Well, it only took the N.Y. TImes a whole week to acknowledge that settler assassins attempted to murder one of Israel’s most distinguished academic figures and winner of this year’s Israel Prize. Better late than never. But even in covering the story the reporter seems to minimize its significance:
…[It] created only a minor stir in a nation that routinely experiences violence on a much larger scale.
Another example of the sterling editorial choices made by the Times new correspondent, Ethan Bronner. What could’ve induced Bronner to cover the bombing in a more timely fashion? Should Zeev Sternhell have been killed to warrant coverage? Another serious deficiency in the story was no background on Sternhell’s politics and why he would be a target for the crazies.
After getting that off my chest, let me add that Isabel Kershner, who wrote the story, actually penned a very telling and chilling piece about the rise of a new, even more violent and ideologically extreme settler youth movement in the Territories. Those of us who go back far enough always thought the Yesha Council and the racist leaders it spawned were the devils of Israeli politics. Who’d have thought that it could be worse? That the next generation could be even more homicidal?
…The bombing may be the latest sign that elements of Israel’s settler movement are resorting to extremist tactics to protect their homes in the occupied West Bank against not only Palestinians, but also Jews who some settlers argue are betraying them. Radical settlers say they are determined to show that their settlements and outposts cannot be dismantled, either by law or by force.
Now…the militants seem to have spawned a broader, more defined strategy of resistance designed to intimidate the state.
This aggressive doctrine, according to Akiva HaCohen, 24, who is considered to be one of its architects, calls on settlers and their supporters to respond “whenever, wherever and however” they wish to any attempt by the Israeli Army or the police to lay a finger on property in illegally built outposts scheduled by the government for removal. In settler circles the policy is called “price tag” or “mutual concern.”
Besides exacting a price for army and police actions, the policy also encourages settlers to avenge Palestinian acts of violence by taking the law into their own hands — an approach that has the potential to set the tinderbox of the West Bank ablaze.
Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting spontaneously, throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank, a territory that Israel has occupied since 1967.
…In Jewish settlements like Yitzhar, an extremist bastion on the hilltops commanding the Palestinian city of Nablus…a local war is already being waged. One Saturday in mid-September…scores of men from Yitzhar rampaged through the Palestinian village, hurling rocks and firing guns, in what the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, described as a “pogrom.” Several Palestinians were hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
“To us, deterrence is more important than catching the specific terrorist. We’re fighting against a nation,” Mr. Ben Shochat said.
…Those on the extremist fringe — like Mr. Ben Shochat, who belong to the so-called hilltop youth — are increasingly rejecting any allegiance to the state…
I was quite shocked by a N.Y. Times reporter actually using the settler name for part of the West Bank:
In Samaria, the biblical name for the northern West Bank…
Someone ought to tell Kershner that there is a political-rhetorical war going on in Israel and that she has just played, inadvertently one hopes, into the settler’s hands by adopting their name for this territory known to the vast majority of the rest of Israel and the world as the West Bank.
In the following passage the hilltop youth leader illustrates the anti-democratic, seditious nature of his enterprise:
“Amona [another forced settlement withdrawal] pretty much divided this public into two parts, the more militant activist part and the more passive part,” said Mr. HaCohen, an Orthodox hilltop youth pioneer and a founder of Shalhevet Ya. The people, he said, “have to decide whether they are on the side of the Torah or the state.”
When will the Israeli political and intelligence apparatus recognize this movement as an imminent danger not just to Israeli democracy, but to the state itself. What would any other state do with citizens who seek to overthrow it by violent means? And why isn’t Israel doing this? Will we have to see a successful assassination of Zeev Sternhell before real, vigorous action is taken?
The problem is that the state is schizophrenic when it comes to this movement. It views it with some nostalgia since at one time the settlements were viewed favorably by many Israelis. The government is wracked by indecisiveness in the face of the enormity of the challenge presented by the Jewish terrorists. To truly eradicate them would require not just a legal and police campaign–it would also require a real resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.
The following passage illustrates yet again that this movement rejects the forms and authority of the Israeli state:
“To go out and assault soldiers is wrong,” said David Ha’ivri, who handles foreign relations for the Samaria council. But, he said, “It is to be expected that when force is used, there will be counterforce.”
When parsing settler statements you have to cut through the polite chatter to get to the meat of the matter. Above, Ha-Ivri is not saying that assaulting soldiers is wrong. He is saying that it is entirely justified when soldiers attempt to impose the state’s will on them. That, once again, is sedition.
The state’s inadequacy in the face of such at threat is perfectly exemplified in this passage:
The army refused to comment on the effects of the price-tag doctrine, saying it was too sensitive.
When faced with the opportunity to tell the readers of the N.Y. Times what it thought of the hilltop youth and their violent extremism, the IDF punted. How telling. It reminds me of Yeats phrase: “The center cannot hold.” The settlers are the rough beast slouching toward Bethlehem (or Hebron) to be born. The beast must be slain, but there is simply not enough resolve or conviction among those in government or the military to do so.
Sometimes, one wants to throw up one’s hands and say that if Israelis cannot take their own fate into their own hands and make the bold decisions and compromises necessary to ensure their survival, then perhaps they deserve whatever fate holds in store for them. I fear that their fate, barring the type of decisiveness I’ve called for, will not be pretty.
As a child of Rockland County, N.Y., I find it highly ironic that hilltop youth “chief ideologist” HaCohen was born and raised in Monsey, a few minutes away from the town in which I grew up. To think that while I was growing up such hate was spawning only a few miles away…