The Forward notes in an article today that the largest U.S. Jewish umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents, refused to support the government’s eviction of extremist settlers from Hebron’s House of Contention. The Conference also tellingly refused to condemn the subsequent settler riots against Palestinians and Israeli police:
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body of 51 Jewish groups, has not issued a statement about the evacuation of settlers and their supporters from a disputed house in the West Bank town December 4 followed by settler violence against Hebron’s Palestinian residents.
Moreover, Daily Alert, the Presidents Conference’s Internet newsletters of Middle East-related published articles, did not refer to the incidents at all during the week after they occurred. Daily Alert is sent via e-mail to tens of thousands of free subscribers and is displayed on Web site of the Presidents Conference.
…Calls seeking comment from the Presidents Conference’s executive vice president, Malcolm Hoenlein, and its chair, Harold Tanner, were not returned.
The Forward does not note that Aipac too has refused to issue any statement, though JTA earlier reported on Aipac’s silence by claiming the group generally doesn’t make public statements about internal Israeli policy (isn’t that a laugh, considering how aggressively interventionist their approach is regarding promoting Israeli interests within a U.S. political context). To my mind, even if this is true, it does not excuse its silence on such an important issue regarding Israeli democracy.
Through the Forward’s goading, the flagship Orthodox organization and ZOA both made “on the one hand-on the other hand” statements which basically cancelled out anything positive that might be gleaned from them:
On the right, the Zionist Organization of America, which had opened a symbolic office in the Hebron building to show support for the settlers, remained silent for a week before issuing a long statement December 10. The ZOA expressed regret that the Israeli authorities, especially Defense Minister and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, decided to forcibly expel the militants. The group, however, stressed that it did not condone the ensuing violence.
Though the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America did not issue a statement, it aired similar views. In an e-mail to the Forward, the union’s public policy director, Nathan Diament, stated that despite its feeling that the evacuation was unwarranted, and its objection to Olmert’s use of the word “pogrom,” the O.U. leadership “does not believe this justifies Israelis attacking IDF soldiers, and it certainly does not justify acts of harassment or violence against Palestinians.”
The article quotes a non-plussed Eric Yoffie wondering why the Conference doesn’t get up off its tush and say something since so many of its constituent groups have denounced the violence. To this I respond, why don’t the Reform movement and other liberal groups quit the group? If you wait for the Conference to reform itself so it truly represents American Jewry you’ll be waiting for the Messiah. And even then, Malcolm Hoenlein would find some reason to delay.
As I read The Forward’s overall coverage of the Hebron affair (with multiple stories covering seemingly every aspect of the incident) I was filled with admiration. Larry Cohler-Esses recently became the assistant managing editor and while it’s very possible the coverage might’ve been similar without him there–I believe his presence really “took it up a notch.” It went from very good previously to superb now.
One especially good story detailed the ideological leaders of the extremist settlers, focussing on Daniella Weiss. This statement from her was chilling:
“They [the settler rioters] are not afraid of prison, they are not afraid of trials, they just express loyalty to the land,” she told the Forward.
This perfectly reflects the political pathology of the extremist settlers. The state is something to be reviled. Laws are meaningless. All that matters is the mystical concept of “the land.” This is the irredeemable contradiction between such mystical theocratic mumbo-jumbo and the State of Israel as we know it. There can never be any commonality between the two. All that is possible is war.
The article goes on to quote another of the movement’s leading “thinkers,” Rabbi Dov Wolpe:
As far as Wolpe is concerned, the government comprises those who “sit here and represent the terrorists.” President Shimon Peres “is representing the position of the terrorists,” he said.
The third settler leader profiled, Baruch Marzel, explains the new “price tag” policy thus:
A government official who orders a settler evacuation, he said, “commits a crime against your people [and] they have to pay a price, and [with] a heavy price they will think twice about committing the crime.”
How is it possible to govern a country with such an attitude? Any action by said government that violates Marzel’s “conscience” becomes not just politically objectionable, but a crime.
Interestingly, Marzel twists the aspiration of liberal western democracy for tolerance and against racism into a concept that is useful to him:
Marzel argues it is the government that is racist for hampering Jewish settlement. The Hebron evacuation, he told the Forward, was “pure racism. It is…part of the move by the liberal leftist people of Israel against those loyal to the land.”
Much like the KKK, Marzel deliberately seeks to create racist provocation within Israel. Here he comments on why he will march with his followers in an Israeli Arab village:
“We have a cancer in our body capable of destroying the State of Israel: people who support terrorism, Hamas, the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], and these people are in the heart of Israel, a force capable of destroying Israel from the inside. I am going [in order] to tell these people — the Land of Israel is ours.”
If Olmert, Barak or Livni think these people can be dealt with or finessed or ignored, they are sadly mistaken. There will, at some point, have to be a showdown. The State must supersede them and impose itself on them or there will be disaster.
And let them call it by whatever names they wish. Those who reject Israeli democracy must never be allowed to realize the Jewish ayatollah-riddled state with which they would replace it.