Thursday, April 03, 2008


What happens when a country, its government, and its army, is entirely taken over by religious fruitcakes? You should read the entire review by Henry Siegman of two books on the Israeli settlement program, but here are a few excerpts (my emphasis in red and green throughout; I referred to an earlier outstanding piece by Siegman here; I note that the 1967 war itself was intended to acquire territory, so it would be much fairer to describe the decision to keep the territories as being made before the war started, if not decades earlier):
"The decision to retain control of the territories was taken days after the end of the 1967 war, and was not a response to Palestinian terrorism, or even to Palestinian rejection of Israel’s legitimacy. Zertal and Eldar cite a report by Mossad officials, prepared at the request of the IDF’s intelligence division and presented to the IDF on 14 June 1967, which found that ‘the vast majority of West Bank leaders, including the most extreme among them, are prepared at this time to reach a permanent peace agreement’ on the basis of ‘an independent existence of Palestine’ without an army. The report was marked top secret, and buried.

Security was the reason offered by Israel to justify the founding of the settlements. But the overwhelming majority of them actually created new security problems, if only because vast military and intelligence resources had to be diverted to their defence. The settlements have also enraged the Palestinians, whose land has been stolen to make room for them – this, too, has done nothing to increase Israel’s security."

"Lords of the Land and The Accidental Empire reveal the massive scale of Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands and the involvement of every part of Israeli society in advancing the settlement enterprise in clear and deliberate violation not only of international law but of Israel’s own laws. Gorenberg reports that when asked by the foreign minister, Abba Eban, in 1967 about the legality of settlements, Theodor Meron, the foreign ministry’s legal counsel, responded: ‘Civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ The prohibition, he stressed, is ‘categorical and is not conditioned on the motives or purposes of the transfer, and is aimed at preventing colonisation of conquered territory by citizens of the conquering state’."
and (I have a darker view of 'Jewish values', looking more to the facts on the ground):
". . . the driving force behind the settlements is a small religious-nationalist group, whose members are widely considered the most savvy, well connected and effective political operators in Israel. Their ideology combines an intense form of religious messianism with an extreme nationalism that has far more in common with the religious and ethnocentric nationalism of the Serbian Orthodox militias of Mladic and Karadzic than with any Jewish values I am familiar with. That Sharon and some of his settler friends were virtually the only politicians in the West (other than Serbia’s Slavic supporters) who opposed military measures to prevent Serbian ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo was not an accident.

The religious-nationalist leadership now seems to have lost much of its authority with the far more radical younger generation born and bred in the settlements. This new generation draws inspiration from the ‘hilltop youth’, young people who responded to Sharon in October 1998 when, as foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, he called on settlers to ‘grab’ hilltops in the parts of the West Bank from which he and Netanyahu had agreed to withdraw, as stipulated by the Oslo Accords. ‘Grab more hills, expand the territory,’ Sharon urged on Israel Radio. ‘Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands. Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.’

The ‘hilltop youth’ reject the authority of the Jewish state and its institutions. They run around in what they imagine to be biblical dress, assaulting Palestinians, stealing and destroying their homes, crops and orchards, occasionally beating them and every so often killing them. Occasionally the IDF intervenes, but their efficacy is undermined by their belief that their main job is to protect the settlers, not the population under occupation."

"Since 1967, the IDF has transformed itself into the army of the settlers, to which abused Palestinians cannot turn for protection. The settler leadership’s close ties with government power-brokers mean that they can make or break the careers of the IDF’s most senior officers. The most chilling part of Zertal and Eldar’s story is their description of how the settler leaders intimidate IDF commanders and make them fall into line. The most decorated soldier in the history of the IDF, Ehud Barak, Israel’s former prime minister and currently the minister of defence in Olmert’s government, had to eat his words after settler leaders walked out during a speech he made when he was the head of the IDF’s Central Command in May 1987 because he used the word ‘occupation’ to describe Israel’s presence in the West Bank. They returned to their seats only after he agreed to repeat his talk without using that word.

While the IDF, with the help of Shin Bet, is somehow able to locate almost every potential Palestinian terrorist in the West Bank and seems to be aware of their most intimate conversations, they don’t often appear able to locate Jewish settlers who have attacked innocent Palestinians, destroyed their homes and farms, or murdered them. Most settlers’ crimes remain unsolved, as do crimes committed by IDF soldiers. The military justice system rarely fails to find extenuating circumstances for IDF abuses. And the few Israelis who are found guilty receive ridiculously lenient sentences. Meanwhile, more than ten thousand Palestinians, including women and teenagers, languish in Israeli jails without having been indicted or tried for specific crimes.

The contrast with the courts’ treatment of settlers is striking. Pinchas Wallerstein, one of the most prominent settler leaders, fired at an Arab youth whom he saw burning a tyre on the road. The boy, whom he shot in the back, died. Wallerstein was sentenced to perform public service. The judge, Ezra Hadaiya, quoted the rabbinic admonition that ‘one should not judge one’s fellow until one is in his place.’ In 1982, a settler, Nissan Ishegoyev, fired his Uzi machine-gun into an alley from which Palestinian children were throwing stones, and killed a 13-year-old boy. His punishment was three months’ public service. Between 1988 and 1992, the violent deaths of 48 Palestinians were recorded in the Occupied Territories. In only 12 of these cases were indictments filed against the Israeli suspects; of these, only one resulted in a murder conviction; another ended in a conviction for manslaughter, and six resulted in convictions for causing death through negligence. The defendant who was convicted of murder, for which the maximum punishment is 20 years in prison, was sentenced to three years."

"What makes the situation particularly ominous is that more and more senior leaders of the IDF are joining the religious-nationalist settlers’ camp. Many of them are under the sway of settler rabbis, who, like their jihadi counterparts, provide religious rulings – fatwas, in effect – inciting their followers even to murder Israeli prime ministers if they cross the settlers’ red lines. The extent of this change in the IDF was described by Steven Erlanger in the New York Times last December. Colonel Aharon Haliva, the commander of Israel’s officer training school, told Erlanger that more than a third of the volunteers in combat units now come from the religious settler youth."

Reality would have set in a long time ago if the settler movement, backed up by the de facto support of the American Jewish community (as much as the lite Zionists may try to deny it), has also taken control of the American government.