Monday, December 07, 2009

"You destroy ours, we destroy yours!"

As tensions rise over Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's announced settlement freeze, settler leaders have launched a wave of massive protests trying to block the move. Now, they've progressed to threatening violence against the state as well as their Palestinian neighbors:
Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, one of the heads of the "Od Yosef Hai" yeshiva in Yitzhar, published an article recommending other means of action.

"If there is no quiet for the Jews, there will be no quiet for the Arabs. A Civil Administration base can serve as a target for a quick, precise infiltration that could damage damage and destroy one of their offices. You destroy ours, we destroy yours!"

On Sunday morning, Yitzhar settlers burned cars and tractors in the nearby village of Einbus.

Resident Nader Hashem Alan, 36, his wife and eight children were sleeping when settlers attacked his home. He told Haaretz that at 1:45 A.M. he heard noise outside, and saw a Subaru van with five armed men.

"At first I thought they were car thieves. But then they poured gas on the cars and tractors. I yelled at them, but they torched my car and told me to go inside," he said.

At what point do we recognize these thugs as what they are: enemies to the state of Israel who deserve to met with the full punitive force of the law?

I've already noticed a substantial turn in the pro-Israel community in their opinion of the settlers -- from "houses in the desert" to rampaging brutes.* The "pogrom" they launched in response to the Hebron evacuation (the words of the Israeli Justice Minister, and Ehud Olmert for that matter, not mine) only crystallized my contempt for these people. It will be a happy aftereffect of this operation if it further solidifies the bifurcation between Israel's friends, and its enemies. The settlers are quite clearly in the latter camp.

* It is said, and this is correct, that there is a definitive split amongst settlers between folks who -- for lack of a better term -- just wanted more air and space, and the religious-nationalist radicals responsible for settler violence and incitement. However, the leadership of the settlers has shown itself to be predominantly in the camp of the latter, and they are the ones responsible for the current wave of unrest.


joe said...

I wonder if Alan Dershowitz supports collective punishment for the settlers.

Snark aside, if we postulate that the political leadership of the settlers are basically thugs, what does that say for the moral authority of a state that tolerates (some would say encourages) their actions? Whatever it says I don't think it's really improved if the state finally deems them thugs based on perceived damage to the state's self-interest.

David Schraub said...

Well, right now the settlers are acting thugglishly due to an emerging conflict with the country's leadership -- it's tautological to say that Israel is only opposing the settlers because it's in their interest ... because the settlers are opposing them ... because the state opposed the settlers.

More importantly, the settlers exploit the inherent weaknesses of a parliamentary democracy (that it gives small but well-organized disproportionate political power). It remains to be seen whether Israel can muster the will to overcome settler power, but I'm not thrilled about abstracting away democratic constraints in the eternal rush to holier-than-thou.

Joe said...

That's not how tautologies work; not to get all Descartes here, but the first time the state opposed the settlers in that chain doesn't complete a circle, it meets a foundation, probably at some point where policy called for an evacuation or at least discouragement of a given settlement (presumably as a term of some peace agreement or unilateral disengagement).

To the larger point, I suspect there are several ways to weaken most interest groups that don't subvert democracy. Public funding for campaigns is a no-brainer. I don't know what the system in Israel is, it's obviously needed in the US. That can only hurt the parade of horribles we get from lobbyists. Mandatory voting could be a big deal in societies with naturally low turnout since you're diluting the vote share of the single-issue True Believers. (And there's nothing hugely undemocratic about making someone walk into a voting booth as long as you don't dictate how or even if they mark their ballot. Certainly no state that practices conscription could credibly make a principled objection.)

And that's without going into controversial stuff like stopping media monopolies, Fairness Doctrine, etc.