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Rattling the Cage: Not Nitzanim (JERUSALEM POST) By LARRY DERFNER 04/27/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1114568597754 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
I know it isn´t nice to knock the Gush Katif settlers, especially those prepared to leave voluntarily, but their demand to be resettled amid the protected sand dunes by the stunning beaches of Nitzanim shouldn´t be surprising.

The movement they´ve been a part of has never given a damn about how it treats the actual land of the Land of Israel. The only thing West Bank and Gaza settlers have ever really wanted to do was cover that land with as much Jewish-owned concrete and asphalt as possible.

They look at the pastoral, biblical landscapes of Judea and Samaria and what do they envision? Row after row of stone Jewish houses with red-tiled Jewish roofs, Jewish roads, Jewish schools, Jewish shopping centers, Jewish parking lots.

They´ve been in a nationalist struggle against the Palestinians over the land, and their notion of city planning, or suburban planning, has grown out of that struggle. They want to mark their territory as far and wide as they can. They want to develop as much land per Jewish resident as possible. Every hill, every pasture must be "redeemed" by Jewish cranes and bulldozers.

So why not mark Nitzanim too? Hurry up, before the Beduin take it.

I once asked a spokesman for the Yesha Council why there were no high-rise apartment buildings in settlements like there were on the other side of the Green Line. Societies everywhere had realized that people were multiplying but the earth wasn´t getting bigger, so it was vital to conserve land – not only for the land´s sake, but for people´s sake. For the scenery, if nothing else.

In Israel proper, in countries all over, there were efforts to build up, not out. Why couldn´t the settlements, which sit on some of the most beautiful land in the region, start putting up high-rises too?

"We don´t want to live in beehives," replied the Yesha spokesman.

The Gush Katif settlers demanding Nitzanim don´t want to live in beehives, either – and they don´t want to live in half-empty kibbutzim, or aging moshavim, or villages that never grew, or any of the other nearby, available pieces of land that have already been cleared, where there is already infrastructure, where new homes could be built without gobbling up more nature.

No, they want one of Israel´s few undeveloped natural treasures. It´s the closest thing there is to the landscape of Gush Katif, it´s right up the coast, and the Gaza settlers would all be able to stay together. As for that other stuff, in the famous old words of some master Israeli builder, ecology, shmecology.

To be fair, though, the settlers of the West Bank and Gaza didn´t invent Zionism´s conquest-minded approach to the land. To this day, a true Israeli patriot is supposed to sigh when he sees the endless sands of the Negev and fields of the Galilee: Oh, why aren´t they filled with Jews?

This is the new, post-disengagement Zionist mission, this is what we need masses of Jews from the Diaspora to move to Israel for: To settle the Galilee and Negev.

Not to farm, not to make the desert bloom, just to outnumber the Arabs down south and up north. To ensure a Jewish majority not only nationally but regionally as well.

There are so many hills, valleys and craters just sitting there going to waste. They´re waiting to be redeemed. The time is now, before the Beduin take them. Only in Israel is there still, in the 21st century, a consensus that wilderness is something to be "tamed." When I was living in the US, I didn´t care about the environment, mainly because there was so much of it. If they ruined a lake, so what? There were 10,000 more of them in Minnesota alone. If they tore up a forest or a beachfront for some housing project, I really couldn´t get worked up about it. In America, the land went on forever.

Only after I came to Israel and saw how little of it there was did I begin to care about what happened to the countryside. I think it was also the crowdedness and noise of Israeli cities – along with the eyesore of most Israeli architecture – that brought home to me the necessity of preserving natural, wide-open spaces.

In this claustrophobic little country above all.

But nationalism isn´t the only acquisitive ideology that´s threatening the land around here; swinish capitalism, in Shimon Peres´s phrase, is another. Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been saying for years how he´d love to free up Israel´s land reserves for development, to make it easier and cheaper to pave over. Now he´s got the power, and this is one of the pillars of his free market revolution, and Israeli developers are just rubbing their hands.

In light of all this, it´s embarrassing to think how Israelis claim to love their land like no other people on earth. What is Zionism without love of this land?

Yet look at what Israeli patriots have been doing to this land during the last couple of generations. Decide if Israelis and their leaders really love this land not by their rhetoric, but by the actual, physical mark they´ve left on the land, and by the longer, wider mark they have in mind. May the Land of Israel be protected from their love.

Starting with Nitzanim. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is leaning toward giving it to the Gush Katif settlers, and he has to be stopped.

Let the government give the settlers more money, if necessary, to build new homes where they could live alongside hundreds of their current neighbors in new neighborhoods close by. What is this sentimental nonsense that all 8,000 of them have to stay right next to one another wherever they go?

We can afford to give these people lots of money and plenty of already-developed land. We cannot afford to give them Nitzanim. Israel doesn´t have places like that to spare. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 04/27/05)


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