Ha'aretz has busted open a huge story today: "Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement." The story outlines a database created by the Israeli defense establishment to gather:
credible and accessible information at the ready to
contend with legal actions brought by Palestinian residents, human
rights organizations and leftist movements challenging the legality of
construction in the settlements and the use of private lands to
establish or expand them.
The article adds, "the painstakingly amassed data was labeled
Well the dynamite has exploded.
There is much that can, and will, be said about this report. The initial take home message is that whenever you read or see a story where the Israeli government is presented as a counter balance to the "radical settler movement" you now know this is false. The Israeli government has been supporting and expanding the settlement project in the occupied territories all along, and it is now documented. The settlements have long been viewed as an exception, out of the government's control, an issue that will be dealt with later. They should now be viewed as the rule. This point is made clear by a settler leader himself:
"Nothing was done in hiding," says Pinchas
Wallerstein, director-general of the Yesha Council of settlements and a
leading figure in the settlement project. "I'm not familiar with any
[building] plans that were not the initiative of the Israeli
Dror Etkes, an anti-settlement activist with the Israeli NGO Yesh Din, has now published an analysis of the database today, along with an English translation of excerpts (the Ha'aretz article contains the database in Hebrew). Etkes says:
There is no doubt that this is the most important database that has ever been exposed on this issue, covering the activities of the State of Israel in the context of the settlement enterprise. It includes reference to additional statutory issues that until now have never been dealt with in public, and in fact proves a colossal violation of the law in nearly every aspect, applicable to most of the settlements – building without permit, land-theft, etc. This proves again that the State and the settlers have an unwritten agreement that divides the work between them: While settlers, through public bodies which they control, actually perform most of the illegal construction and trespassing, the State finances and provides sweeping and ongoing immunity to these criminal activities.
You can download the Etkes analysis here
and the English translation of parts of the database here. Both are Word files.
Read them and post your thoughts in the comments. We will continue to follow this. This is a story that will be around for a long time. (Adam Horowitz)