Monday, September 12, 2011

Jewish Jihadists

Tablet Mag has a mesmerizing piece up about the young women who attend a radical settler school deep in the West Bank, where they are raised to be extremist warriors against any agent (Israeli, Arab, or otherwise) seeking to remove them from the area. The article does a good job capturing the raw religious fervor underlying the girls (albeit also eroticizing it in a more-than-a-little-creepy manner). It also makes quite clear the utter disdain these radicals have for Israel and the bulk of the Jewish people more generally. Though they consider themselves fighters for the Jewish people, they have no qualms about violently resisting the state of Israel (and proudly boast of attacking Arabs and their desire for "vengeance"). This love/hate relationship they hold towards the broader Jewish community -- seeing themselves as authentic representatives of the people while simultaneously viewing most of their religious compatriots with contempt -- is a quality they share with certain other, similarly marginal strains of the Jewish communal tent.

But the most important point is the way the girls and their teachers talk is virtually identical to how radical Islamist extremists speak. This is not surprising -- expected overlaps amongst fanatical religious extremists aside -- the young women at times explicitly hold out Arab terrorists as models, wondering why Jews can't be more like them (once again, folks I thought to be my enemy are apparently instead models to emulate). They mock traditional Jewish concerns for justice and repairing the world, in favor of a vision of theocratic autocracy imposed at the tip of a sword. They are, in effect, Jewish Jihadists.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What do you mean when you say refer to (emphasis added), "[B]This[/b] love/hate relationship they hold towards the broader Jewish community ... is a quality they share with certain other, similarly marginal strains of the Jewish communal tent[.]"?

I mean, our people are polarized along orthogonal planes relating to assimilation, religion, and (of course) Israel. By all accounts, such polarization is more extreme in Israel than it is in the diaspora.

However, the extremes of our polarized people are not, generally speaking, driven to criminality. And so I don't think your comparison is apt. The existence of adolescent militants born in the settlements has nothing to do with the operation of ideology except in the sense that their psychologies are the causal consequences of people living in settlements possibly (but not nearly always) as a result of an extremist ideology. For these women the situation is much more immediately about defending their homes.

The way I read the article, it's completely wrong to understand these young women as operating in response to how they represent themselves in relation to others of their creed or nation (i.e. as the authentic Israel). At least, I strongly doubt such an understanding is motivating their behavior. Such an understanding may motivate the Lea Kop character, who does come from a polarized place, Ramat Gan. [b]But isn't it a better explanation that these women are motivated primarily to defend their only home? [/b](Incidentally, Ramat Gan is where my dovish mother grew up, and where my dovish aunt and uncle still live. It was, back in the day, a Labor stronghold. As it grew, it polarized.)

I believe (I'm working from memory) that Peter Bergen makes a related distinction with respect to the Afgan mujahadeen and the ideologically motivated Arabs from Egypt and Saudi Arabia who joined them. Both groups were jihadists in the nominal sense, but the non-Afghan Arabs imported an ideology that created a misleading jihadist narrative [i]after the fact[/i] to explain the Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This, of course, served their own purposes, and was intended to enhance their own prestige.

Similarly, ideologues like Lea Kop (obviously, I found her character the most disturbing) come in to import an ideological narrative. I'm sure kachniks will appropriate this story as well. We shouldn't let them.

I guess my point is that even without Kop, even without the school, and even without their ideology, these criminal young women would exist. I got the impression that it's not possible to otherwise grow up in such a place.

What was really interesting to me was how this article played with David Samuel's very recent Tablet interview with Edward Lutwak where Lutwak said the following:

"When you draw a border that is what matters. The Israelis removed all the settlements from Sinai without any American involvement in two minutes after the agreement was made with Egypt."

I think that Lutwak's realism illustrates my concern. According to Lutwak, the settlers are mere tools. The Gaza withdrawal made that viscerally clear to the settlers. The question then, isn't ideological. Instead, it comes down to whether Israel, as a democratic government, can maintain control of the settlers, its tools and negotiating chips.

The story of these young women reveals Lutwak's dissonance. Using settlers as tools is the sort of thing done by authoritarian states. I'm not sure it is something Israel, very much a democracy, can get away with.

And that is why I agree with you (and not with Lutwak) about the settlements. It's not that the settlements create ideologies. It's that the settlements create a people.