Moar catching up: Haaretz & The Forward.

Ok, so I didn’t link to last week’s piece for Haaretz and now it’s nearly not even this week anymore! And in the meantime there’s been another Forward piece. I’m not a very serious wonk, am I.

Ok – to the words!

Why we must raise the alarm about settler violence

It’s easy to know nothing about events that disturb us. We talk a lot about how technology allows the siloing of information, but it’s always been easy to skip bad news. How hard is it to turn off the radio?

I would even argue that to a certain degree, our capacity for ignorance is a gift, because immersing ourselves in the news is often to immerse oneself in despair – and despair can be debilitating.

But much as ignorance can be a gift, we must also be honest about its costs. Ignorance that has calcified, that serves as a wall rather than an occasional reprieve, is treacherous, particularly if we value democracy. When the disturbing events touch what we hold dear, ignorance takes from our hands the ability to respond usefully and play an active role in protecting democracy’s future.

In Israel and among those who care deeply about the Jewish state, one of the most endemic forms of political ignorance concerns the settlements and their residents.

to read more, please click through to Haaretz.

Why Are We Ignoring Palestinian Nonviolence?

The Jewish and Israeli press is quick to report any and all Palestinian violence against any Jew, anywhere. Which makes sense, of course. Israelis and Palestinians are at war, Jews everywhere have a dog in the fight, violence is deplorable, et cetera and so on.

But, by contrast, there’s a marked reticence to report on events that show Palestinians actively engaged in nonviolent forms of protest, like last week’s little-noted “protest village,” Ein Hijleh, established by hundreds of activists to protest Israeli annexation plans in the Jordan Valley. This reticence speaks volumes. Really inconvenient and uncomfortable volumes.

The Jewish and Israeli narratives — the way we talk about who we are and why we’re here (and though they run parallel, these narratives are not the same) — are, like any other cultural narrative, heavy on self-promotion. Jews share a deep and disturbing history of anti-Jewish violence and hate, and we often tell ourselves that this is the only part of our story that matters when we’re looking out into the world. This is the part that tells us everything we need to know.

In this light, our enemies can only be unjustified in their hate; the use of violence defines them and reveals their truest selves; anything else is aberration and cannot be trusted.

to read more, please click through to The Forward.

On the Palestinian olive harvest and the Talmud.

Olive tree on the West Bank with several branches hacked off.

The problem with trying to convey the full reality of the occupation for Palestinians is that the occupation is such a vast and unwieldy thing.

There’s a natural tendency to focus on the most dramatic details, and in particular the bloody ones, but those details reflect only a part of the staggering whole. The extent of the occupation is sprawling, its bureaucracy Byzantine, and it keeps every aspect of life, both public and private, at the hands of both the State of Israel and Israel’s citizens. There is no moment, no place in a Palestinian’s life, that is in any meaningful sense free of the occupation’s influence.

Which brings me to Palestinian olive groves.

Last Saturday, as reported by Alon Aviram in +972,

Israeli Border Police declared an area belonging to [the West Bank village of] Susya al-Qadima a closed military zone, effective immediately. An officer waved papers at us and stated that he was legally warranted to force everyone out of the valley. We noticed that the orders were outdated, unsigned, and dictated that only Israelis were prohibited from entering the specified site. This did not stop the temporary expulsion of Palestinian locals.

This happens to Palestinian farmers of all stripes frequently, and entirely randomly—they arrive ready to work their land, only to be told that they are not allowed to so much as step on it. The olive season began on October 6 and in the harvest’s first 18 days, hundreds of farmers had been denied access, or given only very limited access, to olive groves “located behind the Barrier or near settlements.” But even having access is not a guarantee of being able to get the work done: On October 9, Aviram reported, soldiers fired tear gas at harvesters who got “too close to” the chain link fence separating them from the settlement of Adora.

