Gentle and Loving but Still a Settler

By Jeremy Salt


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Last week a car drew up alongside Dvir Sorek outside the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz. Dvir was on his back from Jerusalem where he had bought a book, a novel by David Grossman, as a gift for his teacher. He was almost home when a man jumped out of the car and stabbed him to death.

David Grossman did not know him but did not hesitate to add to the eulogies: the young man was clearly “a kind, sensitive youth who loved others and loved peace with the soul of an artist.” Netanyahu declared that the murderers would soon be found. Soldiers swooped on the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar, raiding houses and confiscating security camera footage. Later four Palestinians were arrested in another village.

Grossman’s son was killed during the invasion of Lebanon in 2006, and Sorek’s grandfather on his mother’s side, a rabbi, also a settler of occupied land, killed in an attack near Nablus in 2000.   These other deaths made the killing of Dvir Sorek seem even more poignant.   “Death as a way of life,” declared the Times of Israel, blaming Hamas for the attack, even though the identity and possible ideological affiliations of the attacker/s were not known, as if the death of others was not a way of life for the state of Israel.

The media described Sorek as a student at a yeshiva, or religious school, in his case the hesder (‘arrangement’) yeshiva at Migdal Oz. The programs in the hesder schools blend advanced religious instruction with military service. Government funding makes an application to be listed as a hesder yeshiva an attractive option. Not all courses are of the same duration. They may last for three, four or even five years, with the active military service component varying from about 17 months to two years. Almost all hesder yeshiva students join combat units.

Officially, the peace-loving Dvir Sorek was an IDF soldier even though he had not yet begun the military component of his   course. No doubt this is the reason he was not armed when he was attacked.

In the West Bank yeshiva students, or former yeshiva students, especially those who fall under the heading of the ‘hilltop youth,’ are in the forefront of anti-Palestinian violence, from beating and occasionally killing to attacks on mosques, the destruction of olive trees and crops and the harassment, intimidation and abuse of the general population in general, women and children included. Their hatreds extend to all non-Jews and even ‘Hellenized’ or secular Jews, including those representing the state, including the soldiers who protect them. One has to wonder where this comes from if not religious instruction at the hands of their rabbis.

The history of the hesder schools go back to the 1960s. More recently, the lack of enthusiasm for war among Israel’s secularized youth, especially wars fought on the other side of what they regarded as Israel’s borders, has increased the appeal of religiously indoctrinated hesder zealots to the military command.

For secular Israeli Jews the enemies are Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria and behind them, Iran, but for orthodox religious Jews, the enemy is Amalek, existential, taking different shapes and different forms at different stages of history but always there.

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The injunction to destroy the tribe of Amalek is laid down in several passages of the Bible. According to Deuteronomy: “The Lord said to Moses ‘Write this down in a book to be remembered and tell it to Joshua: (God) will completely blot out any memory of Amalek … Remember what Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies in the land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance to possess you (Israelites) are to blot out all memory of Amalek from under heaven. Don’t forget!’ (Deuteronomy 25/17-19).

The message to the first king of Israel and Judah, Saul, from the prophet Samuel is even more forceful: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ (Samuel 1:15.3). Saul went to war against the Amalekites but did not kill them all, allowing their king to live and preserving the best of the livestock.

Learning of this, Samuel tells him he has been rejected by God and will lose his kingdom. He then kills the Amalekite himself. Saul lives until defeated by the Philistines in the battle of Gilboa, after which he either commits suicide or is killed by an Amalekite, according to differing Bible accounts but his death is seen as the consequence of having disobeyed God’s injunction to kill all the Amalekites.

All of this might have happened thousands of years ago – or did not happen as described – but it remains as fresh as yesterday in the thinking of orthodox religious scholars. In the modern age these injunctions are subject to numerous interpretations, partly based on what ‘blotting out’ could mean. Maimonides (12th-13th century) explains the commandment as meaning that if the Amalekites accepted Jewish law and agreed to pay a tax there would no need to kill them. There are numerous variations on the theme that ‘blotting out’ did not mean physical annihilation.

