Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Women in Green movement

By Anna Germaine - February 19, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Features]

Belgian-born Nadia Matar, 45 made Aliyah—a term given to Jews of the diaspora who immigrate to Israel, typically to live in Israeli settlements--when she was 18 years old. Though she is not Israel-born, she went on to join her mother-in-law, Ruth Matar, in founding one of the most extreme, right-wing settler movements that Israel has ever seen: Women for Israel’s Tomorrow, colloquially known as Women in Green. 

In an interview with Israel National Radio, Matar describes her inspiration. 

“In 1993, Yitzhak Rabin was elected Prime Minister of Israel. His platform had four issues: no to talks with the PLO, no to the division of Jerusalem, no to withdrawal from the Golan Heights and no to the creation of a Palestinian state. But the minute he got into power, he did the exact opposite and started talking about the withdrawal from the Golan Heights.”

Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. Through this, he recognized Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and the PLO jointly recognized the State of Israel. 

“We immediately felt that something was fishy. We organized a protest outside Prime Minister Rabin’s house,” Matar continued.

The next morning, photographs from the protest were in the newspaper portraying the Israeli protestors as rightwing, extremist, “crazy” settlers for their radical anti-Rabin and anti-PLO response. 

Women in Green are radical in that they are colonizing the land on the other side of the Green Line in the belief that they are doing their duty as Jews to reclaim all of the biblical Eretz Yisrael as the modern day Jewish homeland

“We wanted to make a movement to show that it was also mothers, grandmothers, children and youth who were against giving up Eretz Yisrael—not just 'crazy settlers.’ So, we decided to have a campaign about the Green Line, and wake up Israel to the fact that our politicians want to shrink us back to the 1967 borders.”

Eretz Yisrael, literally translating to “The Land of Israel” is the Hebrew name for the territory encompassing modern day Israel, Palestine and Lebanon as well as small portions of Egypt and Syria based on scriptural verses found in the Bible in Numbers 34 and Ezekiel 47. Up until 1948, the land now defined as Israel and the Palestinian Territories was exclusively Palestinian—with the establishment of the state of Israel came the first definition of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In 1967, during the Six Day war, Israel annexed more Palestinian land, creating what is now known as the Armistice Line of 1967, or, more commonly, the Green Line that went on to demarcate the Palestinian territories.

Jewish settlers—like the Women in Green—are radical in that they are colonizing the land on the other side of the Green Line in the belief that they are doing their duty as Jews to reclaim all of the biblical Eretz Yisrael as the modern day Jewish homeland. Although this has caused extensive loss and devastation for many Palestinian communities and is technically against international law, the Israeli government heavily subsidizes Jewish families—particularly those immigrating to Israel from elsewhere—to move into the settlements and physically colonize Palestinian land. In this way, many Jewish settlers see themselves as not only entitled to this land, but also above the law as many of the members of these communities frequently violently harass Palestinian communities with no legal consequences.   

"Preventing Arab takeover of state land"

Women in Green got their name from the symbolic green hats that they wear, meant to draw attention to the presence of the Green Line and the fact that it should not exist, since all of the land, not just a portion, belongs to Eretz Yisrael.

Originally, the Women in Green was primarily involved with protesting who they define as “leftist” politicians and hasbara—public relations efforts to disseminate information about Israel in the face of negative press. However, after the expulsion of Israeli settlement Gush Katif in 2005—also known as the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip—the organization redefined its focus towards “preventing Arab takeover of state land and strengthening the Jewish people’s possession of the land.”

In addition to organizing conferences about exercising Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, referenced by the Women in Green and other Israeli settlers as the biblical reference Judea and Samaria—which, unlike the rest of the country, was never formally annexed by the state of Israel—the Women in Green focus on planting vineyards and groves in the fertile hills of the southern West Bank,  safeguarding what they understand as the rightfully Jewish land of Judea. 

“Since the expulsion of Gush Katif, we have had an attack by the Arabs—an agriculture jihad of the European Union funding the Palestinian Authority  (PA) with millions of dollars to take over the land in between the Jewish communities,” Matar continues in the extensive Israel National Radio interview.  

“As you know, in Judea and Samaria you have Jewish communities scattered all over. In between these communities, there is a lot of land that is meant to be for the future of the Jewish people. Those lands and hills have been empty for many, many years. Now, the PA is giving money to thousands and thousands of Arabs to build illegal buildings and plant illegal plants.”

Despite Matar’s accusations of agricultural jihad, according to international law—specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power cannot transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory, thereby explicitly making Israeli settlements illegal under international law. 

In Judea and Samaria you have Jewish communities scattered all over. In between these communities, there is a lot of land that is meant to be for the future of the Jewish people.

In addition, the European Union has active trade agreements with Israeli settlements that keep the settlement economy—particularly the agricultural sector—alive. Since Israeli authorities enjoy complete control over water resources, as well as choosing the most fertile land for their farms regardless of their location, their settlers enjoy the best of farming and irrigation technologies. Meanwhile, Palestinian farmers—who have not stolen this land, but farmed and made their livelihood from it for centuries—have been severely economically affected by the unlawful prosperity of the agricultural sector of the Israeli settlement economy. 

Funding from the US

Though Matar complains about “the Arabs” receiving more funding from the Palestinian Authority than the Jewish settlers, the Women in Green is generously funded by the Central Fund for Israel—a New York City-based organization that openly funds pro-settler groups in Israel. On several occasions, the Central Fund for Israel has been criticized for taking tax-exempt donations for exclusively settlement organizations—something that is expressly prohibited under Israeli law. Women in Green has been identified as the most radical of their assortment of right-wing grantees, requiring a special ear-marking to ensure that the donation goes directly to their organization. 

Though Ruth Matar has since resigned from Women in Green, Nadia Matar is still very active and currently lives in the Israeli settlement Efrat located in the Judean mountains between West Bank Palestinian cities Bethlehem and Hebron with her US-born husband David and their six children. 

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