'Settlements' and Academia

Yisrael Medad,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Yisrael Medad
I am a resident of Shiloh, with my wife and children, and now grandchildren, since 1981, having come on Aliyah in 1970. I have served in a volunteer capacity as a Yesha Council spokesperson, twice a member of Amana's secretariat, Benjamin Regional Council plenum member and mayor of Shiloh. I was a parliamentary aide for Geula Cohen and two other MKs, an advisor to a Minister, vice-chairman and executive director of Israel's Media Watch and currently, am Information and Content Resource coordinator for the Begin Heritage Center.

I attended today the second day of a research workshop entitled, “The Settlements in the West Bank (1967-2014): New Perspectives” and it went so*:

  • Session 4. The heterogeneity of settlers 
  • Discussant: Dani Filc, Ben-Gurion University
  • Lee Cahaner, Oranim Academic College, Ultra-Orthodox Settlements in Judea and Samaria
  • Sara Yael Hirschhorn, University of Oxford, The Origins of the Redemption in Occupied Suburbia: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and the Jewish-American Makings of Efrat, 1973-2013
  • Sivan Hirsch-Hoefler, IDC and Haifa University, ‘Organized We Stand, Divided We Fall’: The Effect of Organizational Membership and Collective Identity on Radical Collective Action
  • Session 5. The spatiality of settlements 
  • Discussant: Ronen Shamir, Tel Aviv University
  • Ariel Handel, CRFJ and Tel Aviv University, ‘Our Grapevines’ Life is Hard’: Terroir and Territory-Making in the West Bank
  • Haim Yacobi, Bezalel Academy, and Wendy Pullan, University of Cambridge, The geopolitics of neighbourhood: Jerusalem’s colonial space revisited
  • Erez Tzfadia, Sapir College, The Grey Space of Israel’s Settlement in the West Bank

As the organizers wrote:

The rationale for organizing this research workshop is to explore less conventional approaches and angles that go beyond the immediate politico-diplomatic dynamics and impact of Israel’s settlement policy. The underlying assumption is that the settlements’ enterprise is not an exceptional phenomenon contradictory to other trends in Israeli society, but is a historical process that was shaped by and related to other long-term processes.

We feel that a more comprehensive approach is needed in order to understand how the transformation of the landscape determined by the expansion of settlements created new – albeit not necessarily fair – patterns of relations amongst the resident population of Israel/Palestine.

As one there said, as a venue, Tel Aviv University (as the site of former Sheikh Munis) is arguably a worse site to conduct the workshop than even the ‘West Bank’ as the ‘crime’ level against the Arabs here, he noted, was more than that in connection with the ‘settlements’.  There was also an argument: is the territory ‘West Bank’ or Judea and Samaria or OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories).  The problems facing a researcher. Incidentally, one quipped that the ‘settlers’ had ‘occupied’ Rabin Square the previous evening for the rally on behalf of the three kidnapped, and as we now know, and murdered three youths,

My first impression was our achievements over these past four decades have surely provided much research material and opportunity for academics.  Second, what was missing were researchers from amongst the scholars of the Palestinian Authority institutions of higher learning, and that was mentioned, as well as, for example, scholars from Ariel University.  Third, the topics today were all treated in a negative critical manner, even the upbeat wine presentation.  I may be slightly subjective but as an academic researcher myself there are positive stories to be researched: educational achievements, absorption successes, industry, agriculture, science, social welfare, child psychology, medical services, religious creativity, music, drama, literature (someone did try to point this out while others were surprised) and so much more.  Does all that have to be framed as a colonialization act, a crime?  The workshop which included various disciplines was seemingly one-dimensionally political and took for-granted that Jewish communities in the areas administered by Israel since 1967 are a ‘crime’, an illicit or illegal act.

I asked some friends there if they knew, for example, of any independent research of land ownership based on the files in the Palestinian Authority and/or Turkish/Jordanian registration documents that would objectively analyze claims or perhaps locate land transfers conducted by the Hashemite Kingdom which was an illegal occupation entity.  No one knew.  It reminded me of the criticism first leveled at Benny Morris whose books were full of details except from the Arab side whose archives he couldn’t review.

I took notes and will simply list some of the things I heard that I think were, well, interesting, and will do so without direct attribution, in part because a book is planned and also because I did not tape the deliberations and so I cannot claim accurate quotations (or that I can reread my handwriting).  But for sure the sense of what I am quoting was quite correct and exact.

Settlers today can speak in the lingo of French wine culture better than they can quote Rabbi AY Kook.

Wine normalizes the territories. (One respondent forcefully rejected the use of ‘normalization’ and suggested the term ’hegemonic’ control and another was upset at the ongoing ‘homogenization’.)

A new framework of study must include ‘market mechanisms’ and ‘cultural productions’.

A new term for ‘outpost’ is hetero-utopia.

What is the difference of post-67 to post-48 as all is occupation.


Is the reality colonialization, occupation or irredentist nationalism.

The ‘settlers’ have settled into the government and the state bureaucracy and the ‘settlements’ are part of the Israel controlling system.

Israel itself is a settler-colonial state so how can Israel be ‘taken over’ by the settlers?

The Arabs of Ramallah are saying that they need to be brought back under occupation to be resensitized.

There’s no Peace Now research because all the researchers are of Peace Now.

One participant informed me that an insult of mine directed at Elisheva Goldberg, I called her a “Beinart bunny”, was unworthy of me, was sexist and pained her.  My exact words were:

there's a contribution of astute thought by a former Beinart bunny (is that misogynist? anti-feminist? or simply satire?) and current Burg babe (oops, did I do it again?)

Now, let’s all be adults.  An insult is intended to hurt.  I am not a Churchill but he was a master.  Obviously, too, I was alliterating.  If Beinart had been Treinart, I might have used tyro or if Greinart, probably I would have chosen to use groupie.  And since I did write “is that misogynist? anti-feminist? or simply satire?’, let’s also not play games of political correctness.  If “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, I think we could say that “political correctness is the first defense of the political progressive”.

The first day’s schedule:

Marco Allegra, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, The Settlements in the West Bank (1967-2014): New Perspectives
Session 1. The political economy of the settlements
Discussant: Ian Lustick, University of Pennsylvania
David Newman, Ben Gurion University, Settlement as Suburbanization: The Banality of Colonization
Erez Maggor, New York University, State and Market Relations in Israel’s Settlement Project: Housing Policy and the Shift from Messianic Outposts to Urban Settlements in the 1980s
Mtanes Shihade, The Hebrew University, The Welfare State of Settlers
Dana Rubin, Open University UK and SOAS, Haredi Settlers: Religion and Neoliberalism on the West Bank Frontier
Session 2. Inside the settlements (anthropological perspectives) 
Discussant: Hadas Weiss, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
Hannah Mayne, University of Florida, Personal Narratives of Female Settlers: Uncovering Alternative Routes and Networks
Callie Maidhof, UC Berkeley, Beyond Separation: Affective Annexation between the Green Line and the Wall
Shimi Friedman, Open University, Hills, Farms, and the Local Council: A Heterogenic Society in Conflict at Southern Hebron Settlements
Session 3. Comparative views on settlements 
Discussant: Sandi Kedar, University of Haifa
Johannes Becke, University of Oxford, Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy: Typological Theory and the Case for a Transnational Perspective on Israeli Expansionism
Fatina Abreek-Zubiedat, Technion, Architecture of Negotiations: Yamit and Sheikh Radwan, 1967-1982
Ronen Ben-Arie, Haifa University, The Civil Foundation of the Settlements in the West Bank: Past, Present and future (?)