My settler colleague, Israel Harel, his community's champion at rolling his eyes, playing innocent and speaking with a honeyed tongue, is once again grieving and playing the victim. In a column published here last week ("Have we become Sodom?" October 23), he complained that the reason for what he termed destructive criticism of the settlers is hatred. And indeed, Mr. Harel, this time, you're right: Large segments of Israeli society do indeed hate. But this is not baseless hatred, not hatred for the sake of hatred, to use your words. It is hatred for your enterprise. You have earned this hatred honestly - the only honest thing about your enterprise.
Yes, there are Israelis who do not want to see their countrymen despoiling the vineyards and burning the fields of poor farmers. Yes, there are Israelis who do not want to see troops of masked settlers beating elderly shepherds with clubs. Yes, there are Israelis who do not want to see other Israelis sicking their dogs on and puncturing the tires of the soldiers who protect them. Yes, there are Israelis who are embarrassed by the fact that tens of thousands of their fellow Israelis live on privately owned lands that were robbed, stolen and extorted, both in broad daylight and under cover of darkness.
And yes, there are Israelis who think that you have brought disaster upon us, a tragedy that will last for generations. That via your actions, you have brought wars and bloodshed and the brutalization of society upon us. That if you were not there, none of us would be there any longer, in a land that is not ours. That just as we withdrew from occupied South Lebanon - solely because, fortunately, you were not there - we would also long since have been able to withdraw from the areas you have occupied. Yes, there are Israelis who hate all this.
Harel complains about the fact that Israeli society is angry at the settlers as a collective. Unfortunately, it isn't angry enough. Every class and institution of Israeli society defends the settlements, finances them from its own pockets, and is a full partner in the theft, even if some of them are disgusted by it. The collective guilt is justified: Every settler and every settlement is equal. There are no illegal outposts and legal settlements - they are all illegal, according to both international law and universal justice, which have no need of legal sophistries. There are also no moderate and extremist settlements: No one who chooses to live in occupied land is a moderate.
And now for the playing innocent part: There are "some young men," Harel writes, just "a few dozen youths," who attack Arabs. Harel says that he, like most of his colleagues, "cannot understand" this. He has already told them, during a "heated discussion," that "this is not my halakha." And he goes on to say that his fists clench when he sees violence against the elderly in Haifa and Tel Aviv or gang rapes in Ramat Hasharon. But in Ramat Aviv Gimmel people do not ask what values were instilled in these youth, Harel writes; there, it is just juvenile delinquency. Yet when the same thing happens among settlers, the guilt is collective.
So here is the real difference: Secular society denounces and rejects those who rob the elderly and rape young girls. The perpetrators are given a fair trial, they receive lengthy sentences, and both the media and secular society ostracize them totally.
But what happens in your community? Have you ever heard, Israel, of a single settler who filed a complaint with the police against another settler over a rampage against Arabs? After all, you, too, see the rioters every day, on the road from Ofra - much of whose land, incidentally, is private land that was stolen. And what do you do when you see those rioters? Have another "heated discussion"? When we see people who assault the elderly, we call the police. Do you?
And if such a thing were to happen, how would your aggressive society treat the "informers"? After all, people who have dared to voice even a hint of "moderation" in their positions - and we are not even talking about anything as drastic as a complaint to the police - have been forced to abandon the settlements where they lived for fear of vengeance. It is not the lawbreakers who are ostracized in your community, but those who try to denounce them. Look at what happened to Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun - with no ostracism and no denunciation, other than laughable lip service. Only on the day when the settlement leadership starts cooperating with the law enforcement agencies will I believe you that those "few dozen youths," who are in fact a large and violent army of thousands, are indeed loathed by you.
You must admit the truth: To you, they are the pioneers who go before the camp, the ones who stand at the forefront. They are the ones who are realizing what your generation tried and failed to do in its day. In the deepest recesses of your souls, your hearts go out to them.
