Demonizing Settlers
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Demonizing Settlers

Demonizing Settlers

A settler bares his soul.

by

Why was the demolition of the nine homes in Amona accompanied by so much violence on both sides of the ideological spectrum -- whereas the destruction of the Gush Katif settlements only seven months ago took place amidst comparative understanding and sensitivity, with crying and decrying, with dancing and denying, but in largest measure devoid of the use of force?

Apparently the overwhelming majority of those who feel part of the settler community, while strongly disagreeing with the "disengagement" policy -- either because they are Zionistically and humanistically opposed to uprooting Jewish settlements, or because they are against giving a prize of encouragement to terror and Hamas in this critical time of Palestinian internal dissension and external aggression -- might well endorse passive resistance but would clearly stop short of violence.

So what happened half a year later in Amona? And I'm not merely writing about the youth who demonstrated in Amona; I'm talking about murmurings throughout the settler community which has been radicalized far beyond the red lines of Gush Katif.

The explanation lies between the lines of a survey conducted by Professor Dalia Mor of the College of Management in Rishon Letzion, aimed at examining the attitudes of Israelis toward the various sectors of our broader society: Ashkenazim, Sephardim, secularists, settlers, Haredim, rightists, leftists, Israeli-Arabs, new immigrants and foreign workers.

Among those respondents who defined themselves as left-wingers, hostility toward the settlers ranked higher than hostility toward the Palestinians.

The survey revealed that the sector most hated by the Israeli population are the Palestinians, with the settlers a close second. And among those respondents who defined themselves as left-wingers, hostility toward the settlers ranked higher than hostility toward the Palestinians by a ration of 67 to 55 percent.

This study explained to me a most curious phenomenon. Israelis may have many faults -- reckless driving, inability to admit wrongdoing, lack of subtlety -- but lack of generosity to people in trouble is not one of them. Our telephones and door bells ring every ten minutes with requests for aid to needy families and institutions, Israel the fledgling State welcomed under-privileged and under-educated refugees from third world countries in comparative numbers unrivaled by any other country, and our burgeoning nation was among the first to take in the Vietnamese Boat People and to send volunteers and raise funds for Tsunami, Pakistani Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina homeless.

With this history, why is there no national outcry on behalf of expelled residents of Gush Katif, when most of whom are still waiting to receive their government subsidies and are living in sub-standard housing, without any means of employment? And these residents of Gush Katif did not build their settlements as thieves in the night. They were sent as the agents of every government of Israel since the Six Day War, and they turned a desert into a garden of fruits, vegetables and flowers which were exported throughout the world. Why is the government, as well as the majority of the populous so indifferent to their fate?

It can only be because the entire settlement community has become a demonized and delegitimized sector of Israel society.

And this is what explains Amona: the government (and Supreme Court) would not accept a mere seven day delay to enable the settlers themselves to dismantle their homes and restore whatever they could as they resumed their lives in Ofra, and that the policemen came out on horseback, brandishing clubs and often striking indiscriminately as the pictures seem to testify.

I certainly do not condone in any way the stone-throwing violence of many of the youth who were there. But the settler community had come to Amona already feeling disenfranchised and abandoned, and unfortunately those who feel pushed against the wall of hatred and indifference often act with violence because they sense they have nothing to lose. And tragically the over-reaction of the police only exacerbated the settler perception that we are enemy number one, even before Hamas.

What is the source of our repugnant status? Some will refer to us as leeches who have sucked the Israeli treasury dry-and caused undeserved stagnation to the Negev and the Galil -- by our demands to fund our ill-advised settlements; others will even charge us with immorality, since we have robbed the Palestinians of lands which rightfully belong to them. There are voices like Avrum Burg, who have internalized the cruel canard our enemies have cynically flung at us, holding us responsible for the "freedom fighting" suicide bombers who murder the innocent citizens of Netanya, Tel Aviv, Hadera and Petach Tikva.

These voices have forgotten the Treaty of Versailles and the Balfour Declaration, which initially called for 18 Arab States and one Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan; they portray us as white European Boers conquering and colonizing the "South African" homelands of the native Palestinians, paying no mind that it is us Jews who have lived in this area for 4,000 years in unbroken continuity.

In their blind idealization of the possibilities for peace with the Palestinians, they choose to overlook the facts that from the UN Partition Plan on November 29, 1947, to the tense period preceding the Six Day War to the Oslo Agreements to the Camp David Summit meeting between former President Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, it is we the Israelis who have consistently been willing to compromise and it has been the Arabs who have refused offer after offer to share this land. Yes, you can only make peace with your enemy-but that enemy must be willing to make peace with you.

Nevertheless, the majority of the Israeli populous seems to have "bought into" the "immorality" of our position and thereby condone any ill-treatment we may receive as being well deserved.

