Rattling the Cage: Militias in the mirror

Whoever's in power in Jerusalem or Washington, the occupation keeps getting stronger.

October 1, 2008 23:14
larry derfner 88

larry derfner 88. (photo credit: )

As I write this, Sunday morning, a teenage Palestinian shepherd has been found shot to death near Nablus, which is surrounded by more Baruch Goldstein wannabes than anyplace else in the country except for maybe Hebron. Some Palestinian witnesses say they saw a white car with settlers in it chasing the shepherd. Recently I interviewed a Palestinian shepherd near Nablus who said the settlers in the area harass him all the time, killing his sheep. He complains to the police, the police do nothing. I'm sure they'll do nothing this time, too. Another unsolved murder of a Palestinian in Israel's "heartland." "Nationalistic motives" - Jewish "nationalistic motives" - are suspected. What's new? (Note: After this column went to press, police announced that forensics tests showed the shepherd had been killed not by gunshots, but by shrapnel when a shell he picked up exploded) On Friday there was a story in Yediot Aharonot about an IDF reserve unit that had just gotten back from a month of guarding Yad Yair, one of the illegal outposts near Yitzhar, the jewel in the crown of the Kach-minded settlements near Nablus. Yad Yair is officially slated for evacuation, and after the reservists dared accompany a Civil Administration official there on a visit, the soldiers were repeatedly set upon by mobs of hooded "hilltop youth." One soldier had his hand broken, another was bitten by an attack dog. They were beaten, chased, had their tires slashed, their water line cut, their guard post blockaded. This, too, is nothing new. The "Wild West Bank" is an old, old cliche. People think the settlers, especially the young generation, have snapped since the disengagement three years ago, but they were more violent and dangerous in the early 1980s, when the Jewish Terror Underground went on a killing spree and plotted to blow up the Temple Mount. They were more dangerous after the signing of the Oslo Accord, which started the clock running down on Rabin's assassination. The bomb that just wounded leftist Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell, and the NIS 1.1 million reward for the murder of a Peace Now leader - whatever you want to call it, don't call it new. Right-wing extremists have been killing, trying to kill and threatening to kill leftists in this country for 30 years - longer, actually, but 30 years in earnest. Thirty years in loosely organized fashion by the fanatical, lawless, violent wing of the settler movement. (Yigal Amir was not a settler, but he was most definitely part of the settler movement.) HOW MANY millions of words have been spoken and written against the Jewish militias of the West Bank? How many pledges have been made by politicians and law enforcement officials to crack down on them once and for all? How many times has an Israeli prime minister promised the Bush administration to remove the illegal outposts - the cutting edge of the movement - only to watch them keep growing in number, area and population? In the face of this, though, people all over Israel and the rest of the world keep on thinking and talking about the chance of peace, of dividing the West Bank between the Palestinians and Israel. Do you think Livni can do it? What effect do you think Obama will have, or McCain? I know that hope is a basic human need; I need it as much as anybody. But there comes a time when you can't fool yourself anymore, when you can't lie to yourself anymore, because reality has been going in the opposite direction for so long that you can no longer will yourself to believe. The time to stop lying to ourselves, I'm afraid, is way overdue for everyone here and in rest of the world who hopes for an end one day to Israeli rule over the Palestinians. It's not going to happen. It would require kicking 50,000 to 100,000 of Israel's fiercest Jews out of their homes, which they built in some of the holiest places in the land; what government, what army, what police force is going to do that? Look at what's going on in the West Bank; is such a thing even conceivable? Everyone talks about a Palestinian state, but in the real world of actions, not words, the land available for it keeps on shrinking. Everyone else talks; the settlers act. This, of course, is nothing new, either; the cliché "facts on the ground" was coined during the Begin era. Sharon's disengagement was the exception, the exception that proves the rule - and he removed only about 9,000 settlers, and relatively moderate ones, and from the Gaza Strip, not Judea and Samaria, and there ain't nobody like Sharon around anymore. After 41 years of Israeli colonization of the West Bank and military rule over the Palestinians, it's a little ridiculous to go on speaking of the occupation as if it's a temporary thing that hasn't been decided yet, that this is the way things are for the time being, until they change. The only thing that's going to change in the West Bank, the only thing that has changed during all the peace processes, especially in the Oslo years, is that there are going to be more settlers living there. Whoever's in power in Jerusalem or Washington, the occupation keeps getting stronger. And this has zero to do with Israeli security. If all the Palestinians suddenly became mentally and physically incapable of lifting a finger against another human being, the settlers would still want more West Bank land. And they would get it - because who has ever stopped them? SO LET'S stop pretending, let's stop lying to ourselves because we don't want to face what Israel has become - not what it's in danger of becoming, what it's become. What it is. Israel is the democratic world's last colonial power - the only democratic country that still rules an alien population by force of arms. Judea and Samaria are not occupied territories, they are part of Israel. Yitzhar is an Israeli town - and Nablus is an Israeli city, as is Ramallah, Jenin and all the others. The 250,000 West Bank settlers live in Israel - and so do the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians. Israel is a country in which 7 million people live as citizens of a democracy, and 2.5 million people live as colonial subjects under military rule. This places a very large, black asterisk after Israel's democracy. As the Palestinian population keeps growing, the asterisk will get bigger. We didn't have to become such a country. From the day after the Six Day War, Israel could have withdrawn from the West Bank and defended itself militarily. If what it wanted was security, it didn't have to build a single settlement. We built the settlements because we wanted the land. Nobody forced us to become the Palestinians' ruler; we chose it because we wanted the land. That's who we are, that's who our children will be, and so on and so forth. There's no occupation; there's only Israel. Yesha is here. Have the guts to look at what's going on around Nablus, in Yitzhar and elsewhere. Yitzhar is us, and Nablus is, too. Get used to it.

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