Israel’s Outposts Seal Death of Palestinian State

Yehudit Genud hardly feels she is on the frontier of Israel’s settlement project, although the huddle of mobile homes on a wind-swept West Bank hilltop she calls home is controversial even by Israeli standards.

Despite the size and isolation of Migron, a settlement of about 45 religious families on a ridge next to the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Mrs Genud’s job as a social worker in West Jerusalem is a 25-minute drive away on a well-paved road.

Mrs Genud, 28, pregnant with her first child, points out that Migron has parks, children’s playgrounds, a kindergarten, a daycare centre and a synagogue, all paid for by the government — even if the buildings are enclosed by a razor-wire fence, and her husband, Roni, has to put in overtime as the settlement’s security guard.

From her trailer, she also has panoramic views not only of Ramallah but of the many communities hugging the slopes that gently fall away to the Jordan Valley.

Long-established Palestinian villages are instantly identifiable by their homes’ flat roofs and the prominence of the tall minarets of the local mosques. Interspersed among them, however, are a growing number of much newer, fortified communities of luxury villas topped by distinctive red-tiled roofs.

These are the Jewish settlements that now form an almost complete ring around Palestinian East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the West Bank and destroying any hope that the city will one day become the capital of a Palestinian state.

“These settlements are supposed to be the nail in the coffin of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians,” said Dror Etkes, a veteran observer of the settlements who works for the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. “Their purpose is to make a Palestinian state unviable.”

The majority of the half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Mr Etkes, are “economic opportunists”, drawn to life in the occupied territories less by ideological or religious convictions than economic incentives. The homes, municipal services and schools there are heavily subsidised by the government.

In addition, the settlements — though illegal under international law — are integrated into Israel through a sophisticated system of roads that make it easy for the settlers to forget they are in occupied territory surrounded by Palestinians.

But Migron, with its supposed links to the Biblical site where King Saul based himself during his fight against the Philistines, attracts a different kind of inhabitant.

“This place is holy to the Jewish people and we have a duty to be here,” Mrs Genud said. “The whole land of Israel belongs to us and we should not be afraid to live wherever we want to. The Arabs must accept that.”

Unlike the 150 or so official settlements dotted across the West Bank, Migron is an example of what the Israeli government refers to as an “illegal outpost”, often an unauthorised outgrowth from one of the main settlements. Today there are more than 100 such outposts, housing several thousand extremist settlers.

Mrs Genud, however, argues that Israel’s refusal to turn Migron into an authorised settlement, as it has done with many other established outposts, reflects pressure from Washington.

Back in 2003, Israel committed itself to dismantling the more recent outposts under the terms of the Road Map, a US-sponsored plan for reviving the peace process and creating a Palestinian state. Two years later the cabinet approved the removal of 24 outposts, although barely any progress has been made on dismantling them. Israel confirmed its pledge again in January when George W Bush, the US president, visited.

Established six years ago by a group from the nearby settlement of Ofra, Migron is now the largest of the outposts. Two residents — Itai Halevi, the community’s rabbi, and Itai Harel, the son of Israel Harel, a well-known settler leader — have demonstrated their confidence in Migron’s future by each building permanent homes.

“We are connected to the water grid, we have phone lines from the national company Bezeq, we have been hooked up by the electricity company and have street lighting,” Mrs Genud said. “We also have a kindergarten paid for by the state and a group of soldiers stationed here to protect us. How can we be ‘illegal’?”

Daniella Wiess, a leader of the most extreme wing of the settlers, agreed. Like the inhabitants of Migron, she said the outpost was first suggested by Ariel Sharon when he was housing minister in the 1990s. It was also among the first outposts to be set up after he became prime minister in 2002.

An official report published in 2005 found that more than $4 million was invested in Migron in its first years, with the money channelled through at least six different ministries.

There is good reason for official complicity in such outposts as Migron. “This place is very strategic,” Mrs Genud said. It looks down on Route 60, once the main road serving Palestinians between Jerusalem and Jenin in the northern West Bank.

