner, the incumbent in 1953, observed: ‘All 
money accruing from these sales should go the development authori- 
ties. This means, in fact, that it would be used for the settlement of 
new [Jewish] immigrants.’66 
decades later, in 1990, Israel’s state comptroller demanded a list of 
the refugees’ moveable property as part of an audit of the Custodian’s 
office. seven years on, the Custodian had still not complied, claiming 
that the task was ‘impossible’ because some of the records were lost 
and others incomplete and because he had no computer. He added 
that ‘it would require 500 workers to sit for two years’ to prepare 
a complete list. on another occasion, in 1998, when an Arab legal 
group, Adalah, requested information about the property under the 
country’s Freedom of Information Act, the Custodian replied that he 
could not divulge details because he needed to protect the refugees’ 
privacy. When pressed further, the government responded in 2002 on 
the Custodian’s behalf that such information would ‘damage relations 
with foreign governments’.67 And when Israel and the Palestinians 
came to the negotiating table at Camp david in 2000 to reach a 
final-status agreement, Israel’s attorney general, elyakim Rubinstein, 
disclosed that the Custodian’s records were no longer available and 
that the income from Palestinian assets had been spent. ‘We have 
used them [the monies] up. It is up to the international community 
to create funds for this [a final settlement with the Palestinians].’

Unwelcome Citizens

The new Jewish state faced an uncomfortable twofold legacy from 
the war. 
First, the remains of several hundred Palestinian villages dotted 
the countryside, not only an embarrassing reminder of the native 
population that had recently been expelled but also a testament to 
the war crimes that had been committed during the ethnic cleansing 
campaign. Furthermore, there was a general fear among the leader- 
ship that, should the villages remain standing, Palestinian refugees 
might successfully lobby the international community for their right 
to return.69 Israel therefore invested much energy after the war in 
the mammoth task of erasing the villages. A significant number of 
the more impressive homes in cities like Jerusalem, Haifa, Lydd and 
Ramla were used to house Jewish officials or new immigrants,70 but 
most rural communities were destroyed by the army, which either 
dynamited them or bombed them from the air.71 Maps were changed 
too: over the course of several years a Jewish National Fund com- 
mittee replaced Arab place names with Hebrew ones, often claiming 
as justification to have ‘rediscovered’ biblical sites. The committee 
hoped to invent an ancient, largely mythical landscape all the better 
to root Israeli Jews in their new homeland. The real landscape of 
hundreds of destroyed Palestinian villages was entirely missing from 
the new maps.72 Cleared of Palestinian traces, the ‘empty’ lands were 
handed over to Jewish agricultural communities, the kibbutzim and 
moshavim, for their exclusive use. 
by the 1960s, however, dozens of remoter Palestinian villages 
could still be found intact across Israel. during a search of the official 
archives, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, Aharon shai, 
discovered that in 1965 the Israeli government had recruited the 
JNF and prominent archeologists to a project to ‘clean’ the land of 
these last Palestinian blemishes. several arguments for renewing the 
destruction programme were offered, according to Tom segev: 
The deserted villages spoiled the beauty of the landscape and consti- 
tuted a neglected nuisance. There were pits filled with water which 
endangered the well-being of visitors, particularly children, as well 
as many snakes and scorpions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was 
concerned about the ‘unnecessary questions’ which tourists would 
present regarding the deserted villages. 
The Association for Archeological survey issued the permits needed 
by the government to make the destruction ‘lawful’, while a body 
called the society for Landscape Improvement lobbied to preserve 
any architecturally important buildings.73 Historic or scenic mosques 
were sometimes left intact: one in Caesarea became a restaurant and 
bar, for example, while another in al-zeib was incorporated into the 
site’s seaside complex. 