You spoke with Benny Katzover and Elyakim Ha'etzni, and they told you that the main opposition to the olive harvest stemmed from "security worries"? Had you not stolen the harvesters' lands, there would be no security risk. And after you have taken over their lands, you dare to justify the theft of what little remains to them on the grounds of security - your security only, of course? Evidently, chutzpah also has no limits.
And finally, the punch line: Harel writes that people like him will soon be hunkering down in bunkers due to the "unbridled" events in commemoration of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. It is not the murder or the events leading up to it that were unbridled, but the commemorations? It is not we who have all been in bunkers for 40 years because of you, but you, the robbed Cossacks? That is already one sentence too many - perhaps even for your too numerous fans
This just goes to show why the Left is in terminal decline in Israel. Your fellow "progressive" Bernard Avishai is constantly lamenting why the "elite" in Israel in general refuses to politically link up with the so-called "peace camp", meaning the MERETZ/HADASH parties, even though the "elites" (i.e. the high-tech and other entrepeneurs) are willing to give up most of the territories to the Palestinians in return for a peace agreement. He says they don't want a civil war, so his prescription is for the United States to coerce the "elites" once and for all to declare war on what Avishai calls "the Judeans" (Orthodox, Haredim and Judea/Samaria settlers) by giving them the choice of using force against the Judeans or facing punitive economic sanctions against Israel. Avishai is moaning that the elites don't really want to go to war with the settlers. Why? Because they don't fill their heads with the garbage that Gidon Levy is spewing out here. Israelis know that the Arabs do not want to make peace with Israel on any terms, they know that Levy is a lying hypocrite becuase HE IS LIVING ON STOLEN ARAB LAND IN PRE-67 ISRAEL and he, like so many Leftists, tries to transfer his guilt for justifying the "stealing" of pre-67 Israel from the Arabs by turning all his wrath against the Jews of Judea/Samaria whom he blames for every problem in the world, and who are actually NOT living on stolen land. Most Israelis, even those who are not supporters of the Right understand this and are sick of this endless hatemongering.
Articles written in the wake of the disturbances in Akko have pointed out that there is FAR, FAR more vandalism and violence by Arabs against Jews, particularly inside the Green Line than that there is by "settlers" against Arabs. The whole thing is ignored by the media in order to promote their own Leftist political agenda.
Two quick points:
You underestimate the depth of hatred of mitnahalim in Israeli liberal society, and not only amongh the left, or even Labor.
Look at the talkbacks in Hebrew and contrast with those in English. Folks living in an Anglo Israeli subculture are not aware of this. The problem is that the hatred of the other, so typical of Israeli society, is not translated into practical action without leadership. Sharon provided that leadership -- and when the settlers were thrown out of Gaza, who else cared?
But like you, I was sorry that Levy omitted on this occasion the moral issue of living on land stolen from Arabs after 1948, although you will admit that, rightly or wrongly, virtually everybody today -- including the vast majority of Palestinians -- distinguish between the immorality of the thefts. But that is a story for another post, and you are aware of my views on that subject.
Arab violence in Israel against Israeli Jews is sporadic, and reflects not only Palestinian nationalism but rage against the third-class citizenship and exclusion from the nation-state. It is typical of excluded underclasses everywhere.
If you read the article carefully, you would see that Levy also criticizes Israeli society for supporting the settlers. And why do they do that? Not because they could give a hoot about the West Bank, but because most people follow the path of least resistance. That is why the National Rifle Association is so powerful here in the US, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans polled want tougher gun control laws.
Violence by settlers against Palestinian, the powerful against the powerless, is typical of spoiled bullies everywhere. They are so used to getting their way that when they are thwarted (cf. the eviction of Federman from his illegal house today) they go bananas.
I am well aware of the hatred of Mitnahalim and "the Right" in general by the Left in Israel. I do speak Hebrew. The problem is that the Left in Israel is a minority....governments that support settlement in Judea/Samaria have won most elections since 1977. That is why Bernard Avishai has gone on his quixotic crusade to convince the Israeli "elites" to ally themselves politically with the Arabs and this is why he is calling on the US to issue ultimatums to the elites to get rid of the Judeans once and for all. If only it were that simple for the Left to do that.
