New in the Archive of Occupation: The U.S. is a trifle bothered by early settlements.

Gershom Gorenberg

The United States has opposed Israeli settlements in the occupied territories since 1967. But the paper trail shows that the objections were often low-key. In Washington, more attention was paid to diplomatic statements than to the “creation of facts” through settlement.

The current administration is seeking to change that pattern. To provide some historical perspective, I’ve added three U.S. diplomatic cables from the early years of settlement to South Jerusalem’s Archive of Occupation. The first, from September 1967, shows the muted U.S. response to Israel’s first official announcement that it would establish settlements.

Two others, from July 1974, show that the State Department was more interested in hushing up settlement activity than stopping it. The cables, by the way, date from the very last days of the Nixon administration, which had a certain known inclination toward cover-ups.

21 thoughts on “New in the Archive of Occupation: The U.S. is a trifle bothered by early settlements.”

  1. The archive of occupation must begin in 1917 when Britain was swindeled into issuing the Balfour Declaration

  2. To add to Jutner’s comment: The US also considers Baka and the rest of Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem an “illegal settlement” and to this day, refuses to put its embassy there.

  3. I should mention that those of you who are following the boycott organized by “progressives” of the Toronto film festival that is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Tel Aviv have no doubt noticed that among the reasons given for the boycott are not only the “occupation”, the “Gaza closure” and the usual litany of complaints against Israel, but also the very fact that Tel Aviv IS ALSO CONSIDERED AN ‘ILLEGAL’ SETTLEMENT by these “progressives”, built on “stolen Arab land” as they put it. Among these progressives are important celbrities of the “progressive” world including Jane Fonda and Julie Christie.

    It is ironic that I recall the days when I still lived in California and Jane Fonda’s then husband Tom Hayden was a member of the State Assembly and Hanoi Jane would make pro-Israel speeches. Apparently Tel Aviv being an illegal settlement didn’t bother her then. Or maybe she just spouts whatever propaganda those who pay her the most want.

    “Progressive” blogger Richard Silverstein, who defines himself as being “pro-Zionist” also supports the boycott, so we see the circle of people, like Gershom and Haim, who view themselves as both true “progressives” and, at the same time “true Zionists” is getting narrower and narrower.

    In any

  4. YBD:

    A remarkable set of misrepresentations. First, the letter in question is not advocating “boycotting” anything. On the contrary, they are careful to say that “We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF”. All they are doing is objecting to the uncritically celebratory spotlight that the festival is putting on Tel Aviv. See

    Second, they have not said that they consider Tel Aviv an “illegal settlement”. Nothing in the letter suggests that Tel Aviv is not legitimate. “Stolen Arab land” is YOUR phrase, not theirs.

    Paradoxically, the only person involved in the affair who has questioned the legitimacy of Tel Aviv is not the signatories of the letter, but the festival co-director Cameron Bailey, who, in the course of _defending_ the spotlight on Tel Aviv, referred to it in passing as “contested ground”. This was a stupid thing to say, and it has been directly repudiated by the signatories of the letter. See

  5. Y is still in there pitching the company line :” if you don’t buy our take on things ,you are a Progressive or a liberal,or a anti- semite.
    As a liberal I don’t need concurrence on all my positions and if you don’t agree I don’t see where labeling you as a right wing idealog adds to the discussion.
    I agree with Y that Jane went way over the top to wit: I personally wouldn’t go to see any of her movies ,still won’t Tom Hayden was raised in Royal Oak , Michigan and went to Dondero High, one mile from where I live. We always considered him to be an assh..le and he just got lucky when he hit the “mother load” Jane. Remember it was the inane movie Barbarella”that was Jane’s road to whatever. It’s right up there with Reagan’s “Bedtime for Bonzo”.
    To clear things Y I agree that boycottes, in most instances, are counterproductive. People just dig in their heels and the one in Toronto will probably produce the opposite results that the boycottees’ want

    To set the record straight, the political designation Progressive started with an offshoot of the Republican in 1912 with TR and the “Bull Moose Party”. Much of the social legislation in the US started with the Progressives like Bob LaFollette and Frank Norris not FDR.

    It is amazing to me that those who like to think of themselves as Conservatives don’t even know that there is economic conservatism and social conservatism or do they know who Edmund Burke was and that he was both or do they care.
    So Y I aree with you on some issues but I think the whole settlement program is a ruse for “it’s our land and we are determined to have it all and we have the power to get the job done” ( True )”The Palestinians as people are non-people” and as such need to be eliminated or movedThank you” Herr” Rosenberg” and”uber gruppen fuhrer Heynrich “

  6. David:

    Here’s what it says in the link you provided:
    Furthermore, what this description does not say is that Tel Aviv is built on destroyed Palestinian villages, and that the city of Jaffa, Palestine’s main cultural hub until 1948, was annexed to Tel Aviv after the mass exiling of the Palestinian population. This program ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv/Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories or who have been dispersed to other countries, including Canada.

