Analysis: Clashes are turning point

Never before have there been manifestations of such hatred.

amona girls, violent res (photo credit: AP)
amona girls, violent res
(photo credit: AP)
Settler violence at Amona marks a radical turning point in the relations between religious Zionist settlers and the centrist politicians at the helm of the government. Never before have confrontations between security forces and settlers spiraled out of control so completely. Never before have there been manifestations of such hatred. What went wrong? According to Rabbi Ezriel Ariel, rabbi of Ateret and editor of the rabbinic quarterly Tzohar, the escalation of violence at Amona was a result first and foremost of the psychological transformation settler youth have undergone since disengagement from Gush Katif.
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"These youths' attitude is, 'Never again will we be led like sheep to slaughter as we were led in Gush Katif.' "They have reached the realization that the slogan 'love will overcome' is bankrupt. So they have decided to turn to violence." Eitan Mor-Yosef, secretary-general of Bnei Akiva, who was present at Amona during the violence, says that relations between settler youth and the state have reached an all-time low. "There is a limit to how much degradation these kids can take," said Mor-Yosef. "They refuse to turn the other cheek. They won't give up without a fight." Rabbis and educators who spoke to The Jerusalem Post described a general deterioration of faith in state institutions: The Supreme Court is seen as biased and discriminates against settlers, the IDF is a body that endorses anti-religious coercion by forcing men to serve with women, and the media is an instrument for the deligitimation of settlers. Settlers see themselves as a persecuted minority, as if they have been singled out first by the Sharon government, and now by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to be ostracized, degraded and deligitimized. "The most idealistic group of people in Israel are being treated like common criminals," said Ariel Cohen, secretary of Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El. "Those people in Amona are not drug dealers, murderers or thieves. Their only crime is a desire stronger than the government's to build the Land of Israel." Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel, Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, blamed Olmert for singling out the settlers of Amona "at a time when tens of thousands of building infractions are perpetrated by Arabs". At the same time, religious Zionists have a deep commitment to the Jewish state. They excel in IDF combat units, volunteer in disproportionate percentages, settle the land of Israel, are faithful taxpayers and are strongly patriotic. The feeling among settlers that their contributions to the state are not appreciated causes resentment. "Fallen religious Zionist soldiers fill the cemeteries of Israel," said Ariel. "But that does not prevent the government from treating us like criminals." The source of religious Zionism‚ patriotism and willingness to volunteer is the religious belief that the state has an inherent holiness. The state is revered as a vehicle for the bringing of spiritual redemption and facilitating the commandment to settle the land of Israel. However, it is this same religious belief that justifies the violation of laws that contradict Jewish law, such as the order to evacuate Amona. When politicians use the state and its institutions, such as the IDF and the police, to uproot Jewish settlements, they corrupt the holiness of the state, according to Ariel. "The state draws its powers from the Torah," says Ariel. "There are limits to democracy. Sometimes the majority makes immoral decisions, just like in Weimar Germany." None of the rabbis who spoke to The Jerusalem Post were optimistic about the future. Violence at Amona is evidence that alienation and anger among settler youth have reached an apex. Memories of Amona will hasten the growing rift between settler youth and centrist politicians running the government.