Friday, March 18, 2011

Cracking the Fantasy of Settlements

Claire Berlinski, a journalist and academic, has been touring Israel on an Act for Israel trip, and visited the community of Itamar last Sunday, March 13, just a day after the grizzly murders. She is now one of a growing number of journalists who have begun to understand that residents of Jewish communities beyond the "Green Line" are more than mere strategic chess pieces, and might even be human beings. As with Jennifer Rubin, here we have not someone biased against Israel, but a lifelong supporter of the Jewish State, yet knowing practically nothing about life in the communities of Shomron and Judea, until now. Here's some of what Claire had to say:
One very quick point I'll make is that this was clearly not a family above all of "settlers"--some alien species that exists primarily as a political bargaining point--but of human beings. In the home next door to the one that was invaded, kids' clothing was hanging on the line next to a child's bicycle. You simply cannot look at that and think, "This story is above all about land and politics." This story is above all about murder. They were children and they were murdered. Two more children were orphaned. The children were targeted deliberately. This was a premeditated murder--not a crime of passion or self-defense--and it was a psychotically savage crime. Anyone who in any way tries to rationalize or minimize this or to suggest that this is a fitting punishment for anything needs to go out and look at a three-month-old baby and ask himself what it would take to climb over a fence, climb in a window, and cut off that child's head. If that act seems an "understandable" reaction to a political grievance to him, I don't think we can have much of a conversation. But I don't think it will, on reflection, seem that way to most people.
The settlers, an "alien species"? If only she were joking, but this is the prevalent narrative, first borne in a radical, dehumanizing fringe of Israeli media and now beheld as a battle standard by the global peace industry's legions. For those who haven't been following me that long on the settlement issue, here's something I wrote last September:
Even as Bradley Burston waxes triumphantly about the final whimpers of the settlement "revolution", his colleague Yossi Sarid is running defense to protect the left's sensitive centrist core from infiltration, indeed, conversion, by the winds of reality and sensibility finally penetrating the elitist bubble from the communities. In my discussions with settlers on public relations, I advise only one thing - embellish nothing, just tell the simple reality of your existence. The vilification and dehumanization of Jewish communities in Yesha is so complete - Sarid's piece is entitled, incredulously, "The settlers are human"! - that simply pointing out that these are normal human beings is a shock to the ideological framework the media, particularly the Israeli media, has built around the issue. It turns out the settlers are not all evil, bucktoothed monsters, murdering Arab children for sport and hellbent on dragging Israel into international isolation and opprobrium. Indeed, unlike much of Israel's hyperventilating left, the settlers are effectively working to undo the damage to Israel's international image first wrought by adherents to leftist institutions and ideologies.
Developing an understanding that residents of the communities are human beings won't resolve the issues of Israeli administrative control over lands claimed by Palestinian nationalism, or stop the pangs of violence emanating from its routine expression, punctuated by the savage beheading of a baby in her crib. Doing so, however, will begin a process of reconciling with the knot of the conflict, which is neither as simple, nor as obvious to resolve with any finality and with an eye on justice as it may seem.

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