The Sunday Edition

Inside the minds of Israel's settlers

This week, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some 4,000 West Bank homes built on private Palestinian land. Most of the world sees the settlements as incendiary roadblocks to peace between Israel and its neighbours. A new film called "The Settlers", is an unflinching portrait of the Israelis who continue to live in the occupied territories. Michael talks to the film's director, Shimon Dotan.
A general view taken on February 1, 2017 shows buildings under construction in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, in the occupied West Bank. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Of all the many roadblocks to peace between Israel and its neighbours, none is more contentious, more controversial and more incendiary than the question of civilian settlements.

A small number of Jews created the first settlement outside their country's borders five decades ago. What began as one small community gave rise to hundreds of settlements and outposts, now occupied by about 400,000 Israelis.

In January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized a wave of new construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, on lands much of the world recognizes as Palestinian territory. This week, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some 4,000 West Bank homes built on private Palestinian land. Both decisions were seen as acts of defiance in the face of a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements on occupied lands. ​

Israeli documentary filmmaker Shimon Dotan wades into this fractious territory with his latest documentary film "The Settlers." He tells Michael Enright he wanted to understand the perspective of people involved in the settlements — an enterprise he personally considers an "existential threat" to Israel's future.

[The settlement enterprise] is, in my view, a genuine threat to very existence of the state of Israel as we want it, as we know it, as it was designed in the first place. - Shimon Dotan

Shimon Dotan was born in Romania, moved to Israel at age 10 and served for five years in an elite unit of the Israeli navy. He has taught film courses at Tel Aviv University and at Concordia University in Montreal. Since 2003, he has been teaching both at New York University and New School University in New York City.

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Shimon Dotan. 


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