Israeli settlers have a unique status in the world — a special infamy. It’s not just that governments everywhere condemn them; it’s that mainstream media throughout the world join in. That’s reality today, not just in Muslim lands and Islamist-embracing European Union states, but here in America, too. Compare our media’s treatment of Israeli settlers with that accorded Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamist group that held Bombay hostage in November.
LeT is not an easy group to defend. In their recruiting pitch, they don’t just promise to kill Hindus and take back Kashmir; they promise to restore Muslim supremacy to the world by conquering America and Britain and wiping out Israel. That’s why they took special pains to kill every American they could identify in Bombay hotels, and why they made an extra stop at a tiny Bombay home-away-from-home for visiting Jews, to torture and kill everyone caught there. Still, even while the slaughter was fresh, PBS star Deepak Chopra got mainstream media microphones to urge us to consider the legitimacy of at least some LeT grievances against India and against us, and to think about winning potential Islamist recruits to our side by making some concessions to them, for the sake of peace and justice.
No comparable urgings have been heard about the possible legitimacy of any settler grievances in our mainstream media for 15 years; no one argues for any concessions to them in the interest of peace, justice, or anything else — not any more. The celebrated 1993 Oslo peace process with the Palestinians brought no peace, but it did give Israeli settlers a new public identity. Under Menachem Begin — the right-wing Israeli prime minister who made a peace with Egypt that has minimized violence on that front for 30 years — settlers were national heroes, Israel’s bravest and best. Under Prime Minister Rabin and his left-wing successors — the men who brought us a 15-year peace process marked by 15 years of increasing Arab violence — Israeli settlers were re-branded as “obstacles to peace,” and the process of demonizing them began.
Here in America, we were all but unanimous in embracing Oslo. A decade and a half later, our mainstream politicians and foreign-policy mavens still are — although today they call it the Annapolis process, in honor of the latest failed Oslo-style peace process. They are just as consistent and unanimous in dismissing the settlers as so far beyond the pale that no respectable person would think about arguing their case in public. Many go farther, insisting that defeating Israeli settlers is not just an obvious necessity for peace, but a righteous cause in itself. In their increasingly heated rhetoric, Israeli settlers are a senselessly violent bunch of “extremists” and “thugs” we must all join together to crush.
Over time, many Americans on both the Right and the Left have come to more or less accept this view of Israeli settlers, and American Jews are even more committed to it than American Christians. Some 40 percent of America’s Christians are Bible-believing Evangelicals, and most of them strongly support the settlers, for secular as well as religious reasons, even though they never get to express that support in mainstream media outlets. The proportion of American Jews who support the settlers is much smaller: perhaps 15 to 20 percent, and they don’t get a mainstream microphone either.
That suits our Israeli peace partners — Israel’s deeply corrupt, incompetent, and anti-democratic leftist elite — because they hate the settlers with a passion few Americans can grasp, let alone match. For this entrenched elite, settlers are the arch-enemy — a greater threat than Palestinian terrorists and their increasingly aggressive Arab and Persian jihadi brothers in places like Lebanon, where this elite presided over Israel’s first lost war; and in exploding Gaza, where the settlers that this elite forced out have been replaced by a Hamas army that keeps a growing number of Israeli cities under rocket attack. Against all these hyperactive Islamist enemies, Israel’s far-left rulers have been extremely reluctant warriors, preferring almost any concession to battle, typically refusing to make even the barest attempt to enforce the law against ongoing Arab land-grabs, and turning an increasingly blind eye to growing Arab violence against Jews.
With Israeli settlers, Israel’s current leftist rulers go to the opposite extreme, routinely taking a hyperaggressive, hyperpunitive stance, then responding to nonviolent settler protests with the kind of brutality that would outrage most Americans if the victims were members of any other group anywhere. But, because our mainstream media is closed to the voices of the settlers and their Israeli friends, as well as those of the American Christians, Jews, and (yes) Muslims who still defend them, most Americans have heard a host of wild exaggerations and outright lies about settler violence, and nothing at all about government violence against them.