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Dear Settler

By Uri Avnery, 25.11.2000

Dear (in both senses of the word) Settler,

Let's not waste time on nonsense words like "dialogue", "conciliation" and such words cherished by the feeble-minded. Let's face the fact that you don't like me and I do not like you. You believe that my friends and I are "destroyers of Israel", people who conspire to evict you from your homes and turn them over to the Arabs. I believe that you and your friends are destroyers of Israel who conspire to impose their will on the state and drag it into an eternal war that may lead to its destruction.

So let's talk about practical matters.

Up until now, you have been a success story. You wanted to create "facts on the ground", so as to prevent any possibility of giving the occupied territories back to the Palestinians. You have compelled all the governments, from Eshkol to Barak, to give you a huge slice of the state's resources. You have turned the army into your private militia. The Israel Defense Forces have become the Settlement Defense Forces.

Politicians of all shades have courted you, and still do. The socialist Yig'al Allon planted the first settlers in the heart of Hebron, Shimon Peres planted the first settlement, Kedumim, in the heart of the West Bank. Ehud Barak, who won the elections with the slogan "Money for education and not for settlements" has turned out to be the greatest patron of the settlers ever.

You have succeeded. Not since the zealots (70 AD) have so few succeeded in imposing their will on so many. The zealots, of course, after initial successes, led to the mass-suicide at Massada and to the virtual elimination of the Jewish presence from this country for 1900 years.

I know that there are major differences between the settlements. There is Kfar Darom, a tiny, fortified and isolated settlement, in the middle of 1.2 million Palestinians, dominating the lifeline of the Gaza strip. A thorn in the flesh.

Then there is the "Jewish settlement in Hebron", a few dozen fanatical families in the middle of 160 thousand Hebronites. Living in the "Jewish part" of Hebron there are 40 thousand Palestinians, who are condemned to a curfew every time one of your children overturns a stand in the market.

Quite different are the "quality of life" settlements. They were not founded in order to hasten the coming of the Messiah but to enjoy the air and the landscape ("What a beautiful minaret in the village opposite").

They have nothing in common with the violent fanatics of Ma'aleh Amos or Yitzhar. At the present time, death overshadows their quality of life.

Ma'aleh Adumim, whose area is officially bigger than all of Tel-Aviv, was implanted by that arch-settler, Teddy Kollek, in order to enlarge his fiefdom. Kiryat Sefer, another big township, was established by the coalition as a bribe to the orthodox, who get luxury housing for nothing.

Settlements of different kinds, settlers of all shades. Yet they all have one thing in common: every settlement is a land mine on the road to peace. You are sitting on the land reserves of the Palestinian people, on stolen land, and use the water needed by another people for their very existence. You dominate the landscape; symbols of the occupation. The planners drew up the settlement map with the aim of carving up the Palestinian territory.

Therefore, it was only a question of time until the Palestinian people rose up against you. Its like an alien particle implanted in a body: the body mobilizes all its strength in order to evict it. The Palestinians see this struggle as their war of liberation, whose main aim is to get you out.

Don't kid yourself: you have no chance whatsoever of winning this war.

In the last hundred years there have been dozens of such wars, and the oppressed peoples have won them all. In each of them, the occupying army was infinitely stronger than the rebels. In every one of them, the conquered people suffered far more casualties than the occupier. But the occupiers always tired of the struggle before the occupied, because the occupied people were fighting for their lives and freedom, while the occupiers were fighting for luxury. For the Israelis, the settlements are a luxury.

Some months ago, a public opinion poll surprisingly showed that you are the most unpopular sector in Israel, even more unpopular than the orthodox. You may be less unpopular today, because you are being hit - but have no illusions, this is a very temporary popularity. It will evaporate, once the number of our casualties rises, when we relinquish all our achievements in the Arab world, when our standing throughout the world sinks, when the public becomes aware of the economic price of this struggle and when the danger of a general war in the region (a danger which we have long forgotten) appears again on the horizon.

The French fought for seven years for Algeria, which they considered "a part of France, like the Provence". A million people lost their lives there. At the crucial moment, the French settlers set up a militia of their own (the OAS) and committed acts of revenge. As a result, a million French settlers of the fifth and sixth generation had to flee within a few days, once France made peace. The same happened to the British settlers in Kenya. The white settlers in South Africa avoided this fate because they surrendered in time and became citizens of the black regime.

You have missed that opportunity. What you and the soldiers are doing now is creating such rage and hatred among the Palestinians, that your continued presence in the territories has become impossible. Every dead child, every demolished home, every "blockade" and "liquidation" brings the end of your settlements nearer.

I am sure that you and your friends know this in your hearts. All your behavior shows this. You are acting out of despair. I propose that you exchange the despair for hope of a solution.

Instead of dreaming up empty slogans like "Let the army win", you should start to think about your return and rehabilitation.

Your enemies will say: We owe you nothing. Nobody compelled you to go there. We have wasted billions and billions on you. Now you can look out for yourself.

I do not subscribe to that. I, and many more like me in the peace movement, believe that the state should finance your return to Israel and your orderly absorption. After we easily absorbed a million new immigrants from the Soviet Union, we shall absorb 150.000 settlers too. It will be all the easier as most of you are working in Israel anyhow, so that only the problem of housing remains. Israel in peace, with a flourishing economy, will easily solve the problem.

I am convinced that the great majority of the settlers - all except the hard-core fanatics - will sooner or later accept this solution. Sooner rather than later, I hope. Have pity on yourself, on the soldiers. Each drop of blood spilt is a waste. Let not the settlements become an altar of Moloch, on which the children are sacrificed.

When you, too, come to this conclusion, you will find that we are your allies, more trustworthy than all those who flatter you now and who will sell you down the river tomorrow.

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