Steven Leonard Jacobs points out that the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jewish population does not draw such deadly conclusions, “much less the implication that they [the Palestinians] must be genocidally destroyed.” While those who do take the Biblical injunctions literally “are in the minority … they do exist and [they] present an ongoing challenge to how one reads history and sacred texts.” They keep the door open to violence: however wrongly understood, “there is an understanding that the enemies of the Jewish people are the literal and lineal descendants of the past.”

These genocidal invocations – as they would be regarded now – are read in synagogues at certain times of the year (during the ‘reading cycle’) and are emphasized again during the festival of Purim, celebrating the delivery of the Jews from Haman, the high Persian court official who planned to kill them all.

For the most extreme Jewish settlers, Amalek is still out there, waiting. According to Benzi Lieberman, former head of the Yesha settler council, “The Palestinians are Amalek … we will destroy them. We won’t kill them but we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism.”

However, Amalek is frequently invoked in the political mainstream, which has steadily shifted further to the right since the election of Menahim Begin in 1977 and now includes those once regarded as extremists if not outright fanatics. In the 1950s David Ben-Gurion referred to “the hosts of Amalek from north, east and south.” Begin opposed reparations from Germany, which he regarded as Amalek. During the siege of Beirut in 1982 he described PLO leader Yasser Arafat as Hitler hiding in his bunker, thus another manifestation of Amalek. Speaking in Cracow in 2010, without naming names but clearly thinking of Iran, Netanyahu said “A new Amalek is appearing and once again threatens to annihilate the Jews.” According to the ‘libertarian’ Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin “the Arabs engage in typical Amalek behaviour … I can’t prove this genetically but this is the behaviour of Amalek.”

Throughout history, while identifying Amalek as the existential enemy, Jews never had the power to destroy Amalek but now they do, in a state of their own that has an arsenal of nuclear weapons. According to Steven Jacobs “the propensity of rightwing settlers to identify the Palestinians with the Amalekites has sometimes had deadly consequences” The commandment to exterminate the Amalekites has been preserved by the rabbis “and for that reason, it remains a potential source of conflict.” Needless to say, Mr Jacobs does not regard the Palestinians as Amalekites.

Dvir Sorek was 18 and only a few days short of his 19th birthday when he was killed. He had not begun the military component of his course but in his religious studies he would have had to consider the injunctions to ‘blot out’ the Amalekites. What impact this would have had on his development as a soldier no-one can say.

In the eulogies Dvir was described as a gentle soul, as innocent and full of love for family and friends, all of which he probably was, but he was also living in occupied territory. Ofra, the settlement in which he lived, is illegal even under Israeli law because it was largely built on privately owned Palestinian land.

While a Palestinian drove in the knife, who must take ultimate responsibility for his death, if not the state which seized the land and the settler-colonists who have moved there, including Dvir’s parents? They may have shared the belief that the land was God’s selective gift to the Jewish people; they may have decided to live there because of subsidised housing and tax breaks but whatever their motives, they were living on the West Bank in breach of international law and they would have known it.

The UN General Assembly has passed numerous resolutions affirming the right to resist colonial domination and occupation by all means. It is only putting into print what has been human practice since the beginning of time. An occupied people will resist with all the means at their disposal. In the 1950s the white settlers of Kenya no doubt included loving gentle souls, but they were killed just as ruthlessly as anyone else by the Mau Mau. In the last stages of the Algerian war of independence (1964-62), the FLN (National Liberation Front) slaughtered many French settlers, including women and children innocent of any crime but part of a white settler community which had established itself through violence, collective punishment, the expropriation of land and the ‘purchase’ of land on the basis of forged or spurious documents. Needless, these are the precise tactics used by the Zionists in their occupation of Palestine.

For those whose land is being occupied, it is immaterial whether the colonial settler is a gentle soul or a ranting religious bigot or a family looking for subsidised housing and tax breaks. The settler is always the settler, the usurper of someone else’s lands and rights, to be resisted as long as possible.

It was the Zionists who began the cycle of violence in Palestine and logic demands that they must take the first steps to end it but for the Israeli government, logic is the logic of force and not the logic of justice, law, ethics and morality. The wrong, fateful, irreversible decisions Israel has made will mark its history forever: occupation instead of withdrawal, injustice instead of justice, war instead of peace, including more war, inevitably, beyond the borders of Palestine.

