In yesterday’s Ha’aretz, Gideon Levy argues for the abandonment/removal of Israel’s illegal settlements from an uncommon standpoint: He lambasts the settlements, as civic/economic/aesthetic entities, for their lack of contribution to the betterment of Israeli society, and says that this ‘uselessness’ is why we need to stop the settlement project.
They haven’t managed to produce anything of their own. No theater, no museum, no music and no dance, very little literature and no meaningful creative work. … These are comatose cities in which no advanced or meaningful industry has ever grown except one bagel factory and a few workshops, most of them imported from central Israel, despite all the benefits and discounts lavished on the settlements. … Crowded but empty, this should have been the ultimate proof of their uselessness.
While I agree with much of what it says, I really don’t like this Gideon Levy piece—even though I get that he could just be trying to persuade Israeli society to oppose settlements using a new rationale. But to argue merit through cultural achievement is a rotten game. As a Palestinian, this makes me easily recall how Israelis often use the supposed cultural/industrial inferiority of “the Arabs”—How many Arab Nobel laureates are there compared to Jewish, they propose—to soothe their guilt for what Israel has done to Palestinians. (By the way I sense, through his writings, that even the leftist Israeli Uri Avnery is guilty of this.)
Anyhow Levy’s point is easy to debunk: Let’s say the settlements produced great artists and advanced industry that greatly enriched Israeli lives; would this grant them immunity from condemnation? They’d still be the same racist colonial projects.