On our right are religious nationalists who insist that God gave it all to us.
On our left are those who claimed that we have sinned since 1967, and must withdraw from some, much, or all of the West Bank beyond the lines of 1967 in order for the Palestinians to accept us in what remains.
Elements in the posture of the left are not all that extreme, until viewed in the context of what Palestinians are saying. Their extremists, and some of those who have reached the top of their government are saying that no Jews must remain in what becomes Palestine; that they cannot agree to abandon the rights of refugees and their descendants; that an agreement will be only a first step in the eventual spread of Palestine from the river to the sea; and that the lack of an agreement will require a return to violence as the key to eventual victory.
If some of what they say reflects what the Palestinian leadership will do, the Israeli left is talking to the wind. No matter what Israel decides--except perhaps to liquidate itself--there will be no agreement.
A consideration of extremism elsewhere could begin with the United States.
Tea Party Republicans and their Libertarian cousins appear to reject most or all of how civilization has learned to benefit from public services, most prominently in the field of health, as well as gun control.
John Kerry''s messianic obsession (to paraphrase a ranking Israeli minister), demanding that Palestinians and Israelis accept what they cannot may qualify for entry into this discussion. It also illustrates how Americans view this place as requiring special attention. For true believers, we are at the center of the world.
Also in the cluster of the extremists are American Jews who write to me seeing solution only in the resettlement of Gaza and the extension of settlements throughout the West Bank. Such people want a certainty, i.e., that Israel--and perhaps all Jews vicariously--will solve its problems, once and for all times.
There is no certainty. Not here. Not anywhere.
A place in this discussion of extremists belongs to a man describing himself as a professional Community Organizer who sent a circular to faculty members of the Hebrew University offering to organize a campaign against anti- Semitism. Among the qualifications he mentioned is experience in campaigns for the Socialist Workers Party, the anti-war movement, welfare rights, animal rights, women''s rights, and anti-colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique.
He claims that anti-Semitism appears at the pinnacle of the United States Government . The following charges are new to me, and deserve the label of spectacular.
" in 1948, America ordered Israeli troops out of the Sinai while the Egyptian army was sitting in Israel proper; . . . in 1967, the USS Liberty was developing a war map for the Arab armies that could have cost thousands of Israeli lives"
The USS Liberty was an American naval vessel attacked by Israeli forces in 1967, causing the deaths of 34 personnel. Israel apologized for mistaking the ship as Egyptian and paid reparations. Yet the issue returns to the headlines occasionally, with claims by angry and unsatisfied Americans that the attack was intentional.
One can never be certain, but it appears that the claim about the Sinai in 1948 and the USS Liberty made by this community organizer joins the category of assertions that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was part of the conspiracy that killed Abraham Lincoln, and that the CIA organized the murder of John F. Kennedy.
This fellow''s claim to be a professional community organizer brings up the meteoric rise of Barack Obama from the same occupation. Shame on me to even think of the comparison, but the President''s postures with respect to Iran, Syria, and Israel-Palestine suggest at least a bit of naive extremism that Americans can solve all problems, with enough effort and pressure.
Some community organizers may be widely read and wise. Barack Obama has certainly acquired an impressive stable of advisers. However, moderation is not a word one thinks in association with community organizers. Rousing the rabble is more in keeping with the Torah according to Saul Alinsky.
One of the problems for the community organizer who turned to the faculty of Hebrew University is that the rabble most associated with the work of community organizers are likely to be anti-Semites.
A historian responded to him, with copies to all of us,
"Is there any particular reason why you send your musings on Anti-Semitism to the members of the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem?Perhaps it would not have been a bad idea altogether to have someone fact-check your opinion peace, which indeed has a lot of opinion and very little facts."
From the activist, we heard back, "If there are facts to be corrected – correct them."
No less spectacular, and at the boundaries or over the boundaries of the credible, is an Israeli blogger who reports a claim from Arab sources that Barack Obama agreed with Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to give 40% of Sinai to Hamas in exchange for $8 billion. Presumably this deal would lead Palestinians to accept the Obama-Kerry package concerned with Israel.
A personal insight into Israeli settlers and Palestinians--
A Palestinian friend who is a political activist told me that he visited the settlement of Beit El and sought to talk with the residents. They responded that he had no place there. It was not altogether clear what they meant. Perhaps he could not buy a home there, was not welcome to speak with them, or that no Arab had any place in the Land of Israel. Given what we know about Beit El, all those are possibilities.
He told me the story to emphasize the problems faced by Arabs among settlers. However, he emerged from Beit El to tell the story, whole in body if not in spirit.
Could I try the same 200 meters from these fingers in the Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, Isaweea?
Arab friends urge me not to risk either my spirit or my body. We know of two near-lynchings of Jews who wandered into Isaweea in recent years, and associate the neighborhood with attacks on women in French Hill, an attempt to fire bomb a synagogue, and graffiti reading "Fuck the Jews." .
Why is it that extremists of the world appear to be concentrated here, either by their physical presence or by their persistent concern to control those of us who live here?
Perhaps some of them have bought into concepts like the Chosen People, Promised Land, Holy Land, Holy City? If so, it sets them apart from Palestinians, who assert that the Jews never had a prominent place here.
What the Palestinian assertion means for the Hebrew Bible is anybody''s guess.
Arab anti-Semitism does not rely on the nasty passages of the New Testament. Christ killing is not an Arab charge. A key text for them is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
And what about Western leftists, who have signed on to the Arab campaign, many of them without making a big deal about us killing Christ or the Protocols?
Perhaps we have discovered another segment of the rabble, many of whom are reasonably well educated, and do not fit the image of ax waving mobs that occasionally plundered, burned, and raped their way through Jewish neighborhoods of Europe and the Muslim Middle East.
Our community organizer may have some work to do, once he can convince a few more of us that he knows what he is talking about.