The second problem was that Israel had acquired, along with most 
of Palestine, a small rump population of Palestinians, about 150,000,74 
who had managed to remain within the new borders in more than 100 
Palestinian communities that were spared.75 They constituted then, 
and continue to constitute today despite subsequent waves of Jewish 
immigration, nearly a fifth of the total population.76 Israel worked 
quickly to ‘de-Palestinianize’ the minority, who were officially re- 
ferred to either as ‘the minorities’ or as ‘Israeli Arabs’.77 state policy 
was to encourage group identification at the sectarian and ethnic 
levels – in a classic strategy of divide and rule – by accentuating 
communal differences. In 1949, for example, the education Ministry 
was advised to ‘emphasize and develop the contradictions’ between 
the druze, Christian and Muslim populations to diminish their Arab 
and Palestinian identities.78 
There was no official interest in integrating the Palestinian popula- 
tion. As a commentator observed in the Ha’aretz newspaper in 1954, 
‘the authorities did not even try to think, after the establishment 
of the state, about the possibility of “Israelizing” the Arab minor- 
ity.’79 eleven years later, the Ma’ariv newspaper reported an election 
speech by Moshe dayan in which he dismissed the idea of integration: 
‘This is going too far. It shall not be.’80 Having expelled Palestinian 
intellectuals and eradicated Palestine’s urban centres, the minority 
could be kept in an almost permanent state of social, economic and 
political underdevelopment. Meron benvenisti, a former deputy mayor 
of Jerusalem, notes that decades later ‘no urban society worthy of 
the name has been created [for Palestinian citizens] in Israel. There 
are, indeed, Arab towns in Israel, but they are merely dormitory 
No single reason can explain why the Palestinians who remained 
inside Israel were not expelled too. some belonged to the small druze 
community – 10 per cent of the new Palestinian minority – whose 
leaders had backed the Jewish forces during the fighting. A few Chris- 
tian communities in the Galilee, most notably Nazareth, were left in 
peace for fear of the international reaction,82 and other Christians, 
such as those in the village of eilaboun, were allowed to return under 
pressure from the Vatican. some villages, such as Jisr al-zarqa and 
Fureidis, were untouched after local Jewish communities, which relied 
on their Palestinian neighbours for manual labour, lobbied on their 
behalf. other villages were spared by individual Jewish commanders 
who refused to carry out expulsion orders. A number of Palestinians, 
including some bedouin in the Negev, managed to sneak back over 
the porous borders after they were driven out. And, finally, 30,000 
Palestinians living under Jordanian rule in an area of the West bank 
known as the Little Triangle were belatedly handed over to the Jewish 
state as part of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.83 
Most of these Palestinians eventually received citizenship, though 
that was not the original intention. As the fighting subsided, the 
authorities issued Palestinians inside the borders of Israel with a va- 
riety of residency permits. The primary purpose was to distinguish 
the permit holders from the refugees outside Israel, and so ensure the 
continuing exclusion of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians 
and prevent them from returning undetected to their properties.84 
only later did the permits entitle their holders to citizenship. The 
first Nationality Law, drafted in 1950, for example, proposed that 
the Palestinian minority inside Israel be denied citizenship and left 
stateless. The law was not ratified, notes Meron benvenisti, because it 
became clear ‘it would irrevocably deface the state’s image in the eyes 
of the international community’.85 Citizenship was finally conferred on 
most of the Palestinian minority two years later in a different draft 
of the law.86 
Nonetheless, the Jewish leadership still hoped the numbers of 
Palestinians could be significantly reduced. sabri Jiryis, a Palestinian 
lawyer who lived through those early years, observes: ‘Apparently 
there were many [in the leadership] who hoped to be rid of the 
Arabs, if not by “sending” them after their brothers beyond the 
borders, then at least by “exchanging” them for Jews from the Arab 
nations. International events stifled such hopes.’87 Researching Israel’s 
archives, the Palestinian scholar Nur Masalha has found evidence 
of almost continual plotting by governments in the first decade to 
expel these new Palestinian citizens. some schemes, such as offering 
incentives for whole communities to relocate to brazil, Argentina or 
Libya, remained on the drawing board.88 but other plans were carried 
out: 2,000 inhabitants of beersheva were expelled to the West bank 
in late 1949,89 while 2,700 inhabitants of al-Majdal (now Ashkelon) 
were driven into Gaza a year later;90 as many as 17,000 bedouin were 
forced out of the Negev between 1949 and 1953;91 several thousand 
inhabitants of the Triangle were expelled between 1949 and 1951;92 
and more than 2,000 residents of two northern villages were driven 
into syria as late as 1956.93 
In the most ambitious plan, operation Hafarferet, Israel hoped to 
find a pretext to expel to Jordan what had become 40,000 inhabitants 
of the Little Triangle on the eve of the suez War of 1956. The plan 
was shelved, however, when a brigade of soldiers implementing the 
early stages of the plan by enforcing a curfew massacred 49 Palestinian 
citizens, including women and children, returning to their village of 
kafr Qassem.94 Later, in 1964, according to Uzi benziman, political 
editor of Ha’aretz newspaper, Ariel sharon, then head of the army’s 
Northern Command, asked his staff to work out the number of buses 
and trucks needed to expel the country’s 300,000 Palestinian citizens 
in time of war.95 
Judaizing the Land 
Visiting the north in the 1950s, ben-Gurion expressed his shock at 
the number of Palestinian villages still to be found there. ‘Whoever 
tours the Galilee gets the feeling that it is not part of Israel,’ he 
declared.96 His concern was widely shared. The Galilee had been 
assigned to the Arab state under the UN Partition Plan, and Israeli 
officials feared that the neighbouring Arab countries might make a 
case for the region’s secession unless Jews were quickly settled there. 
