Thursday, August 11, 2005


David Brooks chimes in today with, wouldn't you know it, a column full of folksy wisdomy culturey trendy stuff. It's about globalization or segmentization or some damn thing that popped into his head over Wheaties, go read it if you want, but this jumped out at me:
Meanwhile, if you look around the world you see how often events are driven by groups that reject the globalized culture. Islamic extremists reject the modern cultures of Europe, and have created a hyperaggressive fantasy version of traditional Islamic purity. In a much different and less violent way, some American Jews have moved to Hebron and become hyper-Zionists.

Actually, the hyperaggressive fantasy version of traditional purity that militant Islamists have created is very much like that of religious Jewish settlers, in that both of them are fundamentalist, exclusivist, supremacist reactions to what they perceive as a corrupting modernity. Many of the condemnations levelled by orthodox Jews against their more modern co-religionists sound exactly like those of Islamists against liberal Muslims.

As for the "less violent" part, I suppose hyper-Zionist settlers are less violent in that they don't focus their violence on The West, and are instead content to focus their violence on their Palestinian neighbors. It's almost humorous that poor Brooksie chose Hebron, of all places, for his example. Hebron is where some 400 Jewish settlers live amidst 30,000 Palestinians, requiring a constant Israeli army presence (approximately 2000 IDF troops, or about 4 soldiers for every 1 settler). Hebron settlers are known to be the most militant, violent, and openly racist of any of the Jewish settler groups, regularly invading and vandalizing the homes and crops of Palestinians, usually under the averted gaze of those Israeli troops who are there ostensibly to "protect" Palestinians.

Hebron is where, in 1994, Baruch Goldstein (an American Jew who moved to Hebron and became a hyper-Zionist) walked into a mosque and gunned down 29 Muslims at prayer. He is celebrated by religious settlers as a martyr-hero, and his grave is an orthodox shrine, maintained and visited regularly by many other American-born hyper-Zionists who hold celebrations there.

I bring this up because Brooks' comment is indicative of the deep American ignorance of the realities and effects of the Israeli occupation and the ongoing settlement activity which it facilitates. Settler violence against Palestinians is a regular occurrence, though American media for some reason don't deem this as newsworthy as they do suicide bombings. Perhaps that's understandable, perhaps not, but the actions and ideology of the Hebron settlers are by no means unique, only the most openly eliminationist. Most other religious settlers are more willing to allow the IDF to commit violence against Palestinians on their behalf.

There is also the fact that, aside from the specific and frequent acts of violence committed by settlers, the occupation itself represents a very tangible form of daily violence against Palestinians, who are denied freedom of movement to and from their farmland, places of work, or to visit family by a network of military checkpoints, and are regularly physically and verbally harassed by the Israeli troops manning those checkpoints. The damaging effect of this upon the spirit of a people over the course of almost four decades is hard to quantify, but make no mistake: it is a form of warfare, one that Israel is and has been waging upon the Palestinians. It's certainly not my intention to defend or justify violence against civilians, by any side, only to argue that Palestinian violence must be understood in this context.

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