Requiem for Sini, and for the Labor Party

Gershom Gorenberg My new piece on the Labor Party is up at The American Prospect: Sini died. My son spotted the square black-bordered obituary notice deep inside the newspaper. It was placed by Sini’s kibbutz. It referred to him as “Sini,” his nickname — “Chinaman” in loose translation, politically incorrect today but accepted when he … Read more

The Paper Trail: Settlement Land Theft

The legal battle over settlement building on privately owned Palestinian land is heating up. Yesterday, the Supreme Court barred settlers from taking up residence in houses at Beit El. The court was responding to a petition by two Palestinians from the village of Dura a-Kara, who say the buildings are on land they own. (The Supreme Court order in Hebrew is here; an AP story on the decision is here.)

In honor of that decision, I’m adding a new document to my online archive of settlement history. The mimeographed Hebrew flier, from the flagship settlement of Ofrah in 1976, shows how aware settlers were at the outset that they were using land that belonged to someone else, how intentional the theft was.

First, some background on the latest legal case.

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Col. Gibli, He Dead. (Dirty business lives on.)

Gershom Gorenberg

Col. Binyamin Gibli took his secrets with him to the next world when he died this week – unless, as historian Tom Segev forlornly hopes, the old spookmaster left instructions to publish the ghost-written manuscript of his autobiograhy, and it explains what really happened in the Dirty Business of the 1950s. The hope is forlorn because it presumes that we would have reason to trust Gibli’s version.

Gibli was the head of Military Intelligence back in 1954, when MI recruited a handful of Egyptian Jews to bomb American and British cultural centers and other places frequented by foreigners in Egypt. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The idea was that the attacks would look like Egyptian fury against the West, and would derail any improvement in relations between Western governments and Cairo.

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30 Years after “Now”

I can remember precisely what the weather was on Israeli Independence Day in 1983: Horrid. On the mountain near Nablus where Peace Now was demonstrating against the establishment of a new settlement, the rain was coming down in big cold drops that soaked through my ‘rain-proof’ shell and down jacket and sweater and shirt and skin. By Independence Day, the rainy season is supposed to be over. The sun is supposed to shine on picnics.

Thousands of settlers and their supporters were expected to come to the mountain to picnic that day and hear Housing Minister David Levy speak at the formal dedication of the settlement of Brakhah, which would be one more statement that Israel would rule “Judea and Samaria” forever. Only a few hundred showed up. The Peace Now demonstrators came by the busload and surrounded the ceremony, with very soggy soldiers separating the rings of people. The peace activists had not planned on a day of fun, and they by the thousands came despite the weather. So David Levy gave his speech inside a prefab structure – that’s what it looked like over the heads of the soldiers – and peaceniks rode home cold and soaked, but happy that they’d dominated the field that day.

Except that 25 years later, according to Peace Now’s excellent settlement monitoring effort, Brakhah has about 1,200 residents. The demonstrators were there for an afternoon,

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