Readers can begin to break through this news blackout by clicking on this video. What you will see is the ugly reality of the soothingly benign-sounding peace process in Israel: black-clad, mounted Israeli police deliberately trampling settlers under the hooves of their horses and bringing their clubs down on the heads of determined but peaceful protestors — unarmed men and women, young and old — with enough force to open bloody cranial and facial wounds on hundreds of people. This particular video records what happened to the settlers of Amona in 2006, but to fully grasp the reality behind it, you need two additional facts.
First, the Israeli police who carried out these savage attacks on unarmed Jewish civilians are not rogue elements like the American soldiers who abused Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib without the knowledge or consent of their superiors. These men were following orders from the highest levels of Israel’s left-wing “peace” government. Second, the events at Amona were not unique. Israel’s leftist government has had the police attack settlers in other places too. More often, they allow anti-settler vigilante groups, Jewish and Arab, to attack the settlers unmolested. Then, with the aid of the corrupt justice and court system
they dominate, they jail and imprison the settlers, sometimes for long periods. Desperate, now, because polls predict they will lose big in the looming Israeli election on February 10, the current Israeli government may make a major, last-ditch effort against the settlers before it. Odds are, we won’t notice. Our eyes will be focused elsewhere, because the rocketeers of Gaza chose to mount a major escalation before the election too, making it impossible for even a “peace” government like this one to avoid a military response.
Care to move beyond caricature and calumny and take an unblinkered look at who Israeli settlers actually are, and when and why they were transformed from a widely admired little band of brave and selfless patriots into a synonym for evil and a scapegoat for the world? Read on, please. Settlers are Israeli Jews who reject the basic demand of the Palestinians: the demand that large parts of Biblical Israel be Judenrein – cleansed of any Jewish presence for all eternity. Settlers claim a right to buy land and live and work on it, anywhere in the Biblical triangle between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean, and between the Red Sea and the Golan Heights, and they act on that right by building and living in communities in places like Hebron, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and Amona.
They claim, just as fiercely, the right to preserve, defend, and keep open to Jews, Christians, and appropriately respectful others, the physical sites and structures where the founders and key followers of the two great religions of the West lived, worked, and died: places like Abraham’s tomb and Joseph’s, and the Church of the Nativity, built over the place where Jesus was born — places that Palestinian attackers have desecrated and tried to destroy in the years after Oslo. Most settlers are deeply religious people who revere these places as sacred sites, but you don’t have to be a believer to think their obliteration would be an irreparable loss to civilized people of all religions everywhere — any more than you have to be a Buddhist to mourn the destruction of the colossal, 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas by the same kind of Islamist jihadis in Afghanistan in 2001.
Most Americans who sympathize with Palestinians do so because they see them as natives, and see Israelis as newly arrived Westerners. In fact, most Israeli settlers are Mizrahi: Jews who were dispersed to a host of Middle Eastern lands after the Roman conquest of Israel 2,000 years ago, but, unlike the Ashkenazi (the Jews most Americans know), never left the Middle East. They have lived in the region for 5,000 continuous years and have long been the majority in Israel — roughly, 3 to 4 million of Israel’s 5 to 6 million Jews. Tourist brochures to the contrary notwithstanding, relatively few Mizrahi really speak English, but most are still as fluent in Arabic or Persian as they are in Hebrew, and most believe what all Israeli settlers and most American evangelicals believe about Jewish rights in Biblical Israel.
In the post-Oslo peace-seeking world we now inhabit, at least in polite society, we disapprove of all these settlers for the same essential reason we disapprove — albeit with less unanimity and ferocity — of other groups fighting for land in the region: LeT, the Taliban, the PKK, Hamas, and Hezbollah, among others. All these groups look more or less alike to us, because we see them all as obstacles to the illusory kind of peace we are pursuing. From this perspective, the stark differences that set Israeli settlers apart from the other groups are irrelevant distractions, and we ignore or deny them.
Let’s break the rules and look at two of them. First, all the other groups are terrorist groups. Israeli settlers are not a terrorist group. They are not a race of saints, and they definitely believe in self-defense, at least against Arab attackers, but they don’t condone terrorism, practice it, or lionize those who do. The record proves that very clearly. If anything, they have shown remarkable restraint. Those who say otherwise — a virtual industry on the Israeli Left — are guilty of gross bias and grosser cover-ups.