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Israel used military censor to cover up first West Bank settlements

A previously classified document shows how Israeli leaders used the military censor to conceal the establishment of the first settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to a report in Haaretz.

The document in question was sent on 19 June 1969 by the foreign minister's deputy director general to the office of the then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban, entitled "Gush Etzion – Publicity".

The topic was the establishment of civilian settlements in the area now known as the Gush Etzion "bloc" near Bethlehem, on land taken ostensibly for military purposes.

The officials stated that it was imperative to keep the real reason for the land confiscation a secret, and avoid "unnecessary publicity", since "the seizure for military needs can easily be defended from a legal point of view", while "civilian enterprises are another thing entirely."

As Haaretz notes, "the building of settlements on areas ostensibly seized for security needs was very common in the settlement movement's early days. It was designed to bypass international law, which banned the building of civilian structures in occupied territory."

The document's author went on to state that there was "a need for urgent and vigorous activity among the decision-makers in order to prevent a situation in which, with our own hands, we cause entirely unnecessary damage to ourselves by publicising things that can basically be done quietly."

This latest revelation comes two months after Haaretz reported on secret minutes of a July 1970 meeting, where top-level Israeli officials discussed their plan to expropriate land near Hebron for "security purposes", but with the intent of using it to establish a civilian settlement.

These documents add to the evidence of intentional deceit by the Israeli government in establishing illegal settlements. A "top secret" memo by a government legal advisor in 1968 made it clear that creating civilian settlements in the newly-occupied territory would contravene international law.

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