Friday, February 11, 2005


The Israeli Radical Right

There are two articles in Ha'aretz today that illustrate the danger of the Israeli radical right, a segment that the Israeli government has been loathe to confront to this point. As a result of passively accepting (and sometimes actively supporting) this segment of the population, the Israeli government now has quite a mess on its hands. The first article is about settlers rioting in the southern Gaza strip, overrunning a checkpoint and attempting to drag Palestinian drivers out of their cars.
According to Israel Defense Forces sources, the settlers threw stones at Palestinians and tried to pull Palestinian drivers out of their vehicles in attempts to commandeer them....

IDF soldiers initially allowed the settlers to demonstrate but demanded that they hold their protest in a more secure location along the side of the road.

The settlers ignored the soldiers' directives, burst into the middle of the junction and began attacking Palestinian cars.
The same article goes on to talk about other instances when the IDF has been at odds with settlers, including an incident in which an IDF officer claimed that a settler tried to run him over in a car. This incident was precipitated by settlers setting up illegal outposts against IDF orders.
The paratrooper commander [who claimed that a settler had tried to run him over in a car] and his soldiers were also subject to verbal abuse from the settlers overnight.

"If you aren't good to us, we will kick you out of here like we kicked the [paratrooper] company out of Yitzhar," the settlers called.

In January, the IDF evacuated its post near the Yitzhar settlement, moving the paratrooper company there to a nearby base. The post was evacuated in light of increasing tension between the soldiers and Yitzhar residents.
Yep, that's right: In choosing between evacuating settlers or the IDF, the Israeli government chose the IDF. This is, in essence, the same mode of thinking behind the suggestion that the Gaza disengagement simply be a withdrawal of IDF forces, thus (the thinking being) the settlers will be "forced" to evacuate rather than live without IDF protection. This is foolish beyond words. The same settlers who would not oppose lifting up arms to resist being evacuated by the IDF will not think twice about lifting up arms against the Palestinians (and indeed, probably already are). The idea that the Israeli government can continue to cater to it's most extreme right-wing elements and remain something other than a radical right-wing state is delusional. As the second Ha'aretz article demonstrates, even right-wing government officials opposed to the disengagement plan are not safe from the radical right. Bibi Netanyahu was harassed and his car vandalized near Tel Aviv yesterday.
Netanyahu had to be rushed away from a wedding celebration east of Tel Aviv on Thursday night after a group of disengagement-plan opponents verbally assaulted him and slashed a tire on his car....

The youths involved ... approached the minister as he was leaving the event, and shouted slogans against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.

A group, shouting that "Jewish blood is not cheap," tried to assault Netanyahu.

Upon reaching his car, Netanyahu noticed one of its tires had been slashed and he left the wedding in another vehicle....

This was the second such incident this week. Education Minister Limor Livnat was accosted earlier in the week by Kach supporters at a memorial for Yair Stern, commander of the pre-state underground movement Lehi, and had to be whisked away from the Tel Aviv cemetery by security personnel.
The Israeli government, which has fostered and encouraged the settlement movement to expand and granted them license to operate outside of international law should not be surprised that the settlers and their rabid right-wing supporters should have just as little respect for the law of Israel. After all, they are there by God's will (so they think). For all the talk about Ward Churchill's ridiculous essay, this seems to me to be a much better illustration of chickens coming home to roost. Are we to take seriously the YESHA council's declaration that "Violence and the use of force are not part of our way and we condemn it wholeheartedly"? I don't think so. Bibi and Livnat, who have strongly defended the settlers immunity from the rule of international law, indeed, who have defended Israel as a whole's immunity from international law, now condemn the radical right for not playing by the rules. It's not that any of this justifies violence or illegal activity from the extreme Israeli right. Rather, it seems rather disingenuous to create and nurture a monster and then complain when it turns against you.

Alex, I was just thinking about this stuff this morning. It seems to me there are a couple of things going on here. First, the homesteader mentality -- being the first to really make something of an otherwise desolate land -- that sort of fantasy of responsible usurpation. Like the American West, in a way. Second, the idea that righteousness has primacy over justice. Once a nation state starts writing laws that redefine justice in terms of righteousness, I don't think there's any straightforward way to recover.

Aunt Deb
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