Gentle and Loving but Still a Settler

By Jeremy Salt

Source

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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.

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Highlights of Israeli Ruthlessness

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Last year was devastating for long-suffering Palestinians, the way things have been for over seven decades.

B’Tselem compiled examples of Israeli ruthlessness in 2018. Its security forces murdered 290 defenseless Palestinian civilians, including 55 children.

The toll includes 254 Gazan deaths, mostly during peaceful Great March of Return demonstrations, assaulted by extreme Israeli violence. 

Another 34 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, two others in Jewish state territory – all of it stolen from Palestinians.

Repeated incidents throughout the year, and every year, “are a direct result of Israel’s reckless open-fire policy, authorized by the government and the top military command, and backed by the judicial system,” B’Tselem stressed, adding: 

“As long as Israel adheres to this policy, despite its predictable outcomes, the casualties will continue to amass.”

Extremist settlers killed at least three Palestinians, harmed many others, including young children. A Palestinians woman threatening no one, Aishah Rabi, was stoned to death in a car she was riding in.

Most Palestinian deaths are because of Israel’s shoot-first-ask-no-questions policy, its longstanding contempt for Palestinian lives and welfare.

Israel considers cold-blooded murder self-defense. Soldiers given unlawful orders use live fire against peaceful demonstrators in Gaza and elsewhere in the Territories.

“Despite the predictable lethal outcomes, Israel has refused to alter its policy,” said B’Tselem, adding:

“This ongoing profound disregard for the lives of Palestinians is broadly backed by senior policy-makers in the military, the government and the judicial system.” 

Almost never is anyone “held accountable for these incidents, and the military law enforcement system whitewashes them. Given this sweeping support and the lack of accountability for these deaths, such incidents will continue” – as they have since the Jewish state’s creation.

Law enforcement in Occupied Palestine is “a whitewash mechanism,” B’Tselem stressed. Investigations when conducted, including violent incidents causing deaths and injuries, are routinely whitewashed.

Senior government and military officials are never held accountable for the worst of high crimes against Palestinians – rank-and-file military personnel almost never. The rarest of rare exceptions prove the rule.

Military law enforcement shows almost no attempts to punish Israeli wrongdoers when it comes crimes against Palestinians.

Settlers nearly always go unpunished for violent and vandalism incidents. One aggrieved Palestinian said the following:

“The settlers have the army, the state and the law on their side to protect them. We don’t have anyone. We’re guilty even if we did nothing. We’re always the guilty ones. It’s really hard to feel that your life is in danger and your property is being destroyed in front of your eyes.”

A Palestinian woman recounted the horror of a settler attack she and her husband endured, saying the following:

“At first, I thought that the people standing by the road were Palestinians who work in the settlements. As we got closer, I noticed that they were masked, and then they started to throw stones at us.” 

“One of the stones shattered the front windshield and I hollered in fear. I told my husband to drive quickly.” 

“I heard the stones hitting the car and felt that we were about to die, especially when the settlers chased after us after we’d passed them.” 

“Iman asked me to recite verses from the Quran and to trust in God. I was shaking with fear and cold, because the window had been broken and it was very windy.” 

‘Small fragments of glass got in my eye and I felt stinging and pain. I couldn’t open my eye and lots of tears were coming out.” 

“When we got home, I left Rital with my sister and went to see the doctor at the village clinic. He cleaned my eye and gave me some liquid to rinse it with.” 

“I got home at about eleven o’clock and I couldn’t sleep because I was so scared. I couldn’t get the images of the attack out of my mind.” 

“It’s like they found live prey to attack. I still panic when I think about it. On Saturday my husband went to Nablus to replace the front windshield. It cost us 700 shekels. The body of the car also need to be repaired, and that will cost us more money and take time.”

Countless other horror stories are similar to the above ones. Yesh Din volunteers for human rights include lawyers, human rights experts, and other professionals.

They document, compile, and disseminate information on human rights violations in the Territories – by security forces and settlers, complicit with each other against defenseless Palestinians.

Numerous incidents happen almost daily. Palestinians are longstanding victims of a ruthless occupier, Gazans suffering most of all.

Israel in Scotland? – A Comment On Zionist Hypocrisy

Rebel Voice

The Israeli state was created in 1948 by foreign nationals whose ancestors (in some cases) are believed to have resided in the land of Palestine. These descendants returned to the region with the intention of taking the territory from the indigenous people and expelling them in the process. In most instances the Zionist migrant families had no presence in Palestine for as long as 2000 years, yet claimed it as their God-given birth-right. The indigenous population, who were ethnically cleansed, had lived there continually for up to 2000 years.

Imagine if we were to change the setting from Palestine to Ulster. Settlers from the Scottish lowlands arrived in Ulster during the Plantation of the 1600s, and proceeded to ethnically cleanse the native people. If those settlers/planters decided that they wished to return to the land from whence their ancestors came 400 years ago, what would the reaction be from the…

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The Problem Of Israel Explained – BDS In The Ascendancy

Rebel Voice

Israel is again in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After a botched military raid into Gaza, where Israeli stormtroopers tried to abduct a Hamas leader, the Zionist state has found itself on the receiving end of a PR nightmare.

The Israeli machine that churns out endless propaganda is a formidable weapon. It has been utilized for decades in an attempt to justify the warmongering actions of the Zionist state. Today, it faces its greatest threat in the form of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement. BDS has successfully impeded trade with the rogue state and placed the Zionist entity firmly under the spotlight. Given Israel’s sordid track-record of human rights abuses, the one place it does not want to be is under any spotlight.

