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Peace Now: While Hebron was heating up, settlers created new facts in Jerusalem

The best, most original summary of important developments in Israel, the territories and the rest of the region is the “Middle East Peace Report,” which is created every few weeks by Noam Shalef of Americans for Peace Now. The latest issue isn’t posted on the APN website yet but you should be able to find it here soon. Get on the APN email list and you will receive it regularly.

Here is an important story from the “Middle East Peace Report.” It has not gotten sufficient attention:


A new report by the Israeli Peace Now movement warns that settlers are taking advantage of a “perfect storm” of political conditions to create “new facts on the ground” in Jerusalem “that could later make it difficult if not impossible to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict peacefully.”

The report calls on Israel, with the encouragement of the international community, to act now to prevent settlers from establishing facts on the ground in Jerusalem, noting that when Israel fails to stop settler initiatives in Jerusalem, it “is rarely able to muster the political will to ‘undo’ settler facts on the ground.”

The report covers a series of troubling developments from the last month, including the demolition of eight Palestinian homes in tense areas of East Jerusalem and the eviction of one Palestinian family from its home in order to facilitate a settler project in the neighborhood.

Peace Now’s report adds that settler actions “represent a direct and immediate threat to security and stability inside Jerusalem, threatening to set fire to the city. The settlers’ reckless actions, and the failure of the Israeli government to respond, could spark violent reactions and retaliations that could spread far beyond the specific areas of the city targeted by the settlers.”

Three incidents in the city over the past week may be an indication of rising tensions. On Sunday, an Arab employed by the Jerusalem municipality was stabbed by a gang of Jewish youth. On Friday, clashes broke out between Arab youth and police officers at Via Dolorosa. On Tuesday, an Arab resident of the city was stabbed near the religious Jewish neighborhood of Me’a She’arim. Police arrested two suspects in Tuesday’s incident, which they say was politically motivated. (Peace Now, 12/7/08; Israel Army Radio, 12/7/08; Ynet, 12/3, 12/4 & 12/5/08)

This raises an important challenge for the American Jewish establishment. As
reports, last week’s settler rampage wasn’t denounced only by APN, Ameinu, J Street, Religious Action Center and other “dovish groups”; thankfully, it was also condemned by centrist organizations, including ADL, American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress. So the center of the community has finally spoken out against the intolerable behavior of lawless Israeli settlers who defied the Israeli government and human decency, the worst of the worst. These groups expressed outrage when Baruch Goldstein slaughtered Palestinians in the Hebron mosque and now they have done it again. That is welcome news. But will they also denounce brutality that is only a little less overt, yet is aided and abbeted by the Israeli government, like the demolition of Arab homes in Jerusalem and the expulsion of Arab families to make way for new settlement projects? Will the organizations take a stand against Jews who don’t seem to care if Jerusalem explodes, or if the current conflict turns into an outright religious war between Jews and Muslims who consider Jerusalem a sacred city?

The answer is almost certainly going to be “no,” of course. But there are many individuals in all of these organizations who are as appalled as I am about the ravaging of East Jerusalem. What will it take to prompt them to break the vow of Jewish omerta yet again? If not now, when?

11 thoughts on “Peace Now: While Hebron was heating up, settlers created new facts in Jerusalem

  1. It’s easy for the moral cowards in the so-called Jewish centrist organizations to condemn Israelis who openly violate Israeli law and defy the government. Their donors and members aren’t going to argue with that. But when another form of religious goon has the complicity of the Israeli government when making troubles for the Palestinians, then that’s an “internal Israeli matter” and these American Jews tell themselves they have no right to say anything…As if the conflict between the settlers and the army is not an internal matter…

  2. Limited,

    You selected an appropriate name. There couldn’t be anyhing more agonizing than Jews fighting Jews as they did in Hebron and Amona. Whatever you feel about the politics, whether you’re Meretz or Yisrael Beitenu, you would have a right and an obligation to comment if you lived in Israel, paid taxes, served in the army, and voted. I take it you do none of those things. Therefore, you should keep quiet about internal Israeli problems until you do.

