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The Settlers by filmmaker Shimon Dotan. Photo: screenshot YouTube Jerusalem Cinematheque

Documentary shows “settlers” – citizens of Judea and Samaria

The Settlers is an intimate look at the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria in an attempt to understand the roots of the current volatile situation and the historical, political and religious implications they have had on peace in the Middle East.

Filmmaker Shimon Dotan, effectively uses a combination of archival footage, interviews and first person accounts. The sweeping shots of the area – the peaks and plunging valleys – are so painfully beautiful it is no wonder he has been nominated for an Ophir award for best documentary.

The story begins in l967 , after the defeat of Jordan, who occupied Judea and Samaria for 19 years, with a group of settlers with a fixated religious ideology. While a few Palestinian Arabs are shown, most of the focus is on the Jewish inhabitants, who are depicted as wild-eyed religious fanatics who are usurping Palestinian Arab land. Some mention is made of Arab terrorism, but the blame for the ongoing violence appears to be the “occupation” by these religious usurpers.

Dotan lacks of historical depth. Judea and Samaria was the heartland of the Jewish people from “time immemorial” . ( Joan Peters, from her book From Time Immemorial).

Long before there were “settlements”, marauding Arabs frequently led murderous attacks on Jews living there with one purpose – to destroy them.

Starting the story in l967, reflects a common view of the Israeli left; that Israel’s problems have largely to do with the development of Jewish habitation in Judea and Samaria. The implication is that a large territorial concession is the solution. Like with Gaza. Even though that stretch of land, developed from ground zero into a thriving community, became a launching pad for Palestinian rockets attacking Israel.

Dotan holds the view that the cities, towns and villages in Judea/Samaria (Jordan renamed it the West Bank in an attempt to de Judaize the area) are illegal and that the Jews are “occupiers” of that territory. This fictitious claim has fed an aggressive campaign of incitement and “lawfare” against Israel, based on the myth that Jews have no legal right to live on Palestinian Arab lands.

The truth is that Jews are there by legal and historical right. The legal rights were embedded in international law by the League of Nations in l922, when all the area west of the Jordan till the Mediterranean was declared a Jewish homeland – Palestine.

This legal right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel was officially recognized by the US (1924), enshrined in the UN Charter of l945 (Article 80) and in the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties of l969. These laws are binding and valid to this day.

Before and during WW2, the British, although mandated by international law to facilitate Jewish immigration, blocked the entry to Palestine of millions of doomed Jews, who were not allowed refuge in most countries in the world. But they allowed massive illegal Arab immigration from Arab countries. Arabs flocked to Palestine seeking work when Jews began returning to develop the country. Most of the Arabs in Israel are descendants of those migrants. The Arabs were awarded sovereignty in all of the Middle East, except for miniscule Palestine.

Israeli journalist Yoav Peck wrote about The Settlers; “Ultimately, Dotan portrays the settlers as the Israeli left likes to see them; a small group of fanatical Jews, at once entirely divorced from the rest of Israeli society and somehow capable of dragging everyone else into a deepening conflict.”

The Settlers opens in Toronto for a one week engagement beginning March 17 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, 506 Bloor St. The film is in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

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About Doris Strub Epstein

Doris Strub Epstein
Doris is a multimedia journalist with many years of experience. She has worked in radio, television and print journalism and writes on a variety of topics, especially the crucial issues in Canadian and Jewish life.

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