Israeli lawmakers move to annex West Bank, one museum at a time
Israel's parliament appears likely to pass a law funding Israeli museums in the West Bank – the latest settler effort to promote a creeping annexation of the disputed territory.
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If approved, the bill would make museums in the settlements eligible for the first time to apply for a share of the 40 million shekels ($10.5 million) in government funding currently allocated only to museums inside Israel proper.Skip to next paragraph
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Slonim, who works on a voluntary basis and is nearly an octogenarian, says the bill could enable the hiring of a salaried successor to her as guide and curator.
''I hope this law will help us to do things we could only dream about,'' including seminars on archeological preservation and the holding of temporary exhibits, she says.
The museum displays mostly objects garnered from excavations at Kedumim, located near the Palestinian city of Nablus, as well as some finds from elsewhere in the vicinity. There are also displays aimed at making the link to modern Israel, with one of them showing David Ben-Gurion's declaration of the state in 1948.
Poetry books of the late right-wing writer and politician Moshe Shamir – a founder of the Whole Land of Israel movement, which lobbied for settling the West Bank after its capture – are on sale and there is a display of posters, including one from before Israel's establishment, of a muscular man with a shovel. ''Help him build Palestine,'' it says in Hebrew.
What's different this time
But Ariel, and critics, say the law is not just about the museums, but rather about applying Knesset legislation to the settlers, despite their being beyond Israel's internationally recognized boundaries.
In a departure from past practice where the intent to apply Israeli law in the West Bank is buried in the text, if mentioned at all, Ariel says he has this time put it in the title of a bill. Indeed, the bill is called ''The Museums Proposed Law (Amendment-Application of the Law to Judea and Samaria).''
''There are other laws that apply in Judea and Samaria, but this one is outstanding in the sense that it is right there in the name. This is a bit of an innovation,'' Ariel says. He added that he intends to do the same thing in the future with further bills addressing realms where Israeli law is not being applied to settlers, but declined to specify those topics.
In his Knesset remarks, Ariel said the museum law ''constitutes the realization of the voters desire to strengthen settlement and Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,'' using the biblical names for the West Bank.
In a sense, the application of Knesset law to the settlers is almost as old as the occupation itself.
While in the immediate aftermath of Israel's stunning victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Theodor Meron, the legal counsel of the Israeli foreign ministry, advised the government that it was illegal to settle civilians in occupied territory, he was disregarded. (The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 bars an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the occupied territory.)
A month after the war ended, a military order was issued in July 1967 specifying that Israelis who committed offenses in the West Bank could be tried in Israel as if the offense was committed in Israel.
This order has been re-ratified by the Knesset at various intervals ever since, with riders tacked on, including that Israelis can register nonprofit organizations in settlements, that settlement residents would have the same tax obligations as other Israelis, and that Israel's National Health Insurance Law applies to Israeli residents of settlements.
In Kadumim, Slonim harkens back to King Omri, casting him as a hero for his settlement efforts even though scripture says he "was evil in the sight of the Lord and dealt wickedly above all that were before him."
"He was an idol worshiper, but he engaged in settling the land of Israel so his other sins are forgiven," she says.
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