    I stand by what I wrote: They are saying that Tel Aviv is on STOLEN ARAB LAND. What do you think it means when it talks about “destroyed Arab villages” and “mass exiling of the Arab population”? If it is on stolen land than it is an illegal settlement. Stolen property is illegally held by the thief, right?

  7. YBD:

    “They are saying that Tel Aviv is on STOLEN ARAB LAND … If it is on stolen land than it is an illegal settlement. Stolen property is illegally held by the thief, right?”

    No, no, and no. You are putting YOUR words into their mouth (I note that in your first message you claimed it was literally their words, but you have tacitly withdrawn that here without admitting your mistake). “Stolen” is your word, not theirs. One can perfectly well deplore the treatment of the Arabs and the expropriation of their property in the establishment of the city without claiming that it legally adds up to “theft”, just as I can (mutatis mutandis) deplore the application of “eminent domain” to expropriate private property in the US without claiming that it legally amounts to the theft of that property.

    And you then try to interpret as if they had used your word, as if they had spoken of it as “stolen” (which they did not), and moreover you compound your error by speaking as if the rules governing theft in domestic law applied to international law (which they do not). A city may be built on land that was acquired through wrongful acts, and still achieve full legitimacy. That is what happened when Israel (including Tel Aviv) achieved international acceptance within its pre-1967 boundaries.

    To be absolutely clear: whatever wrongs may have been committed in the establishment of Tel Aviv, they do NOT affect the current legitimacy of the city in international law – or, accordingly, in the eyes of the signatories of the letter. They explicitly say this in the second link I provided (which perhaps you couldn’t read, because my link didn’t work: a final period was added into the URL – if you remove that period the link should work fine).

    That makes Tel Aviv entirely different from (e.g.) Ariel and other West Bank towns, which was established under quite different legal circumstances, and to which quite different legal rules apply. The signatories of the letter understand this. You, on the other hand, persistently (here and elsewhere) obfuscate that difference, by ignoring the changes in international law between 1948 and 1967, and the corresponding legal difference between Israel’s acquisition of territory on her creation and her occupation of territory since 1967.

  8. Gosh Y even I didn’t consider Jane to be a whore. What the hell is a”racist-tribalist Zionist” and how does that square with oxymoronic “Christian Zionists”
    Gee ,I kind of like Tel Aviv and the nice liberals I met there and the beachs as well. Tourism was down a year ago March . Are there still good deals?

  9. A racist-tribalist-zionist is someone who believes that there is merit to a Jewish state. A citizen of the world views the whole panorama of Jewish history, from slavery in Egypt to the Holocaust and beyond as a whole series of self inflicted misery, and notes that Hitler, while his methods were crude, was onto something

  10. Sunday September 20 I will be winging my way to Prague to work for i4 days to rehab. a former Soviet barracks to house unwed Romany mothers (gypsys) . We remember, the other people the nazis tried to exterminate, and the minority the majority hold in contempt. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
    I have tried to convince my fellow Christians that the origins of such doing for the less fotunate is not a Christian ideal but one of the Hebrews and adopted by us. This is the same concept that is in play when I go to Jerusalem to work among the Palestinians and Christian Arabs to work along with Sabeel. Humane treatment and careing should have no political or idealogical face, unfortunately Hamas hasn’t gotten the message or has the present adminstration in Israel

  11. Sorry ;Herb that just doesn’t get it. I don’t think Y is a racist ,because that is a meaningless term when we are talking about a people belonging to a specific religious group not their skin pigmentation. Tribalist is just as shoddy when using both terms to modify Zionist. A Jewish State may have some merit for identification and can mean to some exclusively Jewish and everybody in it is to be cut from the same”cookie cutter”. I’m not buying it ,if thats what Y is selling.

  12. Someone should write, or maybe someone has already, a piece about the tactic of taking a most extreme position and smearing everyone on that side with that position. maybe it is done on both sides. But that is what Y. Ben-David is doing here with respect to the legality-illegality of Tel Aviv. Somehow he, and those who make this same argument, keep disregarding, like a broken record, the difference between Tel Aviv, part of the State of Israel internationally recognized within the 1948 lines, and the issue of Jerusalem, it’s East part and the “old city”, captured in the 1967 War . The latter is an issue still to be resolved in a peace agreement or final settlement.

    If it can be sold that the claim on Jerusalem is also a claim on Tel Aviv, then you can grab the ignorant by their fears and you don’t have to bother with history, international law or nuance, not to mention the rights of those who don’t happen to be Jewish.