To counter this, Israel has decided to employ the old chestnut of labelling anyone who criticizes Israel as anti-Semitic. This battle is…

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Gaza burns hotter than Hollywood but there’s nobody to put the fires out – George Galloway

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By George Galloway
Source

5beaecdbdda4c8513f8b45b5.jpgA ball of fire above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike, November 12, 2018 © AFP / Mahmud Hams

 

The world is fixated by the forest fires in Hollywood burning down stars’ mansions. With supreme irony some of them belong to those who helped raise millions of dollars for the Israeli Army which is now burning the hovels of Gaza.

The Hollywood warriors have insurance of course, and other homes too, sometimes many of them. The hovel-dwellers of Gaza have neither.

The brave firefighters of California are well-equipped and have the wind of hope of millions of well-wishers at their backs. There are no firefighters in Gaza.

The hovels of Gaza are unfortunately well-known to me, since long before Hamas even existed. In fact I saw Hamas be born, and Israel was the midwife. I was a comrade of Yasser Arafat then the Chairman of the secular PLO, an Arab nationalist, whose executive committee consisted of Arab nationalists and Moscow-aligned leftists like the PFLP led by the late Dr George Habash.

Israel feared this then zeitgeist in the Arab world so they turned, as the British had earlier in seeking to undermine Egypt’s President Nasser, to the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood, a client of the British in Egypt had brothers in Gaza of course. Those brothers became Hamas with the full cooperation of Israel.

I saw with my own eyes the open development of Islamism in Gaza, a catspaw against Arafat and the PLO. While the gaols (and the graveyards) were full of PLO men, the roads were choc-a-block with Islamist society vehicles. Communities were served by Islamic schools, hospitals & civic-society institutions of all kinds. Permitted, encouraged, sometimes financed by Israel. It was divide and rule in perfect harmony.

Of course, that was nearly 40 years ago and none of the leaders of Hamas then are still alive – by one means or another. The Hamas Israel thought it was developing as a client long-ago outgrew that role and is now a formidable fighting force which can be slaughtered from the air of course (along with anyone nearby) but on the ground, face to face, not so much.

Whilst a ceasefire was in place and peace talks were taking place in Cairo between Israel and Hamas, Netanyahu sent a special forces commando undercover into Gaza to assassinate a Hamas military commander and in the accompanying firefight an Israeli commander was slain. And all hell broke loose. As I write the dogs of war are unleashed and havoc has ensued.

Increasingly accurate Hamas missiles have been fired with greater accuracy and quantity. Israeli warplanes are bombing and rocketing like there was no tomorrow (with an unlimited guarantee of more from Donald Trump). This week the Palestinian television station Al Aqsa was eviscerated in an air-strike about which the Israeli government boasted on Twitter. Like Yugoslav TV in Belgrade, like the Al Jazeera TV station in Baghdad, the slaughter of tea-ladies, make up departments, camera-operators and of course journalists has elicited only stony-silence from Western media outlets.

The fourth estate, rightly scandalized by the kidnap, torture, murder and dismemberment of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, is unmoved by the dismemberment of Palestinian journalists.

The media solidarity, triggered by Donald Trump withdrawing the White House credentials of CNN journalist Jim Acosta, who none of us had ever heard of, working for a station that none of us ever watches, was impressive. The withdrawal of the life’s blood of TV make-up ladies hasn’t even made the news, especially on CNN.

For them as with the other Western fake-news machines, the clock starts ticking when Israel says it does and when Israel “responds“. That the response is a response to a provocation matters not a jot or tittle.

In any case, nobody working in the Western media today either knows or cares that the root cause of this is the existence of the barbed wire enclave called Gaza.

Two million Palestinians locked in a tiny strip of land (it’s called the Gaza Strip for a reason) with no entry or exit guaranteed and overwhelmingly refused. Eighty percent of those two million are refugees there, looking through the barbed wire at their own property now occupied by others. When they approach the fence they are mercilessly cut down by snipers.

Since March, tens of thousands of Palestinians have been wounded at the Gaza fence. Hundreds have been killed including children, women, nurses and of course the press. Hundreds of limbs have been amputated, many have been blinded, left eyeless in Gaza. They were unarmed, in their “own territory” and had not remotely reached the fence which, entirely unilaterally, the Israelis have demarcated as their border.

Throughout the last ten years or more the Palestinians in Gaza have endured bitter cold in winter & baking heat in summer, with deliberately-rationed electricity supplies controlled by Israel. Often there is none, at best four hours per day. Medical supplies and foodstuffs frequently perish as refrigeration fails.

Israel controls the water supply too and most of Gaza never has access to clean potable water.

Even the sea off Gaza is remorselessly controlled with abundant fish-stocks only harvestable by fisherman at the risk of their lives which are frequently lost.

It is a ghetto of suppurating suffering. It is a crucifixion of an entire population. But it is not the whole story.

The whole story goes back much farther and is beyond the scope of this article. Palestine no longer exists, it is wiped off the map. Its people are scattered to the four corners of the earth as exiles and refugees, or live in the Bantustans of the West Bank, the illegally annexed Holy City of Jerusalem, or in besieged Gaza. Until this is resolved and as long as a single Palestinian remains alive there will be resistance, there will be trouble. It is this story that all the world’s governments and all their institutions have singularly failed to meaningfully address.

And so for now, and for the future, there will be much wailing, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth in the Terra Santa.

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