The government therefore set its primary goals as containing the 
Palestinian population within the tightly delimited boundaries of 
their remaining villages and confiscating their wider lands for the 
benefit of Jewish immigrants, in what the state was soon referring to 
as a ‘Judaization’ programme. Joseph Nahmani, the long-time head of 
the Jewish National Fund, set out the rationale for Judaization in a 
memo to ben-Gurion in 1953: 
The Arab minority centred here [in the Galilee] presents a continual 
threat to the security of the nation. ... The very existence of a unified 
Arab group in this part of the country is an invitation to the Arab 
states to press their claims to the area. ... At the very least, it can 
become the nucleus of Arab nationalism, influenced by the nationalist 
movements of the neighboring states, and undermining the stability of 
our state. 
It was, therefore, ‘essential to break up this concentration of Arabs 
through Jewish settlements’, and create ‘faits accomplis which will 
make it impossible for the government, for all its good intentions, 
to give up any of the uncultivated land for the Arabs to live on’. 

Goals of Colonization

Ariel sharon’s ‘disengagement’ in 2005 removed 8,000 settlers from 
twenty-one colonies in Gaza and a handful more Israelis from four 
isolated and unviable settlements in the northern tip of the West 
bank. despite the fanfare of publicity that greeted the withdrawal, 
the evacuees were survived by the overwhelming majority of the 
settlement population: 270,000 living in 120 official colonies in the 
West bank; a few thousand settlers in more than 100 tiny outposts, 
usually land-grabbing extensions of the settlements that lacked of- 
ficial recognition but were secretly supported by both the army and 
government; and nearly 230,000 settlers living in the Jewish neigh- 
bourhoods of east Jerusalem, the Palestinian half of the city annexed 
to Israel since 1980.41 Today, these half a million settlers and the 
army that protects them control 60 per cent of the West bank. The 
remaining ghettoes – islands of Palestinian land surrounded by a sea 
of Israeli-controlled territory – are nominally ruled by the Palestinian 
Authority, a kind of Palestinian government-in-waiting created by the 
oslo agreements of the mid-1990s. 
shortly after the Gaza evacuation, sharon advised his Likud Party 
of the urgent need to expand the surviving colonies in the West bank 
without attracting attention: ‘There’s no need to talk. We need to 
build, and we’re building without talking.’ Indeed. In the year of 
the disengagement, the settler population actually grew, with an 
estimated 14,500 new settlers in the West bank more than making 
up for the loss of the 8,000 from Gaza. dror etkes, an expert on the 
settlement enterprise, warned in the wake of the disengagement that 
Israeli officials were seeking to pre-empt any final peace agreement 
being considered by the Us: ‘They don’t know how long they’ve got. 
That’s why they’re building like maniacs.’42 In 2006, 27 per cent of 
all the apartments purchased by Israelis were situated in the West 
bank.43 And in the first half of 2007, the settler population grew by 
5.5 per cent, several times the rate of increase inside Israel proper.44 
In places like Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel, the settlements have evolved 
into proper towns, numbering tens of thousands of inhabitants and 
strategically located to destroy any chance of a territorially coherent 
Palestinian state emerging. The half a million settlers, nearly a tenth 
of Israel’s Jewish population, with ties to friends and families on the 
other side of the Green Line, are a powerful constituency that few 
Israeli politicians choose, or want, to confront. 