Regarding your claim that the Palestinians supposedly distinguish between land stolen from them in 1948 and the lands captured by Israel in 1967, in reality, they do not make any such distinctions. That is why they insist on the "right of return". However, I understand that in your case, since you personally have benefitted from their dispossession , it is reasonable in your mind to create such a dichotomy between the two situations, just as Gidon Levy and Ze'ev Sternhell do (he stated that Israel had a "right" to steal PART of Palestine in 1948 from the Arabs because he needed a place to live, but the "occupation" starting in 1967 he works himself into a rage denouncing).
y ben david, let me relieve you of your characteristic confusion.
(Oy, it's like banging my head against the wall....)
The right of return has NOTHING, repeat NOTHING to do with the theft of Arab lands. It has to do with the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes, where they exist, or to their homeland. It is a right of resettlement and not a property right.
Even if the Palestinians were compensated generously, nay, five times as much as their lands are worth now, they would still have a right of resettlement into Palestine. There are many details -- and the matter is a LOT more complex than I make it here -- but you get the picture -- I hope.
The vast majority of the Palestinian people a) claim a right of return, b) claim the right to compensation for lands stolen, c) insist on Israel's withdrawal to 1967 borders, d) do not require any exodus of Jews (even Ahamdinejad doesn't require that) from pre-67 borders; e) are willing to negotiate long-term arrangements with Israel within 67 borders. That includes Hamas leaders, who have repeatedly said that they would consider a long-term hudna provided that Jews retreat to 67 borders. (The Hamas charter is of ZERO relevance to Hamas politicians, by the way -- about as much relevance as the Declaration of Independence is to Israeli politicians.)
If what you wrote were correct, then the Palestinians would not only insist upon the return to the 67 borders and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to 48 borders, but the restoration of the status quo before 1948 war. And they do not.
If you can't show me that they do, then please, stop wasing my time.
Your position, extreme right as it is, mirrors the extremist position of a few Palestinians in the Palestinian diaspora, hardly representative.
Again, if I am wrong, please cite me authoritative sources.
There were brave Italians who opposed Mussolini, but most liked what he was doing and they quietly approved of it by not demanding anything be done about. This is how fascism succeed there-- it is how it will succeed in Israel. You have laid out the case well. Perhaps Israelis can learn from history-- on the whole they take biblical history and distort so as not to learn its lessons.
We need scholars and rabbis to tell us how a new Judaism will survive a fascist Israel just as we needed them to tell us how to survive after the Temple was destroyed and especially after the Bar Kokhva (settlers take note - it led to a disaster) disaster-Ploni
As my comment to this essay was published in Ha'aretz:
Mr. Levy writes: "Large segments of Israeli society do indeed hate. But this is not baseless hatred, not hatred for the sake of hatred, to use your words. It is hatred for your enterprise. You have earned this hatred honestly - the
only honest thing about your enterprise."
Any justice-minded observer of the atrocious injustices wreaked by the settlers would feel the hatred of which Mr. Levy speaks. Not only Israeli observers, not only Jewish observers. Every conscientious American who fears Abe Foxman and the "anti-semitism" shouting crazies should take comfort with his own conscience when condemning the settlers AND ALL WHO SUBSIDIZE AND SUPPORT THEM ON BOTH SIDES OF THE OCEAN. The settlers have earned the hatred of all, not just Israelis of good conscience. And since Israel as a nation has fostered and subsidized the settlements, Israel itself as a nation is a knowing and active accomplice in their crimes. So, you Americans who hate Israel as a nation, not because it is Jewish, but because it is a nation engaged in horrendous crime as a matter of national policy, speak out loudly and often with a clear conscience. Stop being afraid of the ADL. Turn your righteous hatred into vocal public support for justice for the Palestinians. Give the next US administration the grass roots support to force Israel to become law-abiding toward the Palestinians.
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