The overwhelming majority of us are rational, committed, patriotic and idealistic citizens. We are hurt and dismayed by the hatred which is being leveled against us.

We are proud of our settlements, proud of the unique and close relationship some of us have succeeded in establishing with our Palestinian neighbors, proud of our educational network, proud of the idealism and patriotism of our youth -- who still find their way into the most elite and dangerous units of the IDF.

But we are hurt and dismayed by the hatred which is being leveled against us. Yes, the Settler community speaks with different voices, and from varying degrees of a wide right-wing perspective, but the overwhelming majority of us are rational, committed, patriotic and idealistic citizens: Do we not deserve to be embraced and co-opted in a consensus government (even if that government rejects Greater Israel as a viable option) rather than to be cast aside and delegitimized as criminals?

Most of us would welcome a plan which would enable us to live in peace with peaceful neighbors -- but instead we are being told that many of our legal settlements (beyond the "fence") will have to be dismantled even as Hamastan is gaining unprecedented (since Hitler) political support and renewed terrorism is rearing its ugly head. The governmental policy that unilateral separation will enhance our ability to defend ourselves has yet to be proven, the governmental promise that once we retreat from settlements it will be easier to extirpate the enemy, has yet to begin to be implemented, but the destruction of our homes and uprooting of our settlers is taking place with great dispatch and within an atmosphere of zeal and political victory which only strengthens our feelings that we, the settlers, have become the major enemy of Israel.

Does the government not realize that the insensitivity and hatred we feel emanating from its policies only serves to energize the extremist elements of our population -- and threatens to rob our state of the most committed and idealistic of our youth (God forbid)?

And now for my deepest fear. If the Israeli population hates us, the settler, then they must also hate themselves. After all, modern Israel was founded by settlers who settled on the swamp areas of Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva, Huleh Valley and Kinneret which were claimed by the Palestinians. Indeed, the Palestinian press refers to Efrat as a settlement, but to Haifa, west Jerusalem, Netanya and Tel Aviv as illegal settlements. If our government continues to de-legitimize the settler community and to deliver us a knock-out punch, I fear that we will eventually be evacuating Tekoa, Efrat and then Jerusalem -- but from the PA-Hamas perspective, it will be Tel Aviv first.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post

Published: February 18, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 23

(23) david, November 29, 2006 9:51 AM

This is Our Land.

Why are Jews fighting against one another.Left wing right wing secular religious we all are at the end of the brothers and sisters.Mustnot forget that.If we want to fight then fight the palestinians who are murdering the innocent.And create more settlements coz Jews dont need permission to live in this land by the U.N. or any other organization.It is our birth right to live in this land,it is a Divine right.More settlements should be there so that we can pass the message to the arabs that our ancestors lived worked and worshipped in this land long before they "occupied" our land.This is our land this is our country and we shall not leave this country.May G-D be with our bros and sis in The Land Of Avraham,Yitzaak and Yaacov.Amen

(22) Yael, April 20, 2006 12:00 AM

I AM A SETTLER

I'm really shocked and dismayed at all the ignorance displayed in the comments of Rabbi Riskin's article. For those Jews who really want to know what happened, you should really ask someone who was there. Yes, it was really shocking to see young girls who weren't doing anything but sitting on the ground, get run over by a stampeded of the Goon Brigade on their German horses. All one has to do is read about the ongoing hardships of the Gush Katif families to realize that we, who live in the BIBLICAL LAND of ISRAEL are unwilling to let the EREV RAV destroy the sacrifices of so many that won this land back through the miracles of the HAND of HASHEM. You can lable me a lunatic settler if you want! Educated, worked in the High Tech field at a major corporation in Houston, and made aliyah a few years back to live in beautiful BIBLICAL EREZ YISRAEL. The rest of you who want to hate their fellow Jews and find fault with the ones who have the courage to stand and fight back, maybe you should read some Jewish History..then again, you might also want to remind yourselves of the US patriots who fought against England..but then they weren't called SETTLERS were they?!

(21) Aliza, March 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Why are the settlers hated?

The seemingly irrational hatred of the settlers is actually easy to understand. The Oslo "peace" process has failed. Many of those who most fervently believed in land for peace do not want to face the reality that the Arabs never had nor will ever have the intention of living in peace with Israel. To accept that means that you have no control over the situation, that you are powerless to end the Arab war against the Jews. Therefore, they transfer the rage they should feel against the Arab murderers to the settlers. If the settlers didn't exist, there would be peace. (Never mind that there was no peace before there were settlers.) If the settlers are the sole reason for terror, then the terror can be vanquished by getting rid of the settlers. This gives the haters of the settlers hope for the future. They can affect their own destiny as Israelis. All they must do is destroy the settlers--a far easier task than confronting reality.

