Tuesday, June 15, 2004

 

a Zionist's loving heart

I've been meaning to write on Jeffrey Goldberg's New Yorker article Among the Settlers for several weeks now, and finally, given two op-eds regarding the Goldberg article that I've come across in the past two days, I now have the impetus to do so. Let me first say that Goldberg's article was at the same time satisfying and unsatisfying to read. It really exposed the mania and extremism of some of the Israeli settlers in a way that I have never seen in a widely read mainstream publication like The New Yorker. On the other hand, it also manages to maintain an undeniable pro-Israel bias. Even in an article about the settlers, much time is spent profiling Hamas leaders, blaming Yasser Arafat for the end of the peace process, and criticizing Palestinian society as a culture which breeds terrorists. This must be what Richard Cohen means when he writes in his Washington Post op-ed today, "Goldberg has written a good article about some ugly facts -- and done so with a reporter's keen eye, but also with a Zionist's loving heart." Cohen, at least, openly states his pro-Israel position. "But the issue for me is not what is good for the Palestinians -- I wish them a state of their own and also all the happiness in the world -- but what is good for Israel," Cohen writes, and then goes on to play down the extremism that Goldberg was honest enough to expose in his article. Of the settlers, Cohen writes:
Some of what the Jewish settlers told Goldberg is disturbing. Many of them have a contemptuous, virtually racist, view of their Arab neighbors. They are wedded to the literal word of the Bible while much of Judaism is not, and while they by no means share the Islamic radicals' yen for martyrdom -- and they do not approve of the killing of innocents -- they are quite willing to die for their beliefs. Okay.
First of all, many of them do not have a virtually racist view of their Arab neighbors. There is nothing virtual about it. They have racist views. Second of all, some of them definitely approve of the killing of innocents (not innocents in their world view, where standing in the way of Jewish reclamation of Biblical lands precludes the Palestinians from innocence, but innocents in the rest of the world's eyes). Allow me to quote some passages from Goldberg's article that Cohen maybe skimmed over.
Across from Hadassah House is a school for Arab girls, called Córdoba, after the once-Muslim Spanish city. On one of its doors someone had drawn a blue Star of David. On another door a yellowing bumper sticker read, “Dr. Goldstein Cures the Ills of Israel.” The reference is to Baruch Goldstein, a physician from Brooklyn, who, in 1994, killed twenty-nine Muslims when they were praying in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, just down the road. Across the closed door of a Palestinian shop someone had written, in English, “Arabs Are Sand Niggers.”
...
The Cohen house is cramped and dark, and there are few toys. On one wall hangs a framed photograph of Meir Kahane, the zealot rabbi from Brooklyn, who advocated the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel. Behind a stone pillar hangs a photograph of Baruch Goldstein, with the inscription “The Saint Dr. Goldstein.”
...
I told him [Rabbi Moshe Levinger] that the police seemed uneasy about his presence in the tomb, and I asked whether they were worried that he would lash out at the Palestinians.

“The Arabs know to behave like good boys around us,” he said.
...
In 1988, Levinger killed a Palestinian shoe-store owner in Hebron. Levinger told the police that he was defending himself from a group of stone throwers. He served thirteen weeks in an Israeli jail for the killing. He told me once, “I’m not happy when any living creature dies—an Arab, a fly, a donkey.”
...
Moshe Feiglin, a Likud activist who lives in a West Bank settlement and heads the Jewish Leadership bloc within the Party—he controls nearly a hundred and fifty of the Likud central committee’s three thousand members—believes that the Bible, interpreted literally, should form the basis of Israel’s legal system. “Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state?” Feiglin said to me. “For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not destroy them.” In any case, Feiglin said, “You can’t teach a monkey to speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic. You’re dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers. Muhammad, their prophet, was a robber and a killer and a liar. The Arab destroys everything he touches.”
...
I asked who was destroying the olive trees. The destruction of fruit-giving trees, even those belonging to an enemy, is considered a grave sin in Judaism. But the only subject that concerned [Yehuda] Liebman was Joseph’s Tomb.

“What is an olive tree compared to the burial place of Joseph, the son of Jacob?” he said.

