Unnatural Growth and the Folly of Tony Judt

In my latest piece for Zeek magazine, I take on the absurd argument for granting exceptions for “natural growth” in a settlement freeze. I also discuss what it will take for President Obama to take such a freeze and make it something significant in the long term. This is crucial, because there is a serious danger that all a freeze will be is a brief stoppage in construction, causing a lot of tension between the US and Israel, expending a great deal of political capital and

Areas of settlement jurisdiction, courtesy of BTselem

Areas of settlement jurisdiction, courtesy of B'Tselem. Area within the municipal boundary Area within the borders of the Regional Councils

ending up with little gain.

But I want to mention one more point. In today’s New York Times, British historian Tony Judt, who has come under frequent criticism for his support for a single state solution in Israel-Palestine, has an op-ed arguing that Israel will not remove any settlements, ever and a freeze is in fact a defeat for American efforts for peace.

I don’t want to spend much time deconstructing Judt’s argument. He’s made some interesting ones in the past, but this one is pretty weak. The op-ed betrays a lack of understanding of modern Israel (Judt seems stuck in an image of Israel that is nearly 50 years out of date), and of the settlement issue. Judt uses Ma’ale Adumim as emblematic of settlements and why they will not be removed.

And here is the point. Ma’ale Adumim, like Ariel and the Gush Etzion region are the built-up “blocs” that are generally referred to as possibly remaining in Israeli hands in the event of a peace deal. Gush Etzion is both the most likely to remain Israeli and the least problematic geographically. Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim both extend well into the West Bank and it will take some creativity to figure out how to reconcile a contiguous and viable Palestinian state with those settlements becoming part of Israel. Continue reading

B’Tselem’s Video Project

There is always the question about impact in this work. Is it just reporting and kvetching, or is there some practical impact?

Nasser a-Nawaj’ah (right), Camera distribution project coordinator for the Southern Hebron Hills, and ‘Imad Rashid, a participant in the project

Nasser a-Nawaj’ah (right), Camera distribution project coordinator for the Southern Hebron Hills, and ‘Imad Rashid, a participant in the project

B’Tselem’s video project has a real impact. Not only does it break the silence around the abuses that soldiers and settlers perpetrate on Palestinians, but it serves as a deterrent. The cameras have produced videos that have been watched millions of times on YouTube as well as being frequently broadcast all over Israeli and international television, including CNN.

But the most powerful role the cameras play is to give Palestinians a non-violent way to defend themselves, without relying on the usually unresponsive Israeli military and judicial system.

B’Tselem has gotten a special award from One World Media in London. It’s a really great program and one deserving of your support.

Great Article On the “Natural Growth” Argument

I strongly recommend this article at Zeek magazine on the current debate between Israel and the US on natural growth, what a settlement freeze could mean and what next steps Obama needs to take. The author writes further on the point at his blog here.