Today, even those Palestinians who can get a permit to travel the road find regular sections obstructed by checkpoints or closed for the protection of neighbouring settlements.

“We can also see all the Arabs from here and keep an eye on what they are doing,” she said referring to her Palestinian neighbours. “And in addition, we can see the other settlements and check on their safety.”

But despite its significance to the settlement drive, Migron is under threat. Last week, the Israeli government agreed that the outpost must be destroyed, although it was tight-lipped about when. Few are expecting such a reversal to happen soon. The government’s decision was largely foisted upon it by a series of unforeseen events.

In 2006, several West Bank Palestinians, backed by Israeli peace groups, petitioned Israel’s supreme court claiming that Migron had been built on their private land.

Over the past four decades, Israel has declared nearly two-thirds of the West Bank as “state land”, seizing it on a variety of pretexts and transferring much of it to the jurisdiction of settler councils. According to the figures of the Israeli group Peace Now, the settlers are in direct control of more than 40 per cent of the West Bank.

Land belonging to Palestinians who hold the title deeds, however, has been harder to confiscate. As a result, a dubious industry of front companies both inside Israel and in the occupied territories has been spawned to transfer private Palestinian land to the settlers.

One such company appears to be behind the sale of the land on which Migron was built. A police investigation has revealed that one of the Palestinian owners, Abdel Latif Hassan Sumarin, signed over his power of attorney to an Israeli real estate company in 2004, even though he died in the United States in 1961.

During the court hearings, Israel has been dragging its feet. According to its own figures, there are a dozen outposts built entirely or partially on private Palestinian land — and the true number may be higher still.

The settlers believe that the decision to destroy Migron, if carried out, would set a dangerous precedent. “They are very afraid that this will become simply the first of many settlements to fall,” Mr Etkes said.

Last week, faced with another hearing before the court, the government finally conceded on Migron — but only after striking a deal with the main settlement lobby group, the Yesha council. Israel promised that the outpost would go, but not before new homes had been built for Migron’s settlers and they had been relocated en masse to a newly created — and authorised — settlement. According to reports in the local media, Migron’s families may be moved only a few hundred metres from their current location to an area of the West Bank designated as “state land”.

“The settlers know that preparation of an alternative site could take years,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, the head of Peace Now, fearful that this was simply a delaying tactic.

Others believe that relocating Migron may, in fact, set back the struggle against the settlements. There is already talk of moving the settlers to the jurisdiction of a neighbouring settlement, Adam.

“The danger is that Migron will be destroyed only to be resurrected in ‘legalised’ form by the government as a new settlement close by Adam,” Mr Etkes said.

Such a suspicion is confirmed by the main settler council, Yesha, which issued a statement last week: “We believe it is possible to find a solution for the outposts that will strengthen the settlements.”

Nonetheless, the residents of Migron, backed by hardline settler groups, are talking and acting tough for the time being. In a show of defiance, they moved another mobile home into the outpost last week. For several months the residents have also been erecting a large stone building close by the outpost that will become a winery.

The settlers’ rabbinical council denounced the threatened loss of the outpost, as did settler leader Gershon Masika, who warned of a bloody confrontation to save it.

Mrs Genud is not sure what she will do if the crunch comes and she has to give up her home and life in Migron. “All of this land is Jewish,” she said. “It would be a big mistake if we give up what is rightfully ours.”

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Phil said on August 26th, 2008 at 7:48am #

    “It would be a big mistake if we give up what is rightfully ours.”
    Funny, that’s exactly what the Palestinians say. Except that they’re the ones whose land is being stolen.

  2. DRL said on August 26th, 2008 at 8:11am #

    “All of this land is Jewish,” she said.

    Honey, emigration of jews from Europe to Palestine took place on the condition that incoming jews and native Palestinians would receive equal treatment, with full compensation to Palestinians for the inconvenience of the mass influx of a foreign population [do keep in mind that Palestinians had nothing to do with European persecution of jews].

