Sunday, February 05, 2006

Treppenwitz Blogs Amona

While I’m still trying to get my thoughts together for my own Amona post (or if they never do come together, I’ll give up and move on to another subject), David Bogner of Treppenwitz has written his. As usual, Dave’s post is very much worth reading.

Pending investigations, I’m prepared to believe that the police involved in last week’s fracas (or at least some of them) indeed acted with undue violence. At the same time, there are a couple of points Dave makes that I can’t quite accept at face value:

  1. I’m not convinced that the timing of the demolitions at Amona really had all that much to do with Ehud Olmert and the upcoming election campaign. The demolition orders were issued quite some time ago, long before Ariel Sharon’s stroke. That said, it may be that Olmert felt some pressure to be particularly decisive at this moment – but so what? One point that is constantly raised by those who opposed the demolition is that a compromise was offered immediately beforehand, and Olmert rejected it. If this compromise offer was really sincere, why was it offered only on the morning of the demolition? It looks to me like the “compromise offer” was in reality just another deceptive delaying tactic.

  2. David, like most anti-demolition writers, decries the violation of the “rights” of those living in Amona and those who came to protest the demolition. But settlers – myself included! – need to remember that we do not live inside “Israel proper”, and that as residents of territories under military administration, we do not have the full civil rights we would have inside the Green Line. Even legal settlements exist subject to the government’s say-so; and the illegal settlement outposts are simply that: illegal. The fact that settlers were encouraged (by Ariel Sharon, among others) to “grab” these hilltops is unfortunate; but the fact remains that the people living in these outposts, and the people supporting them, know quite well that they are on shaky ground. I get a little tired of hearing about how victimized they feel when the government finally decides to enforce its own laws!

  3. David makes a very thoughtful analogy between the more extreme section of the settler movement and the “wicked son” of the Passover seder. However, like most pro-settler commentators, he appears to assign all (or most) blame for the alienation between settlers and the general Israeli public to the latter. He discusses “the sense of ‘otherness’ and disenfranchisement that had taken hold of the teenagers in the settler movement as a result of the unrelenting and heavy-handed rhetoric directed at them,” but never addresses the reasons the general public might have for feeling alienated from the settlers. As someone who maintains contact with both camps, I believe that the setter movement itself has a lot to answer for in this regard; sadly, most of the movement is becoming only more self-righteous and dismissive of ordinary Israelis as a result of the ongoing process of disengagement from the Palestinians.

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At Sun Feb 05, 09:08:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger ontheface said...

Thank you for this thoughtful, admirably objective post. Point three is particularly insightful.

At Sun Feb 05, 11:22:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

he appears to assign all (or most) blame for the alienation between settlers and the general Israeli public on the latter.

I don't blame the general Israeli public, but the government instead. The government's responsibility is avoid conforntations like this at all costs. Can you imagine for a second what the reaction of the world would be had Israel's police wounded over 300 Arabs on the Temple Mount?

Totally regardless of right/wrong on the Amona issue, the government's use of the police was irresponsible and unacceptable is dealing with Amona. This past summer, when the IDF was involved, there wasn't any violence of this caliber, due to the across the boards representation of Israeli society in the IDF.

When you use the police, who have zero sentiments, it's obvious that you'll get an outcome like Amona.

I don't see the settler's intentionally disengaging from the Israeli public, but their marginalization by the Israeli government.

That, IMHO is the tragedy of Amona.

At Sun Feb 05, 11:57:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger Don Radlauer said...

1) Hi Lisa - and thanks!

2) Hi Jameel!

2.1) I've fixed my crass grammatical error in the sentence you quoted. Thanks for reminding me! (g)

2.2) I disagree that the government's responsibility is to avoid Amona-style confrontations "at all costs". If this were the case, the settlers - or whoever was opposing the government that day - could win any dispute automatically, simply by threatening to create such a confrontation. Clearly, that's exactly what the demolition opponents at Amona were doing this time: making it very clear that the government would have to deal with a messy and violent confrontation, or else cave in. Under the circumstances, the government had no option but to take a strong stand.

