dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

They're rioting in Hebron

Over the week-end, I was talking to a friend who expressed surprise at a picture on the front page of the NYTimes (December 5), showing IDF forces dragging settlers from a house in Hebron. The removal had been ordered by Ehud Barack, the defense minister, and former pm. My friend at first thought the military were dragging Palestinians. Why?Well because that's what we're used to seeing. The removal was followed by settler attacks on Palestinian houses and property.Daniel Levy has a post at TPM describing how dangerous the situation has become with the Settler Movement on the West Bank. He sees serious implications for the Obama Administration. His post is well worth reading. Here aretwo snippets:

I want to focus for a moment on the consequences for American policy, and in particular for a new Administration. The U.S. is on paper opposed to settlement expansion. The U.S. narrative, though, has shifted. Initially settlements were characterized by the U.S. as "illegal" -- that description was dropped by the Reagan Administration and never returned to. Settlements became no more than "unhelpful" and later on an "obstacle to peace" -- a language which the Bush Administration has occasionally used. What the U.S. has not done is to take a firm, consistent, and unrelenting position that Israel uphold its commitment to a settlement freeze -- and without such U.S. action, the Israeli cost-benefit calculation on settlement expansion vs. freeze is always skewed in favor of the former.

And this:

Many groups in the U.S. (including right-wing Christian Zionists) provide financial support to settlements and settler causes (see here and here), often to 501(c) 3s as tax-deductible, charitable contributions, and that is something into which an investigation is long overdue. Jewish groups in particular should be vocal in their opposition to settlements (see Bernard Avishai on J Street here at TPM). After the Shin Bet Chief spoke of certain settlers groups posing a security threat, my colleague Steve Clemons suggested on his blog that the U.S. investigate and place those in question on the Terror Watch List. U.S. efforts to support the Palestinian economy and ease the closure and checkpoints (for details see the U.N.'s OCHA website) are undermined most of all by the existence of settlements scattered throughout the West Bank, which are protected by the IDF, have their own access roads, whose residents demand freedom of movement, and whose existence largely dictates Israeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinian mobility.

The whole post is here:The Times's picture and story here:

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

As Levy's post and many new stories report settler activities, it appears that not the settlements as such, but SOME settlers engage in the same kind of behavior as the IRA. Palestinians are shot and beaten by SOME settlers; orchards are destroyed; land is seized illegally. The point of the IRA analogy was to underline that some of the most violent in the settler's movement receive financial aid from U.S. supporters, just as the IRA did through NORAID. The U.S. government interdicted money to NORAID; it does so as well to Hamas. Levy is suggesting that the same should be done in the case of the settlers' movement. Not so complicated!

Ms. Steinfels:Are you suggesting that the settlements constitute a terrorist entity? In the same sense as the IRA? Please.

Steve Clemmons has suggested,After the Shin Bet Chief spoke of certain settlers groups posing a security threat, my colleague Steve Clemons suggested on his blog that the U.S. investigate and place those in question on the Terror Watch ListHow nice. Right alongside murderers of women and children, and beasts who strap bombs to Down's Syndrome women and blow them up by remote control.

Are you suggesting that they can't possibly engage in terrorism? Or have you just raised the bar somehow?

Difficult, complex situation aggravated by history, religions, cultures, divisions that go back centuries. No administration has had much success - the only American president to hold Israel back was Eisenhower in the 1956 Suez Canal war. Where do you start? Who do you negotiate with - Palestinians are divided; Israel is divided? If you start with the fact that you have a continuing WWI colonial power failure cemented by the Balfour Declaration & Versailles Partition Agreement (damning any Arab nationalism solution or bipartisan, one nation approach e.g advocated by Lawrence of Arabia) and the rise of Herzl's Zionism at the turn of the century; the Arab revolt in the late 1930's quelled by WWII and British promises never fulfilled; the 1948 independence declaration with immediate US recognition; followed by continuing US support through multiple wars and now the largest foreign nation receiving US funds and the largest US based advocacy group. Given this history, there have been very small success steps since the Oslo Agreement. Israel faces a generational threat - without a two state solution; Israel will be majority Arab in just a few years. Because of the intafadas, Israel has basically become a warrior society damaging their previous image, reputation for fairness/democracy/human rights. In fact, one man's terrorist is another's revolutionary (many of the early Jewish national leaders came out of the Jewish Haganah or Irgun (terrorist organizations). Both sides blame the other.Challenge for the next administration - leverage Israel's own need and recognition that they have no choice but the two state solution. This will require the US Congress holding them to fair treatment; supporting a new Palestinian state; resolving the issues of Jerusalem (UN open city?); redressing Arab demands for restitution and return of exiles? Will the Congress/Obama/Clinton be willing to reduce US dollars to Israel if they do not move forward? How will they handle the separation of the West Bank and Gaza? the Hamas-Abbas divide?Here is a link to a story showing that even now US Jewish lobbies understand the need to stop and repress illegal settlements - http://jta.org/news/article/2008/12/07/1001387/jewish-groups-back-israel..., not sure that any recent US efforts have placed this issue at the top of the agenda - will current events in Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan allow for the effort that is necessary. It will take involving Syria, Lebanon/Hezbollah, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. Are we willing to leverage Saudi Arabia to put pressure on Iran, Lebanon, Syria?

Right alongside murderers of women and children, and beasts who strap bombs to Downs Syndrome women and blow them up by remote control.Bob,Not to mention alongside Nelson Mandela, "Cat" Stevens, and 900,000 others. Did you ever hear of the Haganah, the Irgun, or the Stern Gang? Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin?

Levy's note that a good proportion of the funds for the settlers come from the U.S. should give us pause about general American responsibility for this situation. As I recall (dimly) when Americans were funding the North Ireland IRA (also a terrorist organization), these funds were generally shut down--by government fiat or voluntarily, I don't recall. But that would seem one small step we could all support--or would we?

Share

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.