    It was radical Zionist militias, headed by the likes of Begin, Sharon, Shamir, etc, who stepped in to wear out the British Mandate through covert armed action [known today as ‘terrorism’], finagled the UNSC into agreeing to disarm the local population, in the name of ‘peace’ [no less!], whereupon militant Zionist organizations proceeded to cleanse Palestine of its rightful inhabitants. What’s most disturbing, of all, is that this operation continues, virtually uncontested, to this day.

    The claim that the ground under your feet is ‘jewish’ [does it follow, then, that the ground I tread is atheist?] is to overlook the terms on which your forebears were permitted to take refuge in Palestine in the first place.

    Unfortunately, radical Zionists transformed the incoming refugees into ambitious colonizers, in the eyes of the indigenous population, when their natural inclination most likely would have been to behave like the fortunate guests they were, mixing and intermingling with the existing local jewish and arab populations.

    Dearie, it’s the zealousness and ambition of extremist elements in your midst, and their very effective, decades’ long mind-shaping campaigns, that make you a mouthpiece for some pretty vile policies.

    Sorta like what your ancestors fled, no?

    PS: Imagine, Mrs Genud, what Palestine might look like, today, had the generations of your grandparents and parents had the good sense to join forces with your hosts, behaving like guests rather than assassins …

  3. bozhidar balkas said on August 26th, 2008 at 8:16am #

    the zionist are mistaken: palestine will never be theirs. at least 6 bn people say so.
    the 6 bn people are weak now. but with the aid of china/russia/india et al alliance, it’ll become as strong as EU/US alliance.
    world plutos, and not just EU/US superrich, facing such an opposion that may rise to 10bn people, may find that defending a criminal state like israel is no longer a good idea.
    once rich people abandon israel, israel will have to make peace with all of the arabs or face destruction.
    in any case whatsoever, jews will, as separatists, alway be in trouble. unless they discard their disastrous cult. thank u

  4. Gliscameria said on August 26th, 2008 at 9:57am #

    I must not know much about history, but it seems to me that the Israel-Palestine thing is essentially like letting a cousin stay in your house because his burnt down, then he refuses to leave, annexes your kitchen, kills your dog and moves in 5 of his friends who have police escorts. All while the local news praises these brave settlers and labels you a slumlord.

    The world simply cannot be this messed up.

  5. DRL said on August 26th, 2008 at 11:57am #

    Yeah, what Gliscameria said.

    But the world IS a tad messed up. What’s confounding is that the cousin is considered so precious that not only is his appropriation of the house considered a done deal, the rest of the neighborhood needs to spend its precious treasure to ensure his happiness and safety.

    Um, what is that called, again …

  6. Brian Koontz said on August 26th, 2008 at 8:48pm #

    “the 6 bn people are weak now. but with the aid of china/russia/india et al alliance, it’ll become as strong as EU/US alliance.”

    So you’re separating the world into EU/US/Israel/Colombia/Georgia/Japan/Canada/Mexico/I’ve missed some vs. the rest?

    Neither China nor India are enemies of this Western configuration. India is some form of ally and China is mixed.

    Furthermore, it’s not like the opposition to the Western Alliance is a charity service – so Palestine is not going to become some kind of “cause of justice” unless they want a major confrontation with the Western Alliance.

    The future is very difficult to predict, and your prediction seems to be ridiculous.

  7. Giorgio said on August 26th, 2008 at 10:38pm #

    Brian Koontz,
    Don’t be surprised if China already has not been infiltrated by Zionists working themselve up into their government.
    Globalization is the consolidation of the Rule of the Global-Elite-Few over the 6 bn of the world masses. It is NOT a power struggle amongst Nations ( or between Nation blocks/alliances) as it is normally bandied about. Iraq was clobbered because Saddam went astray and decided not to toe the line.
    Iran will be clobbered for similar reasons. So will Venezuela and North Korea, and so on whoever decides to rear its ugly head in protest. “Global Nirvana” will descend on Earth when All the Global Elites will Dance Joyfully to the same Tune and to the detriment and subjugation of the people they each and separately rule.
    Then (plagiarizing A. Pope)
    The curtain will fall;
    And Universal Darkness buries All,
    And makes one Mighty DUNCIAD of Us All!