  3. Shmuel,

    The righties (secular and religious) claim that Jerusalem is the “enternal capital of the Jewish people” so people like Ron Lauder and Hoenlein say they are justified in fighting against its division. Maybe I have it wrong but I get the sense you lean in their direction. Are you saying they have no right to speak out either?

  4. You know Teddy here is the conundrum. When the Palestinians get their hands on Jewish religious sites like Josephs Tomb. They can’t wait to desecrate them. So, no, I don’t have a lot of confidence with putting ANY Jewish sites in jerusalem under Palestinian control. Nor do I like the idea of Iranian proxies sitting on the west bank ridge line armed with rockets. What say you?

  5. Bill,

    You don’t cure cancer by attacking a body’s immune system. Hamas is a terrible problem. If they keep developing military technology, it’s only a matter of time before their rockets reach Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip. There are no good answers, but one is to try to bolster the moderates that do exist in the Palestinian community as they wage a power struggle with Hamas. And one way to do that is for Israel to persuade the Palestinian public (whom Hamas does have to answer to) that it is seriously interested in compromise. This is obviously very simplistic but it is possible to envision a scenario where this might happen, and Hamas will either be coopted or defeated.

    It is impossible to envision this scenario, or anything close to it, if Israel allows religious settlers to carve up East Jerusalem or continues to build an infrastructure to support Jewish settlements.

    You changed the subject. I often condemn the same Palestinian violence and activities you condemn. Are you willing to speak out against the settlers Peace Now describes, and the Israeli government that either helps or ignores them? What say you?

  6. Rule of law.

    My son has become a chabadnik. I love much of their approach and even theology (not all of it).

    One key area of criticism is of their attitude towards settlements. They take the view that Jew’s should not be prohibited from settling anywhere, that ultimately Jews are intimate with the “holy land” (a bit of spiritual materialism in considering a specific material land permanently God-titled), that there is forever an aspect of “home”-land to it.

    Most do NOT exagerate the promise in Torah to be equivalent to the rationalization that feeds “lets take it, its ours anyway”. Most respect that legal title is legal title, and that legal title requires a basis of consent, which force is not.

    So, they disavow the violent taking of the land, and they feel obligated to establish community there. That seems legit to me, that they would seek to purchase land and settle it as willing citizens of the temporal state that governs there.

    The moral disconnect for me is in the presence of a state enterprise that does establish its rule by forced taking (rationalized under the rubric of “state land”), and favored transfer.

    If I were a self-inquiring moral player, I would recognize that that is NOT the means by which consented title originates. It harms the primary mission of Habad, and the rational sympathy for that mission.

    Among the Hebron settlers themselves, there is tension. Many sincerely only seek to live there, and prefer convivial relations with their neighbors. There are hot-heads on both sides there that inject confusion and hatred.

  7. Richard,

    Leonard Fein has just retired from writing the regular blog, “the Conversation,” at Americans for Peace Now. But the APN staff will continue the blog by posting pieces from elsewhere for comment. Leonard just informed us that one of about five regular bloggers at the site died in Aug. 15 from a fall at his home. Another had dropped out earlier leaving us with just three regular commentators.

    Here is what I wrote in reaction to the news:
    In the beginning there were Meir, Joel, and myself. Fred Schlomka joined us after about six months but dropped out about eight months–one year ago. Fred was replaced by Zecharia as a regular commentator. Now we’ll have to find someone to replace Meir as a regular commentator.

    So, Richard if you are interested, consider yourself invited.

  8. Many have challenged the Israeli peace camp for not speaking up in response to the attacks on Gaza Hamas infrastructure (undertaken alternately carefully and careLESSly – carelessly meaning with large numbers of innocents caught in the bombing)

    Bombing, especially with the rules of engagement that allow for bombing a civilian apartment building if a Hamas operative has an apartment in the building from which they are conducting communications, is by definition imprecise and results in LARGER numbers of innocents harmed than identified militants.

    It then becomes a terror operation itself.

    Israel is frustrated. Hamas refuses to talk to Israel directly, and then complains that qassams as “talk” is “misinterpreted”.

    And, we in the west genuinely don’t know if and when Israeli military action is excessive or state terror, as we don’t genuinely know if and when guerilla actions are just resistance or terror.

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