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New Documentary Says the Occupation of the West Bank Is Irreversible

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
August 2016

June marked the 49th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War and saw the release  
of a documentary that recounts the history of the settlement movement that  
arose in the wake of the war. The Settlers, by Israeli director Shimon  
Dotan, writes Yossi Melman in The Jerusalem Report (June 27, 2016) is “both  
horrifying and frustrating.”  
In that war, Israel conquered the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt,  
the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. The official  
Israeli policy following the war was that all lands would be returned to  
their owners, after minor territorial adjustments, in return for peace. In  
1982, Sinai was returned to Egypt following the peace treaty between the two  
countries. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the territory  
was taken over by Hamas in 2007. Against the backdrop of the Syrian civil  
war, now in its sixth year, there are few demands that Israel return the  
Golan Heights to the practically non-existent state of Syria. According to  
Melman, “The major remaining obstacle to peace with the Palestinians is the  
continued Israeli occup¬ation of the West Bank (known by most Israelis as  
the biblical Judea and Samaria). The central hurdle to ending the occupation  
and enabling the creation of an independent Palestinian state is the Jewish  
Until the Yom Kippur War of 1973, The Settlers shows, the official policy of  
Labor-led Israeli governments of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir had been to use  
the occupied territories as “bargaining chips” to be returned in exchange  
for peace. The only territorial exception was the “Alon Plan,” which  
advocated building Jewish urban neighborhoods around Jerusalem and  
settlements in the Jordan Valley. Still, the Labor governments opposed  
settlement atop the Judea and Samaria hills and near Palestinian cities.  
According to Melman, “… all that changed following the traumatic events of  
the 1973 war.” Religious zealots formed the Bloc of the Faithful which was  
“driven by messianic and religious zealotry, they swore to fight the  
settlement policies of the Labor government by all means — democratic and  
not so democratic.”  
In the film, Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar says he once asked Shimon Peres  
whether he regrets helping the settlers. Peres, according to Eldar,  
answered, “Had I known what a monster would grow, I wouldn’t have lent my  
hand to them.”  
Today, the West Bank and greater Jerusal¬em are inhabited by 370,000 Jews  
and 2.8 million Palestinians. Melman notes that, “Dotan’s film is horrifying  
because of the contradictions between the tranquil and wonderful landscape  
and the dreadful conditions of the Palestinians. But also because of the  
contrast between the soft-spoken words expressed by the settlers — some of  
them bordering on messianic hallucinations — and the true reality of Israeli  
colonial¬ism, racism, discrimination and economic exploitation of  
Palestinians. The film also touches … on how Jewish terrorists emerged in  
the last 30 years … They assassinated Palestinian mayors, killed innocent  
civilians, planned to bomb Palestinian school buses and the mosque on the  
Temple Mount …”  
The film also cites Baruch Goldstein, the Brooklyn-born doctor who in 1994  
murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Cave of the Patriarchs. His  
funeral was attended by Yigal Amir, who, a year later, murdered Prime  
Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal says  
in the film that the new generation of Jewish terrorists “are envious” of  
the Palestinian martyrs and want to be like them to sacrifice their lives  
with murder.  
Melman concludes: “The Settlers … places a mirror in front of Israelis like  
me, Israelis who are secular, patriots, who love this country and believe in  
human rights and human dignity know that the battle about the spirit and  
soul of Israel as a free, democratic, Westernized state is over … The  
settlers won … The West Bank condition is irreversible as politician and  
writer, Meron Benvenisti, prophesied three decades ago. The two-state  
solution of an Israel and Palestine living in peace, side by side, is just a  
virtual reality on paper.”  
The chance for a two-state solution is steadily eroding, members of the  
Middle East Quartet mediation group said early in July. The Quartet is  
composed of the U.S., the U.N., Russia and the E.U. The latest report calls  
on Israel to cease construction and expansion of settlements and the  
designation of land exclusively for use by Israelis. The Quartet said two  
states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, is the only way to end the  
occupation and ensure Israeli security. But Israeli policies encouraging  
settlement growth and squelching Palestinian development are “steadily  
eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” it said.  
Speaking at the annual Herzlya security conference, former Israeli Prime  
Minister Ehud Barak said that “a fanatic seed of extreme ideology has taken  
over the Likud.” He argued that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s priority was not  
security but “a slow and cunning advancement of the one-state solution  
agenda.” He said that this would lead to either an apartheid state or a bi-  
national state “in which the Jews will become a minority within a couple of  
generations.” •

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