By Esther Zandberg
The chair of geostrategy at the University of Haifa, which is held by Prof. Arnon Soffer, recently published a pamphlet that sums up the "mitzpim project" in the Galilee from the perspective of the period that has gone by since the hilltop communities, situated above Arab towns, began to be established in the late 1970s.
Between 1978 and 1988, 52 new Jewish communities in the mitzpim format were established throughout Galilee, in the heart of a dense Arab population. Their total population is now about 20,000.
The pamphlet, written by Avraham Dor from the university's political science department, set out to examine "the success of the project vis-a-vis the goals that were set for it at the outset." Without mincing words, the study reveals that underlying the project were principles of ethnic discrimination, demographic phobia, and the concept that the country's Arab citizens are not equals but constitute a threat to its existence.
The study examines the project, not all of whose goals were successfully realized, through the test case of the Misgav Regional Council, which has the largest number of mitzpim communities in Galilee (29).
A number of goals were set for the project. First, as Dor explains, a "territorial goal," the gist of which was "to increase the area of the land held by the Jewish population and contain the Arab population's takeover of state lands by increasing the Jewish presence in Galilee." There was also a "demographic goal" of improving the (Jewish) balance of migration to Galilee. From the start, the authorities in charge of the project were skeptical about the possibility of realizing the second goal, and as Dor says, "looking toward the future, the picture is not encouraging," and "the demographic gap between the Arab and Jewish residents of Galilee is continually growing."
However, a third goal, geopolitical in character, was far more successful. This goal, as Dor explains, "was not made public, but there can be no doubt about its centrality in regard to the location of the mitzpim communities. The goal here was to drive wedges between the blocs of Arab settlements, in order to block their ability to create a territorial continuity that would make possible trends toward demands for autonomy in the future." Indeed, Dor writes, "The establishment of the mitzpim communities in conditions of relatively small areas made possible a maximum distribution of settlement sites and the `conquest' of the territory by means of access roads to them and by means of the permanent Jewish presence in the area."
A similar goal underlay the establishment of the Misgav Regional Council itself, in 1982. Its "special boundaries," Dor notes, were intended "to create a clear buffer against the possibility of creating a continuity of Arab settlement." The council's creation was accompanied by "grating voices" on the part of the local Arab communities, Dor says. "It is interesting," he says, as part of his attempt to sum up the goals from the perspective of time, "to examine how this new Jewish population distribution in Galilee is perceived by the Arab public in 2003, more than 20 years after the establishment of the settlement project."
A true riddle. Mohammed Kenaan, the head of the Majdal Krum council (which borders on two mitzpim communities, Gilon and Tsurit), solves the interesting mystery and explains to Dor that the project did, indeed, create a feeling of discrimination in the Arab population, as "it was not getting equal treatment or equal means compared to the investment in the Jewish communities." For example, the Bar-Lev Industrial Zone at Misgav received top priority status and is flourishing, whereas the industrial zone of Majdal Krum, which is directly opposite, was not awarded this coveted status and is having a hard time surviving. Another example has to do with land. It is true that privately owned Arab lands were not expropriated for the creation of the new Jewish communities, as Kenaan acknowledges, but under the updated master plans the lands were "attached" to the Misgav Regional Council, which thereby benefits from the taxes on the lands, instead of the Arab local councils. Dor's impression is that "from Kenaan's point of view, this is perceived as a move of inequality."
The pamphlet shows that the discrimination and inequality are not a systemic failure but a deliberate intention. There is nothing new in all this, of course, but when such banality is offered up as a dry, businesslike, ostensibly nonideological report, it is more difficult than ever to swallow. The chair of geostrategy, as the pamphlet points out, "deals with subjects in the sphere of national security which have a territorial expression." The pamphlet is being distributed in high schools and academic institutions, thus inculcating in future generations unacceptable norms that raise serious questions about the sheer possibility of maintaining a "democratic Jewish state."
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