To the farmer who supports his family with the tree, I said, the tree is important.

“But the farmer is an Arab,” Liebman replied. “He shouldn’t be here at all. All this land is Jewish land. It is meant for the Jews by God Himself.”
...
As we drove, [Moshe] Saperstein pointed to the spot on the road where the attack had taken place. “Here’s where I tried to run over the peace-loving Muslim,” he said. Sometimes, he told me, he gets the feeling that “Ahmed is trying to kill me.” Saperstein refers to Arabs generically as “Ahmed.”

Just before we reached the fortified entrance to the Gush Katif bloc, we passed the ramshackle Bedouin village of Muwassi. “They like to live like pigs in shit,” Saperstein said. I disagreed, vehemently, and he said, “I’m sorry, that’s politically incorrect. ‘They have a different cultural aesthetic.’ Is that what I’m supposed to say?”
Virtually racist? Virtually? Are you kidding me? And not approving of the killing of innocents? Only the veneration of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 praying Muslims. Fortunately, Goldberg is a much better journalist than Cohen. Still, that doesn't mean that I find his arguments all that persuasive. Despite his concern over the settlements, Goldberg fundamentally blames the Palestinians for their own situation, holds Arafat responsible for the lack of peace, and derides the efforts of the pro-peace Israeli left. Some parts of these arguments are deconstructed effectively by Zachary Wales in an op-ed on electronicintifada.net. Wales writes:
But the critical failures of Goldberg’s work stem from two areas: His attempts to legitimize Zionism, an ethnically exclusive colonial project, as a liberal idea; and his omission of the Palestinian right of return, which, according to the vast majority of Palestinians, is the reason there is no peace.
Wales points to the expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians during the 1948 war, and to documented massacres of Palestinian villagers. "Unless population transfer and genocide are the building blocks of liberal society," Wales writes, "Goldberg’s historical premise for sanctifying Zionism is existential at best." A bit dramatic, but the point remains. He goes on:
This rhetorical blunder could not stand on its own without the help of selective fact-checking. Throughout the piece, Goldberg frequently refers to Israel as a Jewish democracy, and states that “Arabs and Jews living inside Israel’s borders are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms.” Goldberg’s careful semantics may be accurate, but his case for liberal democracy is promiscuous.
Wales goes on to enumerate the many discriminatory measures taken against Arabs within Israel, eloquently concluding, "By eliminating the legitimate and empirical arguments against Zionism, Goldberg leaves his readers with few moral conclusions." Indeed, despite inserting himself in the role of defender of the Palestinians against the Jewish zealots of the settlements, a closer reading of Goldberg's article shows evidence of a certain lack of sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians. Before quoting Michael Tarazi's assertion that the settlements highlight the apartheid nature of Israel's occupation, Goldberg writes, "The most farsighted among the Palestinians now understand that settlements are good for their cause." A useful example of discriminatory policy and disregard for international law? Yes. "Good for their cause"? Maybe not "good" in so simple a way as that, seeing as how they directly, and negatively, impact the ability of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to go about their daily lives.
Near the end of the piece, Goldberg interviews Menachem Froman, a rabbi who lives in Tekoa, one of the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Froman believes that the West Bank should become Palestine, and that he would gladly become a Palestinian citizen if it did. He says: "I’m a realist. I accept reality. I’m not talking about utopia. I accept what I see. There is a Tekoa and a Tuqua." And Goldberg’s editorialized rebuttal: “Froman is naïve to believe that the Palestinians would accept [him].”
In doing so Goldberg not only damns the pro-peace Israeli left as "naive", but also the entire Palestinian population as intolerant Jew-haters (reinforced by his interviews with Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi of Hamas). Nowhere in the article does Goldberg give a Palestinian peacenik even the short shrift he gives Menachem Froman. For me, even as the article succeeds in exposing the settlements for what they are (a menace II society, whether Israeli or Palestinian), it fails in forcing the settlement issue into Goldberg's rigid framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(My apologies for such a long post, I hope a few people made it all the way through.)

Comments:
Hi,

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God Bless You.

Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family


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