Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of [former Jerusalem mayor] Teddy Kollek, one group’s notice was conspicuous in its absence: the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories – perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal.
The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.
The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing: In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line – in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem – is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.