If anyone has any doubt about the nature of the settler movement they should have none anymore after an Israeli army deserter and follow of Meir Kahane (may his name be cursed) went on a shooting rampage (using his IDF-issued weapon) in an Israeli Arab village in northern Israel.
19 year-old Eden Natan Zada, lived in the West Bank settlement of Tapuah, known as a hotbed of Kahanist activism within the settler movement. This is the New York Times story.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is that it might’ve been preventable. Zada’s father had called the IDF to warn them that his son still possessed his weapon after deserting:
…his father, Yitzhak, said that his son had been living in Tapuah and that he had informed army officials of his son’s whereabouts and told them to repossess his weapon.
“I wasn’t afraid that he would do something,” he told The Associated Press. “I was afraid of the others” in Tapuah. He said he spoke to his son two days ago, “and he told me he would find the time to return the weapon.” The Israeli military said it was investigating why he still had his weapon after he had deserted.
Haaretz adds to the story with its interview of Zada’s mother:
Debbie, his mother, was upset last night. She claimed she warned army and police authorities that her son was carrying a weapon. “We told everyone he’s AWOL, that he could do something with his gun. We begged them to take away his gun. He also asked them to take his gun. The army destroyed my child. The army destroyed my life,” she screamed Thursday night at home, slamming the gas burners on the ground in her kitchen.
She was completely confused by the attack and boiling with anger. “They told us in the army that they would declare him AWOL only 45 days after he disappeared. I told IDF personnel that I was ready to go to Tapuach with them, to search house to house for him. The army told me to
go alone,” she said.
So let’s get this straight. Say a Palestinian or Israeli Arab father called the IDF and told them that their child had a military weapon and that he was afraid the son or his comrades might use it against Israelis. And let’s further add that the father gives the IDF his son’s location. How quickly would it be before a soldier would be knocking on this kid’s door? So the fatal question is: why was the IDF so abysmally negligent? Here you have a tinderbox situation with the Gaza pullout. You have intelligence telling you that some settler groups are planning violent provocative acts to sabotage the process. And yet you do nothing when presented with such information?
I was about to say if it was this country, you know heads would roll. Well, I guess we’ve already proven the fallacy of that in the aftermath of 9/11. And given the IDF & Israel’s reluctance to pursue Jewish terror with the same vigor and vehemence with which it pursues Palestinian terror, it’s unlikely anyone will receive more than a slap for this outrageous lapse.
The attack may be one of the first times that Jewish militants have murdered Israeli Arabs (who are Israeli citizens). Until now, the settler vigilantes have contented themselves with murdering or beating half to death only Palestinians. This shooting spree ups the ante on terror. It also puts the lie to the Israeli claim that it treats its Arab citizens as equal to Jewish citizens:
Issam Makhoul, an Arab member of Israel’s Parliament, said Israeli political leaders had “been questioning the legitimacy of our citizenship in the past few years, and today someone took the initiative and acted on this.”
And I was faintly amused by a settler leader who expressed “revulsion” at the murders:
Bentzi Lieberman, the head of the main settler organization, the Yesha Council, condemned Thursday’s shooting. “Murder is murder is murder, and there can be no other response but to denounce it completely and express revulsion,” he said.
There is, of course, no awareness on Lieberman’s part that the settler movement’s ideology and very nature made this attack all but inevitable. Certainly, I’d agree that there are many settlers who didn’t want such a thing to happen. But their motives would mostly be pragmatic and tactical rather than moral. This attack should all but destroy the remaining momentum against the Gaza withdrawal. That’s something that the settlers won’t like and that’s why they don’t want to kill Arabs now.
Although it’s something that would immensely please the more radical Kahanists who believe, a la Hitler, that Arabs of all varieties must be banished from Israel–the sooner and more violently the better. For the Kahanists are like the 19th century nihilists and anarchists who believed that the more spectacular and horrifying an act of terror, the quicker the state and entire capitalist system would topple. But the strategy of each of these groups has failed or will fail.
My closing thought on this horrendous double act of terror and mob lynching goes back to Martin Luther King’s memorable: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth makes us all blind and toothless” (which King borrowed from Gandhi). And this is also true of Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities tonight.
Robert Rosenberg of ariga.com writes a typically powerful and cogent analysis of this event in Jewish Shahid.
I just posted about this same incident, because I got a piece of vile slime in my inbox from “Voice of Judea”. I linked to your posting too.
Myron Joshua says
I agree wholeheartedly with MOST of what you write here. The uniqueness of this horrible case does not lessen the responsibility of the IDF once it had information about this potential murderer on the loose. However it must be clearly stated that the lack of action can not be equated with any conscious evil intention…I can agree that people (and institutions) might be morally blinded on lower than conscious levels..
Also the remarks about settlers is taking a huge brush to paint a much more complicated picture. To try to prove this to you in this context would, however, steer focus away from this multiple murder…so i will not raise it now.
My email address points to my residence, on the West Bank…This makes me a settler i guess. I am for disbanding some/most/perhaps all settlements. I have participated in Palesitinian-Israeli Dialogue. This may be unusual, but I assure you that the settlers i know, who may think i am totally off the wall, and with whom i disagree with vehemently, do have moral fibre, and can and have shown compassion for other human beings. Things are just more complicated.
What is clear is that we who preach love of the Jewish people and the State and have not gone out of our way to denounce hatred, and who turn a blind eye to the warped outcome of Religious Nationalism must
be dsgusted by the sacriflege preformed in our name..and admit that, while our hands may be clean…our souls are not.
Richard Silverstein says
Myron: Thanks for your comment. I’m perfectly willing to concede that are good people like you living beyond the Green Line. But despite the fact that you & some of your neighbors show “compassion for other human beings,” you are in a deeply compromised moral position. Whatever good you might do on an individual basis is more than offset by the horrible nature of the Occupation.
I’d go so far as to say that you and other settlers are inheritors and victims of the Greater Israel ideology. I see the Israeli government as more at fault for the present predicament than individual settlers. The Occupation might’ve ended much sooner than it ever will if there had ever been a government that was willing to stand for something other than more settlements, all the time.
But you will have to admit that the prevailing notion among the settler community is one of deep hatred and suspicion of the Palestinians. And further, I think you will admit that this prevailing bitterness and hatred toward Palestinians is what led to this massacre.
I also want to make clear that I do not believe that the IDF was culpable for the crime in an affirmative way. I wouldn’t say they wanted the crime to happen or knew about it beforhand and did nothing. But in this case, guilt by omission is as bad as guilt by commission. The IDF was offered opportunties to prevent this tragedy and did nothing. This is a case of terrible negligence on its part and on the part of the intelligence services who also knew of this person’s case & did nothing.
I do applaud you & encourage you to continue to do whatever you can to promote peace with your Palestinian neighbors.
Andrew Schamess says
Richard – very good post, sorry it took me so long to get here to read it
If Myron Joshua returns to the site, I’d be curious to hear more about his perspective. It’s not often I hear people who live in the settlements calling for them to be disbanded. But then, of course, what gets in the press isn’t necessarily what regular people think. That’s why we have blogs… Anyhow, it would be interesting to hear how he ended up living in a settlement, and his perceptions on the settlers and their motivations.
Richard, hope you don’t think I’m taking too much of a liberty by mentioning this. If you want to delete my comment I won’t be upset.
Richard Silverstein says
Andrew: Not at all. That’s what my comments section is for: to encourage debate between people of different political viewpoints & people who share ea. other’s viewpts.
I too would be eager to hear more from Myron & I’ll forward your comment to him via e mail.
myron joshua says
I honestly believe that hate is the wrong word to us to describe the feelings that MOST settlers and the leadership of the Yesha settlement movement have towards Arabs.
Suspicion..yes. Blind self centerdness and condecension..often. But, deep concern for Arab neighbor…very rarely.
I am afraid that Andrew is right..that news media (and our selective memories) do not always grasp the “regular” people…Sadly, I am afraid that I, too, am not a regular person as far as my politcal opinions or conscious awareness (for what it is worth) of my Arab neighbors personal and national needs.
Most people are very normal…spurned on by constructive values, and interested in maintaining correct/normal relationship with neighboring Arabs …BUT not at the expense of….Aye, there is the rub! So, they work by us..and have attended weddings in our synagogue..and the son of a right wing leader walked on Shabbat to the Arab villiage to attend a wedding there…and we will by fruit from them..they turkeys from us.
It all looks so nice..but of course the reality is bleaker…Problems securing building rights, problems of mobility with check points.manhandling by the Israeli Army. (And i am sure you can add to the list)
I agree that the settlement movement, as an arm of The Greater Israeil movement has done much harm and has created a map of settlements whose aim was to hinder any territorial agreement and thwart establishment of a Palestinian State. This makes it, as a movement, totally counterproductive.
I aslo am aware that the historical situation of June 1967 is not the same as now. Perhaps what was reasonable in the past, is no longer sustainable.
I live on a settlement that was part of the Etzion Bloc, a group of settlements that existed prior to May 1948. Its story is a moving one..(The question being, what is the relevance of this?) The children of that settlement, many orphans to men who were massacred after surrendering in May 1948, wanted to return following the Six Day war. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol told them that he could not allow it since he was waiting to hear from King Hussein and wanted to be free to return all lands captured in the June War of 1967 (excluding Jerusalem). When no overtures were made the question remained, how to continue.
In this context the idea of limited settlement in areas not densely populated, close to the Green line and in areas that could serve as security buffers seemed “reasonable”.
For years, there was no Arab willingness to enter negotiations…yet there was very limited settlement. It is true that the Great Land of Israel people started making certain inroads and the Israeli government was weak in opposing the few initiatives…We, Arabs and Jews, pay a big price for this weakness.
Also, it is now known, that Israel did miss chance to negotiate with some of the Arab world in the 1970’s…but it is hard to blame Israel for remaining suspicious of the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular.
Many settlers, share the religious, natiaionl and and perhaps quasi messianic beliefs that bring them to identify and be part of a movment that is blind of Arab national rights (and ultimately willing to compromise Arab civil rights as well). But one the personal level of daily life most of them function in a rational and moral fashion.
No, it is not a sign of great compassioni or a rich moral sensitivity…I agree that this is often lacking. It is a sign of a basic humanity that they retain.
I would sugguest remaining loyal to your ideological and political commitments, which are based on moral and political principles..but at the same time, using the coming days to read articles and follow the media to try to better understand the settlers as people whose life style was motivated by positive values, even if the outcome created a stuation that Israel is now working at to change. (And, I can share your fears that as hard a job as Israel is doing now to evacuate Gaza of settlers and Army…it doubtful that Sharon has any vision beyond. Is this a “stop-gap” action on his part..or the first step forward on a very long trip?
In the upcoming days we will see (and also not see–silent stories behind the scenes)..a mixture of sad departures, strong emotions, wild frenzy, violence.as settlers of many types, some locals, other infiltrators, face off with the new reality.
Try to see beyond the mass of people. Try to understand the individual…feeling empathy towards those who deserve it.feeling anger towards those who deserve it..and frustration at not always knowing who deserves what and when.
My prayers now, are that the Palestinian People, use this opportunity wisely. That Abu Mazzen way of thinking becomes a driving force in the Palestinian area.
All the best,
myron joshua says
Thanks for the invitation to join in discussion and kind words.
Sorry for leaving these words of thanks out of my post..but once your comments became a constructive challenge for me to put my troubled thoughts in words..i am afraid ijust forgot.
My thoughts are more troubled than i want to express in words…because they often lead me to serious doubts about how the jewish people can actually live and fulfill iteself in this world.
The story is so complex..
It is a joy to feel the openess to dialogue here.
Richard Silverstein says
Myron: Amen to everything you wrote in your long comment above. As to your second shorter one–I think many of us progressive Zionists (I don’t even know that I feel comfortable anymore using the term Zionist) have felt such existential dread for Israel for a very long time. If we could only turn that fear into a motivating factor to make peace.
I have no doubt that the Jewish people will “live and fulfill iteself in this world.” But not at the expense of another people, which has been what’s happened up to now. Once we can lick that problem (or I should say “if”), Israel & the Jewish people will be able to fulfill fully their destinies for good in the world. At least that’s my hope.
Keith O'Brien says
I am, like many in the U.S., are sick and tired of the negative flow of information that we read about on an everyday basis, from the Holy Land. Both the Jewish and Palestinian people should really look at the way this is affecting the children that are being raised amongst this violence. Both sides are destroying their children’s ability to forgive and show compassion for one another. How will they ever recover from this type of environment? I am against all violence, for any reason and because of my belief, I resist any notion that violence is an answer for any wrong doing. Both sides claim to be so spiritual, yet they both support the violence with open arms and hate eachother. Why not try to embrace one another, love one another, care for one another. WHY NOT????? I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but I can say this without hesitation that the Jewish people and the Palestinian people (both cultures have amazing and beautiful people) should be kept apart until they can respect one another, because they can’t stand the sight of one another. Like so many situations, the governments of both sides have not put their best foot forward in trying to put the past behind them and move forward in productive ways. We in America, are no strangers to watching our own government make total idiots of themselves and us with their greed. But as citizens of the U.S. we have to get along with our neighbors and respect one another. My everday life includes working alongside with many different cultures and we get along great, Why? Because we respect eachother and we have one central goal and that is to live peacefully and make a living. The hardest thing for me is to pray everyday for the peace to be kept, only to wake up in the morning to see more violence in the Holy Land.
IF YOU DON’T RESPECT EACHOTHER’S RIGHT TO LIVE PEACEFULLY, THEN YOU CAN’T HOPE FOR PEACE.
I love this world and my life has given me so many reasons to want to be peaceful. I pray everyday for the people of the Holy Land on both sides that somehow, some way they can forget revenge and become two nations that respect one another. To show their children, that there is a way to coexist with one another. Do it for your children Israel, do it for your children Palestine. Both cultures are amazing, both cultures have vast intelligence, both cultures have beautiful people, both cultures deserve peace. Love one another, IT’S THE ONLY WAY!!