Friday, June 26, 2009

Americans' Contributions to the West Bank settlements

The WaPo publishes an excellent piece this morning by activist film-maker Ronit Avni on a topic that every American ought to know more about: the huge financial and physical contributions that American Jews and evangelical Christians have made to the Zionist settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. As has been so often the case in the US, people allow their commitment to a literalist interpretation of the Hebrew Bible to overcome any commitment to international law, the search for peace in the Middle East, and (for that matter) support of US interests. In essence, they have become useful idiots for the Menachem Begins, Ariel Sharons, Benjamin Netanyahus, and Avigdor Liebermans of the world - none of them religious men, but all of them more than willing to use the zealotry of others to advance their own political agenda: Israel's domination of the Middle East, and keeping themselves in power.

They also enable the thugs and hooligans (again, many of them Jewish immigrants from the US, as Avi notes) who have been preying regularly on West Bank Palestinians guilty of doing nothing more than simply trying to exist, undisturbed, peacefully, in the towns and villages where their families have lived, in many instances, for centuries - far longer than the settlers (including current foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from Romania who lives in a West Bank settlement and would like nothing more than to see all the Arabs evicted from "Judea and Samaria." In a recent essay, Ira Chernus provides a snapshot of the settler-inflicted violence:

"Palestinian civilians bear brunt of settler violence," Agence France-Presse recently reported: "Nestled amid rolling hills and with an eagle eye's view to the Mediterranean coast, Nahla Ahmed's house has all the elements of Eden... if it weren't for the Molotov cocktail-throwing neighbours. 'We put bars on the windows after the first attack, three years ago,' says the 36-year-old mother of four. 'Now they come each week.'"

The attacks aren't always with Molotov cocktails; sometimes Jewish settlers throw tear gas canisters, simply spray a Star of David on a wall, or cut down trees owned by Palestinians. In other incidents, settlers have shot and killed a 16-year-old boy, fractured the skull of a 7-year-old girl with a rock, set a dog on a 12-year-old boy, and shot dead an Arab man but let his companion go when he identified himself as Jewish. These are not egregious, isolated cases of mayhem; they're just a few random examples of what's happening all too often on the West Bank. To see how depressingly common such violence is, just Google "West Bank settler violence" for yourself.

It's easy enough to see what the violence looks like too, since a lot of it has been captured on video. And this is just violence against people. The violence against property is far too common to begin to catalog.

Last December, Jewish settlers in Hebron went on a rampage, shooting at Palestinians, setting fire to homes, cars, and olive groves, defacing mosques and graves. Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister at the time, said he was "ashamed" of this "pogrom."

Yet few such settler crimes are seriously prosecuted by the Israeli authorities. The Israeli rights group Yesh Din has documented this in an extensive report, which, the group carefully notes, is merely one more in a long line of similar reports:

"Since the 1980's many reports have been published on law enforcement upon Israelis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. All of the reports... warned against the failure of the authorities to enforce the law effectively upon Israelis... who committed offenses against Palestinian civilians... Yet the problem of attacks against Palestinian people and property by Israelis has only grown worse, becoming a daily occurrence."
(Also just reported: An East European Jewish immigrant chased down and knifed to death a young Arab, evidently just for being an Ara.)

This is the kind of nonsense that so many American Christians, professing themselves to be followers of the "Prince of Peace," are fostering with their financial contributions and their in-church lovefests for Israel. (If you have any doubts, just click through the Christian cable-TV channels some evening.) These same people flock to the US congressmen who cite their allegiance to the "Holy Bible" and to Israel one of the chief reasons why they deserve to be re-elected each year. Among them is the senator from Oklahoma - James Inhofe - who once defended Israeli policy on the floor of the US Senate by citing "God's word" as set down in the Bible.

Useful idiots, indeed - the kind of idiots that Israeli leaders from Menachem Begin to the present have sought out and appealed to whenever they've alighted on our shores and tarmacs.

At least the G8 - and the Mideast Quartet - have come out against any further settlement building in the West Bank. But what chance do they have against the followers of the "Prince of Peace"?

1 comment:

YMedad said...

There's an op-ed on the subject of "settlements" and their "illegality" in the LA Times


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