  8. bozhidar balkas said on August 27th, 2008 at 4:07am #

    first of all you need to learn how to talk to people. then you need to listen what they say.
    it is not a prediction that russians, chinese, cubans, iraqis, afghanis, koreans, vietnamese, iranians, et al are not friendly with EU/US but a fact.
    i am not predicting that there will be an alliance facing EU/US alliance. this two is a fact
    in any case, if you continue to talk to me as you did in your post, you canbe sure i won’t read your posts.
    i have enough of that from msm an dother people who have nothing useful to say but resort to ad hominem labels.

  9. Giorgio said on August 27th, 2008 at 4:09am #

    It would surprise me that with the just ended 2008 Beijing Olympics, the opportunity was not taken to lay the groundwork for the creation of the Chinese Israeli Public Affairs Committee (CIPAC). And if it already existed, then greatly strengthened.

    There is greater affinity of interests, likes and dislikes, between a Wall Street shyster, an Arab sheik and a modern mandarin than with their own respective bottom of the ladder people….

  10. bozhidar balkas said on August 27th, 2008 at 4:43am #

    china, as far as i can make out, is building or thinks/wants to build a better life for all of its people.
    i hope they succeed. i do not think that zionists will be welcome in china.
    zionists now are as strongly antisocialists as both the dems and repubs.
    i think world plutos are united like never before to obtain the planet and to utterly destroy all socialism. thank u

  11. bozhidar balkas said on August 27th, 2008 at 4:59am #

    there isn’t that much written about india. so, i do not know whether indian present and future gov’ts will opt for a structure of governance that is similar or same as that of US.
    we do not know that even russia under relentless pressure from world plutos will not cry uncle.
    we do not know that we won’t have a limited nuclear war. if temperatures rise more than 4c in next century, much will change.
    thank u

  12. bozhidar balkas said on August 27th, 2008 at 5:07am #

    let us recall that people do not change. all of us rose from the same genetic pool.
    but bombs, missiles, planes change all the time. whether we are armed with sticks and rocks or with bombs, we are the same joes and josephines.
    the renewable energies such as hate, anger, greed, fear, envy have been with us for eons and will be with us for eons.
    thus, we may fight one another for eons.
    and a global nuclear war is an ergodic event (having zero chance of not occurring)
    unless ……. thank u

  13. Brian Koontz said on August 27th, 2008 at 6:39pm #

    “Globalization is the consolidation of the Rule of the Global-Elite-Few over the 6 bn of the world masses. It is NOT a power struggle amongst Nations ( or between Nation blocks/alliances) as it is normally bandied about. Iraq was clobbered because Saddam went astray and decided not to toe the line.”

    By listing countries I was referring to the ruling classes of those countries. Ruling classes fight ruling classes – they dominate the populace rather than fight them.

    Iraq wasn’t clobbered – it’s ruling class was clobbered. Iraq’s people were collateral damage. The destruction of Iraq’s people, to the extent it matters to the American state, is used as a tool to gain power over the country. (Also bear in mind that the war was ongoing far past the downfall of Iraq’s ruling class because another victim – the American taxpayer – still has blood in him).

    The only way an imperial power fights a “people” is if that people create a democratic government for themselves – such as Chile under Allende. The fight is against Allende (and his supporters) and not the Chilean people.

    In war the point is not extermination but control. The Chilean people, under Pinochet and his backing by the American state, were transformed and cowed – it was one of the more successful uses of mass terror in human history. But still, the primary point of the Pinochet regime was not to transform Chileans but to ensure a pleasant climate for American imperialism. It was a fight between ruling classes, with the people being collateral damage.