As we have seen, the colonization of the occupied territories was 
far from accidental: for four decades it followed the general outlines 
proposed by Allon and dayan in 1967. However, over time officials 
grew more confident that more specific and brazen goals of settlement 
could be achieved. An idea of their thinking was offered by the World 
zionist organization, an unaccountable quasi-governmental body 
overseeing settlement policy in the occupied territories on behalf 
of the state in a role mirroring the activities of the Jewish National 
Fund inside Israel’s borders. In 1978, in the immediate wake of Israel’s 
agreement, under Us pressure, to return the sinai to egypt, the 
Wzo drafted a report on the settlements, the drobless Plan, named 
after its principal author, Mattiyahu drobless. Hoping to avert any 
danger that a similar agreement would be repeated with the occu- 
pied Palestinian territories, drobless asserted bluntly that ‘settlement 
throughout the entire land of Israel’ – that is, including the West 
bank and Gaza – was ‘our right’. An amended version of the plan 
was issued two years later that was even clearer about the aims of 
settlement. Israel was in ‘a race against time’ and must concentrate on 
‘establishing facts on the ground. ... There mustn’t be even a shadow 
of a doubt about our intention to keep the territories of Judea and 
samaria [the West bank] for good’.45 drobless envisioned a million 
settlers in the occupied territories by 2013, an ambition that may 
have looked deluded at the time but today looks less unrealistic.46 
The report offered a strategy for how to settle the land – one, as 
the Middle east expert david Hirst notes, that 
was expressly modelled on techniques which, since 1948, had been 
applied to the organized remnants of the Palestinian community in the 
original Israel, despoiling yet more of their land and villages, fragment- 
ing them geographically, paralysing them politically and reducing them 
to a condition of abject dependence on the Jewish economy. 
settlement, drobless suggested, should be not only around Palestinian 
communities, to contain them, but also between them, ‘in accordance 
with the settlement policy adopted in Galilee’, to fragment them.47 
The settlements, and the infrastructure needed to integrate them 
into Israel proper, would break up the continuity of the Palestinian 
living space, preventing the emergence of any future Palestinian 
state. or, as sara Roy observes, settlement was designed ‘to normal- 
ize and institutionalize land expropriations by eroding the 1967 
borders making territorial retreat difficult if not impossible.’48 sharon 
gave voice to precisely this ambition on a helicopter flight over the 
Gaza strip in 1980 when he was agriculture minister. Accompanied 
by the Israeli military governor of Gaza, who wanted to know how 
he was supposed to contain the Palestinian refugee camps below, 
sharon replied: ‘I want the Arabs to see Jewish lights every night 
500 meters from them.’49 The Palestinians had to be made to accept 
that Jewish dominion in the occupied territories was an irreversible 
fact of life. In the different context of the second intifada, but 
expressing much the same sentiment, Chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon 
called for Israel’s invincibility to be ‘burned into the Palestinian and 
Arab consciousness’.50 
For the settlement drive to succeed in fragmenting the Palestinians 
and disabuse them of any hope of ever attaining statehood, Israel 
required a large number of Israelis to move from the safety of their 
homes inside Israel to a more uncertain life in the occupied territories. 
despite Israel’s long-term intentions, its formal position was that the 
settlements were only temporary and might one day be dismantled as 
part of a peace agreement. Apart from in the case of east Jerusalem, 
which had been annexed to Israel, the undecided status of the West 
bank and Gaza explained the reluctance of the wider Israeli popula- 
tion to settle in the territories in the first decades of occupation. Israel 
therefore invested huge sums of money on the settlements, making 
them attractive to families who needed cheap housing or a better 
quality of life away from the overcrowded centre of the country. 
subsidizing the settlers 
A report by the b’Tselem human rights group during the second 
intifada noted that Israel had ‘carried out a vigorous and systematic 
policy aimed at encouraging Israeli citizens to move to the settle- 
ments. one of the main tools serving this policy is the granting of 
benefits and significant financial incentives to settlers.’ Much of the 
money had been funnelled either through the settlers’ local councils 
or by classifying the settlements as ‘national priority areas’. In these 
areas, settlers received a reduction on their income tax, special loans 
at discounted rates, greater expenditure on their local schools and 
subsidized housing and transport, while businesses were eligible for 
large grants. 
