tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to start your own Israeli settlement in 7 easy steps

So, you want to start your own settlement in the West Bank and you're not sure how to do it. Well, assuming you're not Palestinian, it's a super easy, gluten-free recipe:

First: Find some land
You need a starting point, an existing settlement, preferably one whose residents have a history of settlement activism, violence, racism, and/or messianism. For example's sake, let's say Efrat. Efrat (or Efrata) is located in the southern West Bank, between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Hebron, in a circuitous cluster of settlements known collectively as Gush Etzion. [Click on map to enlarge.]

Second: Take the land
You'll want to strike out on your own by taking over a hilltop or two adjacent to the existing settlement. You can do this in one of two ways. You can either conscript a bunch of gun-toting settler teenagers - known as the Hilltop Youth - to take over your hill, set up a few caravans, and scare the living daylights out of Palestinian civilians.

Or, a more subtle strategy would be to apply to the office of the Commander of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Coordinator of Government Operations for Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) to have the area of your future settlement declared a 'Closed Military Zone.' You will argue that this is necessary to maintain the safety and security of the current settlers, who need a buffer zone between them and the Palestinians.

Depending on the current situation, it might even help to have some of your more radical settler kin go out into the olive groves and attack Palestinians, to further your contrived evidence that the military should close the area.

Third: Guard the land
The Palestinians will protest the 'closed military zone' with grassroots activism and legal challenges in Israeli courts. You see, this land you're taking over is Palestinian farmland, olive groves, pastures, et cetera; land which has belonged to families and nearby villages for centuries, and for which legal title could have been drawn up in the Ottoman era.

You will counter that the land you want is a natural extension of an existing settlement bloc and, being uninhabited with no legal record since 1948, should therefore fall under the civil jurisdiction of the settlement.

Fourth: Wait out the futile appeals process
Time to wait. While the Palestinians are going through the appeals process, they are in the meantime mostly barred from working the land now in dispute, because of course it is a closed military area. After a few years, it appears that the land really is wild and unclaimed.

In the example of Efrat, Palestinians will make a series of 8 appeals to the IDF Civil Administration for the West Bank (which is subordinate to the IDF's Gov't Ops division) and the Israeli civil courts; all 8 appeals will be rejected. Then a 9th appeal will be accepted by an Israeli court on the grounds that, clearly, this is not a military zone but Palestinian farmland that is essential to the survival of nearby Palestinian communities.

It might seem that your hopes of starting your settlement are dashed. But don't worry; this appeal will be de facto overturned by the pro-settler Civil Administration with the implicit backing of the Israeli military.

How is this possible? Well, even in the odd case where an Israeli court has ruled in favour of a Palestinian claim to West Bank land, it's not like the Israeli courts have the power to actually force the Israeli government to instruct the Israeli military to enforce the rule of Israeli law in a place (the West Bank) that is under perpetual military rule and in perpetual political, legal and jurisdictional limbo.

I mean, what Israeli politician has anything to gain by siding with a pro-Palestinian court ruling? That would be just too crazy.

The land you want for your settlement will be declared 'State Land' and fall into the hands of the Civil Administration (yes, the same outfit that had the de facto power to whimsically overturn the Palestinian appeals), which probably won't even bother to tell the Palestinians what has happened.

Fifth: Lobby your elected officials
Before you can begin formal construction of your settlement (although really, no one is going to stop you at this point), the Civil Administration must allocate jurisdiction of the land to the Israeli Ministry of Housing. This is tricky, because it requires the consent of the Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister.

Luckily for you, pro-settler parliamentarians, like Benny Elon, have disproportionately large representation in Israel's government, the Knesset. Time and again, Israel's fractious coalition governments must grease the squeaky settlement wheels in order to function. Either your pro-settler Knesset blocs will trade a few votes with the Prime Minister to have your request approved, or if they are in the coalition they will threaten to pull out and torpedo the government. If you're lucky enough, your Prime Minister might just be a settlement fan himself.

Either way, you're only a Hamas rocket or other distraction away from having the Ministry of Housing formally register your land, at which time you (and you alone) can apply for building permits and start knocking down those thousand-year-old olive trees.

Sixth: Find some settlers
Okay, you've got your (ahem) legal title from the Civil Administration and your construction permits from the Ministry of Housing. Your contractors (if the Israeli military hasn't done this already) extend a road or two from the existing settlement bloc onto your new settlement land. Any number of companies (even Canadian ones) are available to construct your cookie-cutter settlement houses and condos.

The Israeli military is helpfully suppressing any Palestinian initiatives to claim and work their land.

So now, you just need some settlers to live in your settlement. Fortunately, this is the really easy part.

If you want a nice, happy Zionist community without too many radical strings attached, then you'll want to make your pitch to working-class and recent immigrant Israelis with the following incentives:
  • The Israeli Ministry of Housing offers low-interest or interest-free mortgages and loans which can essentially turn into grants if you can't pay them back;
  • The Israeli Ministry of Education subsidizes most of the costs of education in settlements;
  • The Israeli Ministry of Trade provides tax incentives and business grants for anyone starting a business or establishing an industrial zone in a new community, such as a settlement;
  • The Israeli Ministry of Labor provides extra benefits to social workers and other community workers to help the new settlement get off the ground;
  • The Israeli Ministry of Finance used to offer as much as a 7% income-tax break to settlers; while this has been taken away as of 2003, in general settlers on a per-capita basis are the beneficiaries of 150% more government spending than non-settler Israelis;
  • Free Orange T-shirts!
Or, if you want to speed up the settlement process and guarantee that your settlers won't agree to any future government plan to relocate them back to Israel as part of some "peace process," you should target ideologically resolute settlers - the Gush Emunim types - whose fervent religious nationalism (and proclivities toward large families) might secure you a more lasting, if more unruly, settlement community.

Seventh: Bake at 500 degrees forever and ever!
Mazel tov! You now have a fully functioning, peace-process-killing, per-capita-GDP-sucking, resource-draining, Palestinian-poverty-perpetuating, international-law-violating, ecologically unsustainable, implicitly racist settlement in the West Bank.

Whether you're planning for the messiah or just your retirement, you're on your way to personal fulfillment at the expense of the well-being, happiness, prosperity, security and hope of millions of other people.

[Related post: Israel admits it's known about settlements for at least 4 years]

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