Israel has never had such a degree of military, economic and political support from its great benefactor, the US. Drugged with the sense of its own power it builds even more settlements as it moves steadily towards annexation, thereby guaranteeing that there will be more Dvir Soreks, and far more Palestinian men, women and children killed in the struggle against occupation. Israel is dragging itself and the region into a future even darker than the past.

Israel’s Scheme to Bury the Nakba. “The Ethnic Cleansing oF Palestine”

July 10, 2019

Israel’s 1947-48 Nakba against the Palestinian people was and remains one of history’s great crimes — what Ilan Pappe called “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” in his book by this title.

Establishment of the Jewish state came at the expense of the Palestinian people, their descendants and refugee population.

The final master plan’s goal aimed to create a state with maximum Jews and minimum Arabs — by any means, including mass murder of defenseless people.

Around 800,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homeland, many thousands slaughtered in cold blood.

The six-month campaign beginning in late 1947 destroyed 531 villages and 11 urban neighborhoods in cities like Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

According to Nuremberg Principles, ethnically cleansing people from their land is a high crime against humanity.

Israeli accountability was never forthcoming for mass-murder; destruction of homes, villages, crops and other property; countless atrocities; showing no mercy to defenseless men, women, children.

Nuremberg-level crimes were  expunged from official Israeli historiography, replaced by the myth that Palestinians left voluntarily, fearing harm from invading Arab armies.

A Palestinian shared memories of that nightmarish experience, saying the following:

“I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July of 1948. The pain sears my memory, and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try.”

“First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries.”

“My family had been in the town of Lydda in Palestine at least 1,600 years. Then, without water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days.”

“The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving. Terror filled my eleven-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen.”

“I remembered overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?”

“We did not know what to do, except to follow orders and stumble blindly up the rocky hills. I walked hand in hand with my grandfather, who carried our only remaining possessions-a small tin of sugar and some milk for my aunt’s two-year-old son, sick with typhoid.”

Survivors remember the horror of Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, soldiers representing the soon to be announced Israeli state entered the village violently. They machine-gunned houses randomly. Many inside were slaughtered.

Remaining villagers were assembled and murdered in cold blood. Among them were children, infants, the elderly and women, some raped before slaughtered. Estimates placed the death toll at up to 120.

An eyewitness recounted the horror as follows, saying:

“I was (there) when the Jews attacked…(They) closed on the village amid exchanges of fire with us.”

“Once they entered the village, fighting became very heavy in the eastern side and later it spread to other parts, to the quarry, to the village center until it reached the western edge.”

“The Jews used all sorts of automatic weapons, tanks, missiles, cannons. They enter(ed) houses and kill(ed) women and children indiscriminately. The (village) youths…fought bravely.”

Fighting killed dozens more. Many other villages met the same fate. It was well planned, systematic slaughter — a pattern Israel followed throughout its history with much more powerful and banned weapons.

According to a Haaretz investigative report, Israel’s ministry of war’s secretive security department (Malmab) has been tasked with making the Nabka disappear, saying:

Its teams have been scouring Israel’s archives and removing historic documents…conceal(ing) (them) as part of a systematic effort to hide evidence of the Nakba.”

Haaretz learned Malmab (a Hebrew acronym) “concealed testimony from IDF generals about” about mass slaughter of Palestinians and destruction of their towns and villages, as well as dispossession of Bedouins during Israel’s first 10 years of statehood.

Former security department head Yehiel Horev told Haaretz he began the project to erase Israel’s ugly past — even though detailed information about the Nakba has been published.

His aim and others involved was and continues to be an effort to reinvent history, a common practice in many countries with disturbing pasts authorities want expunged from the public record — notably burying the historical record of horrific mistreatment of Black African slaves and Native Americans by US ruling authorities.

Documents on Israel’s nuclear weapons development and hostile relations with regional countries, along with on the Nabka, are concealed in vaults.

Haaretz’s detailed account is titled “Burying the Nakba: How Israel Systematically Hides Evidence of 1948 Expulsion of Arabs” — historical documents concealed from public view.