The total amount spent by Israel on the settlements will prob- 
ably never be known, as the figures have been buried deep in the 
general budgets of government ministries. This was done to avoid 
both international censure and the likely outcry from ordinary Israelis 
appalled at the waste of public money. However, in 2003 the Ha’aretz 
newspaper did try to estimate the additional cost of the settlements 
to the Israeli taxpayer after excluding all military expenditure. It 
admitted that its calculations were intentionally ‘very conservative’, 
that it had not factored in the whole period of the occupation and that 
it had excluded the half of the settler population that lives in east 
Jerusalem. Nonetheless, it found that at least 50 billion shekels ($12 
billion) had been spent on benefits for the settlers over and above 
what would have been spent on them if they had remained inside 
Israel.51 Given that for much of the occupation there were no more 
than a few tens of thousands of settlers in the occupied territories, it 
was a truly astounding sum. 
The other factor encouraging Israelis to move into the occupied 
territories, paradoxically, was the signing of the oslo peace agree- 
ments in the mid-1990s that established the Palestinian Authority 
under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. during the short, seven-year 
period of oslo, the number of settlers doubled to some 200,000. 
Raja shehadeh sheds some light on this strange phenomenon. The 
declaration of Principles, approved by the Palestinian leadership in 
Tunis, was 
achieved at the price of keeping the settlements out of the jurisdiction 
of the Palestinian Authority. ... With one blow, political expediency 
led to the acceptance [by the Palestinian leadership] of all the illegal 
changes we in the occupied Territories had been struggling to nullify 
for two decades.52 
or as the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Alan baker, himself a 
settler, told an Israeli newspaper in 2003: 
It was resolved – and the Palestinians agreed – that the settlements’ 
fate would be determined in a future peace agreement. After we signed 
those [oslo] accords, which are still legally in force, we are no longer 
an occupying power, but we are instead present in the territories with 
their [Palestinian] consent and subject to the outcome of negotiations.53 
Israelis came to believe, and were encouraged to think by their lead- 
ers, that, with the signing of the oslo Accords, the settlement blocs 
had received Palestinian acceptance and international legitimacy. 
A sign of the extent to which Israeli society and the wider inter- 
national community had allowed themselves to be deceived by the 
legal facade of the settlement enterprise recently came to light. 
Ha’aretz revealed in october 2006 that a secret report on the settle- 
ments had been compiled by General baruch spiegel, special adviser 
to the defence minister. Military sources described its contents as 
‘explosive’.54 Following the newspaper’s investigation, an Israeli group, 
Peace Now, petitioned the courts under the country’s Freedom of 
Information Act to force the government to publish the details. offi- 
cials countered by arguing that publication would ‘damage the state’s 
security and foreign relations’, a presumed reference to the fact that 
the report’s findings would embarrass the United states, whose bil- 
lions of dollars in aid had been secretly siphoned off to prop up the 
settlement drive. only later, in early 2008, was information from the 
report leaked to Peace Now. It showed that more than a third of the 
120 colonies in the West bank had been built on private Palestinian 
land, officially seized temporarily and out of military necessity. It 
further revealed that 19 of these 44 settlements had been built after 
1979 when the cabinet took a decision, in the wake of the elon Moreh 
case, to build on ‘state land’ only. The list of the settlements included 
many of the largest and most famous, including Ariel, efrat, kiryat 
Arba, ofra, beit el, Psagot, kedumim and shiloh. Peace Now pointed 
out that the data showed many of the settlements were illegal even 
according to the perverse rules laid down by Israel. A legal source 
warned improbably that the courts might demand that the state 
hand back the land on which these settlements were built to their 
Palestinian owners.55 
The brief bout of soul-searching in Israel prompted by these revela- 
tions allowed Israelis to avoid pondering the deeper purpose of the 
settlements. It was left to an Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, to offer 
a dissenting view: 
The exaggerated concentration on private ownership feeds into the 
Israeli denial of the fact that the Palestinians’ right is to all of the 
territory that has been occupied. Not as private individuals, but rather 
because they constitute an indigenous national group in this land.

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