By ERICA CHERNOFSKY
According to Dr. Zvi Shilony, a historical geographer at the Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism, the British knew exactly where and when the Jews were going to establish settlements, and since the land was purchased legally by Jewish organizations, there was nothing illegal about the project.
"All settlements were started with the knowledge of the British authorities and with their approval," he claims, "but to prevent an accusation by the Arabs against the British government for siding with the Jews, there was an agreed-upon lie to tell the public that these settlements were established at night, in secret and behind the backs of the government."
There is no written documentation proving the British knew and consented, admits Shilony, and hence there is no proof the 11 points were "legal settlements," but he has amassed a number of facts seeming to reveal the British government's involvement.
Forty out of the 42 "Tower and Stockade" (Homa Umigdal) settlements were erected during the daytime and not at night, he points out. All these operations were accompanied and defended by somewhere between 20-40 notrim, the special police in charge of defending the existing Jewish settlements, an official part of British Mandate police under the command of British officers. Yet none of them were ever reprimanded or removed from their posts for defending the establishment of illegal and unwanted new Jewish settlements. Not even one British officer was reprimanded or removed for Jewish settlements being erected in his area of control.
In addition, says Shilony, in all cases, including the 11 points in the Negev, a British officer accompanied by a few soldiers visited each of the settlements hours after they were established. Their demeanor was always friendly, he claims, as they shook hands with the settlers, enjoyed a glass of wine to toast the new settlement and offered their services to the new communities. "None of these 'unexpected' settlements was ever declared illegal," he says.
Moreover, within a few weeks of their establishment the regional planning and construction committee approved the construction of permanent brick and cement buildings in these "illegal and unwanted" new Jewish settlements, including a fortified "security building," Shilony says. All those regional committees were chaired by British officers, and on most of them, Arabs were in the majority.
Finally, soon after the settlements were established, the Jewish Agency set to work laying water pipes to the new communities - and many of the pipes ran through areas owned by Arabs. The British government, says Shilony, actually helped the Jewish Agency purchase from Arabs the land necessary to lay the groundwork for the water system.
It is obvious from these facts, he says, that the British knew exactly what was going on and did not disapprove.
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