Haaretz reported on October 13 that the Palestinian Authority had, in fact, made arrangements with the IDF for olive farmers to work their settlement-adjacent fields for specified periods of time, under military protection from settler violence, but each village was only given “up to” three days for their harvest, and thus

even though the harvest has only just begun, it is already clear that the limits mean many villagers will not be able to finish the harvests in the areas near the settlements. In some cases, when Palestinian farmers did try to reach their groves they were driven off by settlers.

Which is not surprising, because while the IDF was busy coordinating which days of which week farmers would be allowed onto their own land in order to earn their livelihood, settlers were vandalizing or destroying close to 1,000 trees in the first three weeks of October alone. All told, in the course of 2012 to date, settlers have damaged or killed about 7,500 olive trees.

Why do violent settlers attack trees? Because while they’re violent, they’re not stupid.

Of most immediate urgency is the fact that some 80,000 West Bank families depend on the harvest as their main source of income. Beyond that, however, the cultivation of olive groves reaches back centuries, and trees typically live for 200 years or more. Thus, the olive tree also serves as a potent symbol of Palestinian steadfastness, and the links between generations—as Honi HaMa’agal teaches us regarding his own tree planting in the Talmud: “I found a fruitful world, because my forebears planted for me. Thus I shall do for my children.”

And so, in destroying olive trees, settlers are not only making it as hard as they can for farmers to feed their families, they’re also mocking Palestinian pretensions to belonging to their home.

Declaring victory, and wiping away generations of effort, with one swing of an axe. Or one outdated and unsigned military order.

That’s what the occupation looks like.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

The cost of the occupation.

The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories is an enormous drain on the State of Israel in innumerable ways. Some of these are quantifiable, some are not.

Here are some of the quantifiable ways (via The Daily Beast/Newsweek):

[T]aken as a whole, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories remains the single largest expenditure in the nation’s short history.

Because Israel has never released all the necessary data, we’ve taken the numbers available from various Israeli research studies, extrapolated them, and adjusted the results for interest and inflation. In arriving at a very conservative estimate, we made sure to count only the extra costs of controlling the occupied territories, not the costs of basic-services that settlers would receive if they lived in Israel proper, or the buildup of the state’s military.




ANNUAL COST (IN 2010 DOLLARS): $6.3 billion


BUDGET PER SETTLER (AS OF 2010): $22,522

TOTAL NET COST: $88.5 billion

ANNUAL COST (IN 2010 DOLLARS): $6.3 billion

Here are some of the less quantifiable:


  1. Israeli settlers assault nonviolent Israeli and Palestinian activists, as the security forces watch and to a certain degree help. Money quote – Border Patrol officer, in reference to a group of settlers closing in on the protest, says to activists who are declining to remove Palestinian flags from the Palestinian’s land: “They’re here because some of them [the settlers] want to come tear you apart, to beat all of you up. If that’s what you want, leave the flags up.”
  2. Later that night, the settlers pull out knives, pick up rocks, and punch Israeli protesters in the face. Security forces do essentially nothing.
  3. Settlers call the Israeli activists “Arab-loving pieces of shit,” a woman settler declares that “all of these women fuck Arabs,” and the video ends with full-throated calls of “Death to Arabs” and “Death to Leftists.”

All of this, by the way, on Rosh Hashana. Because really, is there a better way to celebrate the Sovereignty of the Holy One Blessed Be He than by taking up knives and rocks and shouting “Death to Arabs”?

On the second day of Rosh Hashana, we read the story of the binding of Isaac. There’s a knife and a rock in that story, too. But somehow I don’t think that God is waiting in the bushes with a ram for us. If we want to sacrifice ourselves over the occupation? That’s on us.

Video via Shiekh Jarrah Solidarity; they can be followed on Twitter at @justjerusalem and are perma-linked on my blogroll, to your right.

Update: Within minutes after posting this, I learned that one of the settlers involved in the Rosh Hashana violence is Yossi Ben Arush, a police investigator who lives in the settlement outside of which protests were taking place. One of the activists has been interrogated by him the past, and she apparently yelled at him “What are you doing, I recognize you, you’re a cop.” For more details, click here.

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