Along with burying Israel’s ugly past, Malmab aims to undermine the credibility of published documents.

History the way it should be published and taught isn’t pretty. The truth is there for historians seeking it.

Pappe’s “Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” and Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” reveal the public record citizens of these countries, and everyone else, have a right to know.


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Award-winning author Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG)

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at

Israel’s False ‘War of Independence’

By Jeremy Salt

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May 14 is coming up, ‘independence day’ for Zionists and the Nakba for the Palestinians.  This was indeed a catastrophe for them, no ‘war of independence’ but a war of colonial conquest, as it was the only way the bulk of Palestine’s indigenous population could be ethnically cleansed.

‘Israel’ remains what it was in 1948, a state built on stolen land. It was never founded with the intention of living alongside the native people of Palestine but living instead of them.  This was clear in Theodor Herzl’s diaries, where he refers to the ‘penniless population’ somehow being spirited out of the country. Getting rid of the Palestinians was always the conundrum that had to be solved.

The British used the Zionist movement because it was useful to them, a colony that could be planted in the heart of the Middle East. The mandate for Palestine was based on the denial of the right of the Palestinians to choose their own future.  This right was eventually granted to the Iraqis and the Syrians but Palestine – southern Syria but severed from it by agreement between Britain and France – was to be held in limbo until European settlers could constitute the majority.

This was never to happen but with British support Zionist colonization had by the 1940s reduced the Palestinian majority from 90 percent of the population to 70 percent. Bear in mind that even the 10 percent Jewish population in 1918 was the result of intensive Zionist settlement since the 1880s.  At that time the Jewish population of Palestine, pious and largely anti-Zionist, and living peaceably alongside Muslims and Christians, was no more than a few thousand.

Support for Zionism settlement violated inherent Palestinian rights as well as Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point declaration in 1918 aimed at ensuring world peace through the acknowledgment of the right of national self-determination.  We have seen where the denial of this right has led in the case of Palestine, endless wars and a standing threat to world peace.

In 1947 the UN General Assembly recommended partition.  That is all it was, a recommendation which would never have passed but for the intimidation of vulnerable delegations by the White House.  The recommendation violated article 1 of the UN Charter, passed in 1945, which states that ‘all peoples have the right to self-determination.’ Such a right clearly applies only to people living on their own land.  There can be no such ‘right’ for colonists to retain stolen land any more than there can be a ‘right’ to possess any other kind of stolen property.

On December 10, 1948, at a time Palestine was still being ethnically cleansed, the UN General Assembly passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  There is practically no one of its 30 articles that the Zionist colonists and their regime did not break then or have not broken since.

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s ‘independence.’ The later historical parallel would be the ‘unilateral declaration of independence’ by the colonial white settler minority government in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)in 1965.   Both declarations violated the inherent rights of the indigenous people to choose their own future other but whereas European settler ‘independence’ in Rhodesia was rejected by the UN Security Council, colonial settler ‘independence’ in Palestine was accepted.

The other paradox in the case of Israel was that its colonial-settler declaration was made as colonized people in Africa and Asia were moving towards self-determination, with the support of the UN.  As was the case in the 1920s, only Palestine was to be deprived of this right.

Within minutes of Ben-Gurion’s declaration, the US recognized Israel.  This was not a decision taken by the Congress in conformity with the wishes of the American people.  It was not a decision taken on the advice of diplomats and senior State Department advisers, many of whom, in fact, were strongly against it.

It was a decision taken by President Truman, in violation of his administration’s official policy, which was to seek a UN trusteeship over Palestine, as it clearly could not be partitioned without extreme violence.  This was an enormous danger which the Zionists strove strenuously to head off.

Members of the US delegation at the UN General Assembly had no idea Truman’s recognition of Israel was coming.  He ambushed them and the head of the delegation, Warren Austin, walked out of the chamber in disgust.

Truman was not guided by high principles but the need to secure the Jewish vote in the 1948 presidential elections. Other issues were involved besides Truman’s support for Israel but the tactic worked.  In his November triumph over the Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, Truman won 75 percent of the Jewish vote.

