Rattling the Cage: Not Nitzanim (JERUSALEM POST) By LARRY DERFNER 04/27/05)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-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
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
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
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)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY