Is there anyone out there reading this post point to any story about Gaza disengagement that doesn’t focus on the settler’s tenacious resistance to removal, their outrageous violent antics in opposing the IDF and police sent to roust them, etc.? Has there been a single profile of a thoughtful settler who has a nuanced view of what’s happening? There may be such stories though I haven’t seen them.
Which leads me to saying how pleased I was when Myron Joseph commented on my post about the Shfaram massacre. Myron wanted to tell me that there are Israelis, even settlers (of which he counts himself one), who detest the things that Jewish extremists do in their name. There are settlers who once had a romantic Zionist idea of resettling the land of Israel and who now see the dream with some ambivalence. I’ve posted Myron’s last comment here as a post in its own right since I think it deserves special prominence. I also hope Myron will continue to guest blog here about his perspective on the situation in the West Bank.
Thanks also to Andrew Schamess of Semitism.net for pointing out to me what was unique in Myron’s perspective. Anyway, I’d like to see Myron’s views and feelings in the pages of the Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the New York Times and Ynet.com. But alas I’m afraid that’s not to be (yet).
Myron was born in Minneapolis and made aliyah as part of a Young Judea contingent that was sent to resettle Kfar Etzion after the 1967 War. He, his wife and children now live there. He begins here by responding to my contention that the settlers hate the Palestinians:
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 condescension..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 political 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 village 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 Israeli 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 also 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, national and perhaps quasi messianic beliefs that bring them to identify and be part of a movement 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 compassion 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 suggest 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 situation 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.
Andrew Schamess says
I really appreciate Myron’s answer here and also the fact that Richard took the trouble to solicit it. It reminds me again how insufficient are our stereotypes. When I was in the West Bank earlier this year the Palestinian villagers I spoke with definitely differentiated between the good settlers and the bad settlers. It seems that they lived in relative peace with the older settlement blocks. The newer ones seemed populated by ideologues, Arab-haters, people who harrassed them for pleasure and stole their trees and crops. With the older settlers they had relationships of a sort.
I do not mean to imply that these villagers assented to the settlement process or accepted the appropriation of Palestinian land. Just that, on a day-to-day level, relations were better with some settlers than others – and this seemed to reflect the culture of the particular settlement.
I think it’s also true that these tensions do not stop at the Green Line. My mom, who travelled extensively in Israel before 1967, remembers a similar ambivalent relationship between Jews and Arabs. There was mutual interest and respect, but also hostility borne of competing interests. Whom one calls a settler, I suppose, depends on one’s own history and perspective. For Arabs displaced from homes in what is now Israel, the Jews there are all settlers.
In any case, my thanks, again, to Myron and to Richard. This will be food for thought for a good while for me.
Thanks very much to Myron for his thoughts and to Richard for posting them. My aunt has lived in a settlement (Ofra) for 25 years and it hasn’t been easy to know what to do with that. I’ve been there to visit four times and I see how important her community is to her, and how afraid she is of losing her home now. But I don’t see how things can improve if the settlers stay, yet it’s so complicated. I’m glad to be able to see the thoughts of a more open-minded settler, and look forward to some discussion here.