    The only way “the people” will ever be fought is when they themselves *become* the ruling class. That is to say, when Anarchism rules. At that point these techniques of mass terror and technologies of mass psychosis that the global elite have been practicing for decades will get a true test.

    Global Anarchism vs. Global Capitalism may actually be the “war to end all wars”. Then it will truly be the global elite vs. the global people, but that time is yet to come. Hastening such a war is the only grand purpose for the people of today.

    The reason that the American state never goes to war against a people is the same reason they never go to war against ants – there’s no point in warring against something that isn’t a threat and isn’t expected to be.

  14. Brian Koontz said on August 27th, 2008 at 6:58pm #

    “first of all you need to learn how to talk to people. then you need to listen what they say.”

    I’m sorry. My combination of impatience and anger is not convenient with respect to manners.

    “it is not a prediction that russians, chinese, cubans, iraqis, afghanis, koreans, vietnamese, iranians, et al are not friendly with EU/US but a fact.”

    It’s also a fact that US is not friendly with US. I’m an American who is unfriendly with US.

    Saying the people of the world, in *all* places, are not friendly with the ruling elite of EU/US is an utter fact and is uncontroversial.

    “i am not predicting that there will be an alliance facing EU/US alliance.”

    What is the meaning of “the 6 bn people are weak now. but with the aid of china/russia/india et al alliance, it’ll become as strong as EU/US alliance.”?

    You seem to be saying I’m misunderstanding this quote. So I’ll explain my understanding:

    The 6 billion people must mean the global poor, although that number also includes various members of the middle class, even if you’ve rounded up.

    You are saying that the china/russia/india alliance (assuming such a thing exists) will benefit these 6 billion people such that they, and I quote, “become as strong as EU/US alliance”.

    I don’t even know where to begin to criticize this – for one thing, china/russia/india have no interest in helping the 6 billion non-global elites. And the idea that it can happen as an incidental effect of them pursuing their own interests makes no sense to me.

    I tend to think very differently concerning what can help those 6 billion people – *them helping themselves*. A movement for global socialism, fully termed anarchic global socialism.

  15. bozhidar balkas said on August 28th, 2008 at 6:10am #

    i said that about 6bn people say that palestine does not belong to jews or zionists.
    i said that israel will be destroyed by arabs if zionists refuse to make peace with them. from this, one can see that the aid to arabs by 6bn people is a moral one. again. you don’t read very well.
    china and russia have, according reports i read, settled their border disputes and have formed an alliance.
    it is not clear on what particulars russia and china agree. we do not know at this time whether china will militarily defend russia if attacked by nato.
    india, according reports, also is worried about US intention.
    these are facts.
    you do not need to waste time criticising; just juxtapose own facts and comclusions.thank u

  16. bozhidar balkas said on August 28th, 2008 at 6:33am #

    perhaps, the prediction that peoples who find themselves outside US/EU alliance (for conquest of the planet!?) will become with mutual aid as strong econo-militarily as nato, may not be fullfilled.
    or it may.
    a prediction that nato may conquer the planet;thus utterly destroy all socialism also might come true.
    what we do know is the fact that Russia had said it’ll atack the missile shield that may or may not be placed in poland.
    how now brown cow? are the lines drawn?
    may i deduce that a least 6bn people are mighty worried about the latest situation?
    that includes perhaps 5% amers.

  17. Nancy said on August 28th, 2008 at 9:22am #

    When someone is going to run for president they are asked right away
    what is your stance on Israel? and they always have to say yes they will
    support, protect and take care of Israel. they cannot run for pres. if they don`t state this. Its sounds really stupid that we are forever required to protect and pay them billions for what? I know Germany pays them millions of euro also, they have ever since the war. and they can never fight them. they are petrified to go near the country.
    Who actually pays these Israel lobbyist?????? Israel. I hate lobbyist.
    we should pass a law, against anyone being one. Obama had said he was
    against lobbyist so I hope he does something if he gets to be our President.