The attempt by the UN to hold Israel to its principles was rejected from the start.  The Palestinians were not the accidental victims of war.  The Zionists had taken 24 percent more of Palestine than they were allocated in the partition plan.  They had no intention of handing any of it back or allowing the Palestinians to return.  Ethnic cleansing was the key to the success of their project.

Had Palestine been placed under UN trusteeship there could have been no democratic Jewish state, as even in the area set aside for one, native Palestinians were as numerous as Jewish colonists.  The ‘independence’ war was a war of necessity as it was the only way Palestine could be cleared of its population.

The UN General Assembly made a lame attempt to hold the Zionists to account by passing resolution 194 on December 11, 1948, the day after the passage of the universal declaration of human rights.

Resolution 194 calls for the return of the Palestinians to their homes.  As their expulsion was fundamental to the establishment of a colonial settler Jewish state on their land there was, of course, no way any Zionist government would comply with it.

Such is the state of Israel’s ‘democracy.’  Get rid of the people you don’t want first – in this case, the overwhelming majority – and then declare not just your democracy but ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’ Not even the apartheid regime of South Africa sought to expel the African majority.

The passage of time does not change the nature of theft whatever the stolen article. Palestine was stolen from its owners in 1948.  The Palestinians lived on the land, worked the land, owned the land in every sense of the word, legal, historical and cultural.  The Zionists were interlopers who took it from them using the most savage methods.  Having stolen most of the land in 1948 they stole the rest in 1967 and have since then continued their quest to wipe out the Palestinian presence in history.

Now, against international law, Donald Trump has ‘recognized’ the Zionist occupation of Jerusalem and its occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.   Flushed with success, Benjamin Netanyahu is going to name a Golan colony after Trump. This only adds insult to injury and in no way will change the course of history.

Israel thinks it can remake the Middle East. It has either gone to war or persuaded its American benefactor to go to war against all the central lands of the Middle East, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Its pressure is undoubtedly a key reason the US is maintaining a presence in Syria, where Israel has supported takfiri fanatics with arms, money and the treatment of their wounded. It wants the US to go to war against Iran.

Iran presents no danger to the US. On the contrary, ever since the presidency of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), it has made many attempts to establish better relations with the US. All have been rebuffed, not because of US interests but because of Israel’s as Iran has never budged from its principled support of the Palestinians.

Short of the outright military attack it wants, but so far has been unable to get, Israel has been killing Iranian revolutionary guards in Syria – there with the permission of the Syrian government to help defend Syria against one of the most pernicious attempts ever made to destroy an Arab state –  and assassinating Iranian scientists in Iran as well as sabotaging Iran’s computer infrastructure.

Israel Independence day 4aa30 *(U.S. 242nd Independence day 2018. Credit: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem/ flickr)

As long as the world’s policeman protects the criminal, Israel sees no reason to stop what it is doing.  Two rogue states are working together to create mayhem in the Middle East and much further afield but this is not the 1890s and ‘the Arabs’ as described contemptuously by Netanyahu and the racist politicians, settlers and rabbis around him are not Kipling’s ‘lesser breeds without the law.’

Neither are the Iranians or anyone else against whom Israel has directed its sociopathic fury.  They have the same mixture of strengths and weaknesses as anyone else on this planet.  More importantly, they have law and morality on their side. This is the backbone of their resistance.

The US and Israel seem to think that they can kick people of the Middle East around endlessly but history sends out a different message.  As the Egyptians demonstrated in 1973, as Hezbollah showed in 2006 and Syrians have shown since 2011, ‘the Arabs’ are perfectly capable of working out ways of striking back at their enemies.

Now Jared Kushner is going to come up with the ‘deal of the century.’  Peace in the Middle East has been reduced to real estate haggling in which the mentality of money is expected to prevail. Deals and money are all Trump understands but having resisted Zionism for more than seven decades, it is not likely that the Palestinians are going to sell their rights now for Kushner’s 30 pieces of silver.

Israel is sitting on the lip of a volcano in the Middle East.  It is indeed having a party there, too drunk with success to see the fire burning below.  These are years that are going to be stamped on Jewish history forever.

Lords of the Land: Why Israel’s Victory Won’t Last

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