(20) carmen, March 5, 2006 12:00 AM

I agree...

Rabbi,I agree with you...Jews hating Jews is the worst sign.
I agree with you,this is a sign of self destruction,of suicide.
I have almost a despear feeling in me about it.
I pray for this wrong way that has prevailed,to change.

(19) Daniela, March 3, 2006 12:00 AM

The problem is partly Israeli journalism

If I may :
It's very difficult to relate here in the States to a freedom of press that caters to as many opinions as Jews have when they actually have the freedom to have opinions. You know the old joke, if you have 10 Jews you have 20 opinions. Every issue is hotly debated in Israel, and everyone naturally wants to belong to a group and support it. So, each group has their own voice in their own paper. That doesn't really happen here. (Well, people think it does, but it really doesn't, not like in Israel - no paper here actually presents itself as left or right, they're just accused as such.)

Religious people always have had a tendency, all throughout the ages, to want to marginalize those who might be a negative influence. Totally understandable. Second, let's face it, we've all heard divrei Torah that made one reference or another to Jews being better behaved, more moral and more just than non-Jews. Obviously both these things can lead to a belief that religious people can do no wrong no matter what. What makes us immune to such a thing ? We've seen it everywhere throughout history. Naturally a religious or right wing paper is going to either gloss over, omit or apologize for violence committed by religious people. With relying so heavily on traditional belief, who wants to admit an act of violence might not actually be justified ? Is it ever? Well, even I think violence can sometimes be justified. But even Jewish law requires us to be 100% rational when we decide we have to be violent. It's never supposed to be based entirely on an emotional reaction. When we fight because we have to, and we regret having to, and we carefully weigh the desired results, that's rational. When we say, "what can you expect, we're angry!" well, I'm sorry, we can't expect not to be compared to those we are fighting.

Of course, the left have their own schtick - they take a belief that their reason for being is saving and changing the world for the better to such ridicules heights, all the ego trips that naturally come with their reinvention of every wheel and their obsession with uncovering hypocrisy, injustice and alienation everywhere they think they see it, have ended them up more hypocritical, more unjust and more alienating that the right ever was. So, just to make sure the world still thinks they are the only ones who care about saving people and making the world a better place, they apologize for terrorists and demonize anyone who dares to lay any claim that smells like it's coming from tradition of any kind. "If it's an old belief, it's automatically bad. The world can't become a better place if people still insist on holding on to obsolete, alienating values."

When I want to tell detractors how it is that I'm not a victim of "Israeli propaganda", when I want to "prove" that I indeed have all the facts, all I have to do is point out that I get my information about Israel's actions from leftist Israeli papers (even though I'm a religious person with many "right-wing" views), since they are more likely to tell about Israel's mistakes, as they want to be as iconoclastic as possible when it comes to "blind support of Israel and everything Israel does", while the right will omit reports of actions of the IDF and settlers that might not sound so good. After that, I get more details about the activities of terrorists in the right-wing press because they know the left-wing press won't tell the whole story when it comes to how terrorists trick the world press, and everything else they do, etc etc.

Sometimes the only way to get at the truth is to find out both what people are willing to tell and what they're not willing to tell. That's the reality of the Israeli press.

Face it, everyone's got an agenda. Most people like to make themselves feel better by pointing out all the ways the other side is horrible and how any sign of support from other people is a sign they're horrible, too. Both the right and the left are guilty if this, I assure you. Guilty of being horrible and of deomnizing the other side. Do I believe the left is worse? Yes, actually, I do. But the fact is, no one likes to admit that their view of the world may be the wrong one. Does this mean the American press style is best, where the truth is always bound to be found somewhere in the middle? G-d no! But we do have to be honest and admit that apologizing may be easy for the left, but explaining away is just as easy for the right.

As for the Settlers ? Yes, they are demonized and hated in the leftist press. Yes, their stories of anguish and sorrow are not told to enough of the Israeli populace. But there *is* a problem of omission and glossing over in the right-wing press when it comes to activities which show settlers as explosive. Are we better than non-Jews ? Maybe, maybe not. But we do have a moral obligation to at least show that we are, instead of just makebelieving that we are. The leftist press may be biased and they may editorialize the way we've seen CNN and BBC do, but I believe they don't outright make things up the way CNN and BBC do. Yehudah is right, if you see a corroboration in the JP, you can be sure there's *something* to a report of violence on the part of settlers seen in a paper such as Ha'aretz. There are a lot of questions about what really happened at Amona, and we should be willing to investigate this further - everything written here should be giving people some major pause. But the main point Yehudah is trying to make is that if things did indeed happen there that shouldn't, people need to face it and speak out against it, so that we do not indeed end up like non-Jews often do - justifying every violent action by what "seem" to be just and natural reactions.

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