  13. Why would we need Phillip when we have Herbert?

    @Suzanne: Do you mean a strawman argument? That’s all over the place indeed. Herbert at Sep 15, 2009, 7:02 pm gives a textbook example, too.

  14. Gee Herb ,I thought Jewish history started with Abraham ,not slavery in Egypt. Correct me if I’m wrong. 3000 feet up in the Judaean Hills in a place called and still called Hebron. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Which “citizen of the world” are you referring to? I must assume that you are talking about the object of much caucasian right wing hate, Barack Obama or is it sui generis “citizens of the world”.

  15. Which “citizen of the world” are you referring to? I must assume that you are talking about the object of much caucasian right wing hate, Barack Obama or is it sui generis “citizens of the world”….ah, the race card. It is rather tiresome. Go back to Sabeel and Christian supercessionism.

    Wikipedia on St John Chrysostom
    During his first two years as a presbyter in Antioch (386-387), John denounced Jews and Judaizing Christians in a series of eight sermons delivered to Christians in his congregation who were taking part in Jewish festivals and other Jewish observances.[34] It is disputed whether the main target were specifically Judaizers or Jews in general. His homilies were expressed in the conventional manner, utilizing the uncompromising rhetorical form known as the psogos (Greek: blame).

    One of the purposes of these homilies was to prevent Christians from participating in Jewish customs, and thus prevent the perceived erosion of Chrysostom’s flock. In his sermons, John criticized those “Judaizing Christians”, who were participating in Jewish festivals and taking part in other Jewish observances, such as the shabbat, submitted to circumcision and made pilgrimage to Jewish holy places.[35] John claimed that on the shabbats and Jewish festivals synagogues were full of Christians, especially women, who loved the solemnity of the Jewish liturgy, enjoyed listening to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and applauded famous preachers in accordance with the contemporary custom.[36] A more recent apologetic theory is that he instead tried to persuade Jewish Christians, who for centuries had kept connections with Jews and Judaism, to choose between Judaism and Christianity.[37]

    In Greek the sermons are called Kata Ioudaiōn (Κατὰ Ιουδαίων), which is translated as Adversus Judaeos in Latin and Against the Jews in English.[38] The original Benedictine editor of the homilies, Bernard de Montfaucon, gives the following footnote to the title: “A discourse against the Jews; but it was delivered against those who were Judaizing and keeping the fasts with them [the Jews].”[

  16. I didn’t mean to insult you Herb.I guess a thin skin goes along with the program, hey baby. I’m sure some of my fellow Christians and Sabeelites can stand the heat from those who have an ax to grind.

    Golly , thank you for the quasi-dessertation on the bad guys, I will try to be more humble in the future in the face of such castigation. And to cap it off I will quote our “home town”anti-semite, Henry Ford, “all history is bunk”. I guess I better divorce my wife of fifty years in that her father was Jewish.
    Could you tell me where I can get my race card punched in that I never had it done. Is it where one gets his TS card punched as well?

  17. By: Shelley Neese

    Replacement Theology—the belief that the Christian Church replaced Israel in God’s plan—has found a new home in the work of the Sabeel Center—the Jerusalem-based ecumenical organization for Palestinian Christians. After experiencing decades of decline and total rejection by many denominations, Replacement Theology has resurfaced in the form of Palestinian Liberation Theology (PLT)—a theological movement pushed by Sabeel. PLT rejects the eternalness of God’s promises to the Jewish people based on a dangerous manipulation of scripture. PLT’s goal is to radically reinterpret the Bible to make it more relevant to Palestinians and less partial to Jews.

    PLT grew out of the Liberation Theology movement popularized in Latin America in the 1970s and 80s, a faddy form of Christian socialism where Replacement Theology met Marxism. They emphasized oppression of the poor and encouraged political activism to abolish perpetual class struggle. The rich were against God by way of their wealth, and the poor were privileged by way of their poverty. The Bible was reduced to nothing more than stories about the poor and the persecuted.

    The heyday of Liberation Theology was its inception. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the failure of Marxist revolutionary movements in Latin America, Liberation Theology lost most of its justification and influence. The premise did appeal to Palestinians, because of its favor for the underdog and its potential to de-Zionize the Old Testament.

    It’s no secret that Israel’s founding ignited a theological crisis in the Palestinian Christian community. The Abrahamic covenants and Old Testament prophecies justified Israel’s national rebirth. According to Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Center, the Torah was seen as a “Zionist text” and became “repugnant” to Palestinians. Palestinian Christians needed a new theology that would in Ateek’s words “liberate God from the Old Testament.”

    Ateek revived Liberation Theology and related it to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. He switched focus from liberating the economically poor to the politically oppressed. As stated by Sabeel, the purpose of PLT was to theologically “address the day to day reality of Palestinians who have been living under an occupation that destroyed homes, confiscated lands, killed and jailed children, and closed institutions.” The Sabeel Center has been used to develop and implement this theology.

