Why a young Israeli woman spies on Israeli settlements in West Bank
Hagit Ofran tracks Israeli settlement growth in the West Bank with a pocket-sized camera and a deep sense of mission, often making news well beyond Israel with her findings.
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''In a democratic state it is legitimate to follow the settlements,'' Dayan says. ''The problem is that Peace Now does it with money that is from foreign sources, including from hostile sources. Her agenda is not objective.''Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Israeli settlements
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Ofran is up against a system that, although government-sponsored, lacks transparency. Much of its activity is illegal even according to Israeli law and settler leaders prefer to avoid public debate over it. Construction also violates the Geneva Convention and runs counter to international commitments Israel made to halt settlement building, for example in the 2003 international peace blueprint known as the road map. Tellingly, there is no distinct budget for building at settlements.
''The money is woven into a thousand other pieces of the budget. So you can't use the simple path of reading the budget to find out what's going on.'' says Israeli historian Gershom Gorenberg, author The Accidental Empire, a book about the origins of the settlements.
Keeping a low profile
At any given moment, Ofran could be discovered and evicted from a settlement. There are a few settlements too dangerous for her to enter, she says. Her predecessor, Dror Etkes, had his vehicle stoned by residents of the hard-core Yizhar settlement near Nablus and Ofran does not venture there.
But after three years in the job, Ofran seems to have mastered the territory. She knows when it's appropriate to give a lift to hitch-hiking settler youths and when to avoid eye contact with settler guards.''If they recognize me here we are in trouble,'' she says, navigating a rocky road near the settlement of Maale Michmash. Although generally successful in keeping a low profile, Ofran's face is becoming better known because she is the subject of a new documentary film.
''I generally try not to make eye contact so there's less engagement and less chance they will recognize me. On the other hand, sometimes if you don't make eye contact it could be a problem because they'll know you're not from here.''
Granddaughter of philosopher Leibovich
Ofran is the granddaughter of the late philosopher Yeshayahu Leibovich, one of the earliest Israeli critics of colonizing the West Bank after Israel's stunning victory in the 1967 Six Day war. He supported soldiers who refused to serve in the occupied territories and famously warned that those who did so risked becoming ''Judaeo-Nazis.''
''I used to hear him a lot and my character was influenced by his thinking.'' Ofran says
As her grandfather did, she believes Israel must withdraw from the West Bank and stop occupying its more than 2 million Palestinians if it is to remain a state with a predominantly Jewish population and character.
''I see myself first of all as Jewish and only then as an Israeli and it is very important to me how the Jewish state is acting,'' Ofran says. ''If we want to hold all the land than we must give the Palestinians full rights. So holding all the land means we will lose our independence as a Jewish people.''
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