Avirama Golan
Haaretz (Opinion)
June 22, 2011 - 12:00am

The results of a telephone survey on the Jordan Valley among 500 Hebrew-speaking Israelis were quietly released recently. The survey revealed that more than anything, Israelis prefer discussing their cottage cheese, or their cottage, if they have one, than to be bothered too much by reality. That's how they can easily be sold any pseudo-political fantasy and can be marketed a desire that is cut off from all context - practical or moral.

Most of those polled (more than 80 percent ) have not visited the Jordan Valley over the past decade. But 64 percent of them are convinced it is under Israeli sovereignty. Who knows? Maybe they consider occupation a form of sovereignty. When asked how many Jews and how many Arabs live in the valley, most said the region has a solid Jewish majority. Some said there are a few Arabs there, and 10 percent said there are no Arabs at all. Few, mainly those born before 1967, knew the real ratio - 10,000 Jews to 65,000 Arabs.

Age was not the only factor influencing responses. The answers also depended on whether the respondent was religious or secular. Among the secular respondents, as expected, the number of people who knew the area was occupied was greater. This led the pollsters to conclude that one's understanding of facts depends somewhat on one's worldview.

The survey shows that knowledge about the status and character of the Jordan Valley is limited, and most Israelis, including those who believe it is part of the State of Israel or think it will be, don't visit there. (And it may be assumed that many of them, particularly the younger ones, hardly know where it is on the map. ) That means there is a huge gap between the reality of the Jordan Valley and its perception in public opinion.

This gap is the essence of the hoax becoming more deeply entrenched in the Israeli experience. It is the settler hoax, which all signs indicate has vanquished the Zionist perception of reality.

The Jordan Valley is a clear test case. Not only is there a clear Arab majority there, but also until 1967, tens of thousands of refugees lived there who had fled and/or been expelled from Israel in 1948, along with a few tens of thousands of Bedouin. On June 8, 1967, when Israel conquered the Jordan Valley, most of the refugees (more than 100,000 ) fled eastward from the camps where they lived. The Allon Plan and the beginning of secular settlement (kibbutzim and moshavim ) in the valley moved it into the heart of the Israeli consensus, but left it outside the state. That is a fact. As in the Sinai in the 1970s, you can hear people in the valley say "in Israel" when asked where they worked before.

This dissonance is particularly harsh considering that tens of thousands of Palestinians became refugees twice, some of them returned to the valley and live there to this day, and even the huge government investments squandered in the region have been unable to attract new Jewish residents there. It's hard to understand how those young people who bend the facts in the spirit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emotional narrative - "the valley is a strategic asset and it is our duty to care for every aspect of it: security, economics, social and the development of regional infrastructure" - don't wonder whether they, as citizens of the state, are an asset too.

How do they explain the fact that Netanyahu, when he was finance minister and a downsizing reformer, gave young people like them, but living in the Jordan Valley, free tuition and rent, while in Hadera and Kiryat Gat they could only dream of such things?

The answer to this question is not political but sociocultural. It's in the settler hoax that depicts Israel as a ghetto, the territories as frontier zones drenched in Jewish sentiment, and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a bloody, eternal struggle, cut off from space and time, in which every non-Jew is out to get every Jew. This is the discourse that has vanquished realistic Zionism. Otherwise how can we explain the sweeping support for Netanyahu's hollow declarations about the Jordan Valley or some other "rock of our existence"?


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