But one area in which I think I may have changed pretty substantially has been my views on the settlers. I wouldn't say I used to be "pro-settler", per se, but I didn't think of them as a huge deal. People living in houses in the desert were not "obstacles to peace". I wasn't committed to letting them stay -- but it rang uncomfortable to me that "peace" was taken to mean a Judenrein Palestinian state.
In recent times though, I've begun to revise my opinion. And I think the events surrounding the evacuation of settlers in Hebron have crystallized this instinct, not just for me, but for many other pro-Israel commentators. In their actions, the settlers have revealed themselves to be not just "obstacles to peace", but murderous, terrorist thugs. Their response to the Hebron evacuation was to launch what was called by both Ha'aretz and Israel's own Justice Minister a "pogrom". Marty Peretz says "shame on us". Eamonn McDonaugh of the Z-Word blog calls the settlers "religiofascists" who need to be "crushed" by the Israeli government.
Israeli commentators warn that the settlers, left unchecked, could lead to "civil war". Other writers continue to urge that we take the settler threat seriously as something that can single-handedly derail the peace process. Steve Clemons suggests officially labeling extremist terrorist factions working to propagate violence as "terror organizations", allowing their assets to be frozen.
The point being, we seem to be seeing (inside and outside of Israel) a broad-based backlash against the crypto-fascist settler movement whose primary political agenda at this point is to sabotage the peace process. The trick, now, is to get that outrage translated into some action. The Israeli government, slowly and belatedly, seems to be waking up to the threat that radical right-wing settlers pose to the state's liberal democratic character. And pro-Israel groups in the US are starting to recognize that the settlers are an insult to the very idea of Israel that they want to protect. Together, they can get something done. But it will take guts, and it will take courage.
Count me in.
UPDATE: Current (but outgoing) Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert joins the chorus:
"We are the children of a people whose historic ethos is built on the memory of pogroms," Olmert said. "The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom. Even when Jews do this, it is a pogrom.
"As a Jew, I am ashamed that Jews could do such a thing."
He was addressing the riots last week in which Jewish settlers -- angry over the forced evacuation of a contested house in Hebron -- attacked Palestinians, setting fire to their houses.
In a statement released by his office, Olmert told the Cabinet that he chose the term "pogrom" -- a Yiddish word meaning an organized massacre, usually referring to such attacks against Jews -- "after much thought."
"I formulate these words with the greatest care that I can," the prime minister said.
The CNN article's headline says Olmert called the events "tantamount" to a pogrom. I didn't see the caveat.