    A central tenet of PLT is that the Bible cannot be taken literally. It needs continuous interpretation to ensure every passage matches PLT’s notion of God. Anything considered violent, racist, chauvinistic, or unjust is discarded. This means most of the Torah, including Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and II Kings are thrown out. In fact, according to Ateek, only the prophetic books of the Old Testament are accepted as Scripture for they alone present a “truly mature vision of God.”

    Replacement Theology teaches that the Church superseded Jews as the benefactor of God’s covenants. PLT goes one step further saying that the Jews never had a place of favor in the first place. In some cases, they erase Israel from the Bible altogether. Many Palestinian Churches that teach PLT have changed the Psalms by removing every reference to “Israel” and “Zion.”

    Palestinians are also inserted into Biblical narratives in the place of Israel. The narratives are read metaphorically where Israel assumes the role of oppressor. For example, in the story of David and Goliath, the powerless and humble David represents the Palestinians who bring down the bloodthirsty Goliath, represented by Israel. The centerpiece of PLT is the story of Exodus, where Palestinians are the Hebrew Egyptians bound in slavery, and Israel is the obstinate Pharaoh who refuses to grant them freedom and a state of their own. “If the Exodus is the story of any people,” writes Mitri Raheb (one of the most vocal PLT theologians), “it is actually the story of us Palestinians.”

    PLT’s agenda is to nullify the whole concept of chosenness, thereby voiding all land promises that justify Israel’s rebirth. According to Raheb, God did kind acts for many peoples so Jews were not exceptional. Raheb points to Amos 9:7 [“True, I brought Israel up from the land of Egypt, but also the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir.”] to argue the Jews were not the only people to whom God showed kindness. As for God’s promise to “plant them in this land [Israel] with all my heart and soul,” Ateek says Jewish and Christian Zionists need to move beyond their primitive notion of a nationalistic God to a more universal God. Indeed, Israel’s right to exist is something Ateek has never accepted. During a Jerusalem interfaith dialogue with Jewish leaders in 2005, Ateek said that if Israel had the right to exist it should have been created somewhere else.

    From Ateek’s perspective, the Israeli occupation is the root of all evil. He makes no apology for Palestinian terrorism or its contribution toward the plight of Palestinian Christians. There is no recognition that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist government, is a far greater threat to Palestinian Christians than Zionism.

    Ateek presents PLT as a theology based on justice, but he redefines Godly justice to fit a sociopolitical context. The result is more narrow than ever before, as God is only on the side of Palestinians. Sabeel says “Christ is not in the tanks and jet fighters, fighting on the side of the oppressors… God is in the city of Gaza, in the Jenin camp and in the old city of Nablus, Ramallah, and Bethlehem.”

    Sabeel enjoys the active support of many of the mainline liberal denominations (i.e. PC (USA) and the United Church of Christ). These church groups ignore the danger of Sabeel’s theology. But PLT is not just an ill-informed misguided teaching. It is a dangerous propaganda tool cleverly wielded by Sabeel to undermine Israel’s right to the land. All the while, this anti-Semitic politically-driven theology void of the Gospel hides behind a façade of peace, justice, and love. As Jesus Christ warned his followers, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

  18. The Torah was seen as a “Zionist text” by those who used it to that purpose, i.e. to justify their claim to the land and their ultimate violent conquest of it. “Zionism” at large may be much more than that, but why should non-Zionists be concerned with those parts of an ideology that don’t apply to them? The part concerning taking of the land did apply to those already living there and this was consequently the light in which Zionism and its ostentatious “founding texts”, including the Torah, were seen. Literalist fundamentalists like Shelley Neese only serve to reinforce this view. “The Abrahamic covenants and Old Testament prophecies justified Israel’s national rebirth” – that’s precisely what non-Zionists don’t accept, and its political misuse can only serve to estrange from these texts those who continue to suffer the consequences of Israel’s “rebirth”.

    But here’s news for you: the vast majority of Christians do indeed read their religious texts metaphorically, not literally. There’s certainly disagreement about the meaning of metaphors, but not, outside the fringe group of evangelicals, about the basic need for interpretation in whatever context may arise. The Bible doesn’t know F16s – that doesn’t mean it’s a-ok to use them in ways literally proscribed if they were swords and clubs.

  19. Gosh Herb I didn’t realize that Sabeel was up to such bad deeds .I will have to bone up on their theology and see if their the cancer you describe. I personally care little for theologies and much about deeds and doing which is what I do. Proselytizing in any form makes me want to upchuck. I guess giving of yourself must have the Good Herb Seal of Approval first before one helps the downtrodden and poor. I can tell you I will probably get more as a giver than those receiving when I come to Israel next year and I care little what their stripe is.

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