2.3) Your point about the use of police rather than the IDF is an interesting one. I'm not sure you're correct, but you may be. I am familiar with the same situation in reverse: In the early days of the "Intifada", IDF soldiers were sent to the Gaza Strip to confront rioting Palestinians, a mission for which they were completely untrained and unsuited. As a result, a lot of soldiers opened fire more or less indiscriminately, and a lot of relatively innocent Palestinians were killed. (This was mostly under Ehud Barak, by the way; by the time Ariel Sharon took power, our forces were already - and slowly - learning that shooting randomly into crowds of teenage boys wasn't doing Israel any good.)

I'd be interested to hear why the government used police rather than the IDF in this case. It may be that the police are considered more competent (and are better equipped) to deal with riots in non-lethal ways. After all, the IDF is not really trained or equipped for riot-control work. Remember that violence had been promised days before the demolition - so it's not as if the presence of police precipitated the violence. As such, I don't think your causational link is at all accurate.

I'm not at all sure about the police having "zero sentiments". I'm very sentimental on patrol. Of course I patrol with Vaguely Sinister Wife, who is also my superior officer! (g)

2.4) I don't know that the settlers are "intentionally disengaging" from the Israeli public; but I've heard how the more extreme Orthodox (settlers and Haredim) talk about general Israeli society, and I found it extremely offputting. There are a lot of people out there who really do think that everyone who isn't in their own "set" is a drug dealer, addict, prostitute, or some other form of degenerate criminal. The superior attitude of such people is a highly effective form of "disengagement".

2.5) Thanks for your comment. After dealing with adorable "Anonymous" on another thread, it's a positive pleasure to be contradicted intelligently.

At Mon Feb 06, 07:55:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Don,

Nice blog you have here, and thanks for allowing non-bloggers to comment.

Seeing that you haven't had your own post on Amona yet, but have criticized some statements of right-wing politicos, what would you say about this:

An Efrat resident working as a Magen David Adom ambulance driver claims that media claims that a policeman was "seriousy injured" during the clashes in Amona last Wednesday are completely false.

"I transferred the only so-called badly injured policeman from Hadassah Har HaTzofim [Mount Scopus] to Hadassah Ein Karem," Abba Richman said. "He was walking, fully conscious and violent - he threatened injured protestors in the emergency room with physical violence. His injury was a bad cut under the eye and he was transferred because Ein Karem has plastic surgeons and he needed their services. All the other police injured that I saw had minor cuts and bruises. None had broken bones that I am aware of. All the injured protestors I saw had broken bones, legs and arm injuries, and head wounds. A lot of blood. The atmosphere was that of a terrorist attack with the prevalent undercurrent that this time the attackers were Jews.

"I witnessed first hand how the media presents the facts - lies, half truths, and disinformation. It was a very sad day for me and left me with many sleepless hours."

Sam from Jerusalem

At Mon Feb 06, 09:49:00 AM GMT+2, Blogger westbankmama said...

Don - you make a good point in number three, but I think that there is more going on here than just "settler/non-settler" stereotyping.

Israelis live in little conclaves, and don't have much to do with one another, exept, perhaps, at work. There is a real lack of knowledge about other sectors of society - unbelievably ignorant stereotypes are accepted without challenge. Since I didn't grow up in a religious home, and became an Orthodox Jew as a young adult, I know first-hand about these stereotypes.

I don't know how you change this, except for the good work that Gesher does (hopefully westbankpapa is going to be participating in a group they are forming for dialogue between religious and secular men). Living in a mixed community is good for some, but is not for everyone. We thought of it ourselves before making aliyah, but found the noisy Shabbosim in the Mercaz Klita too annoying, so we abandoned the idea.

At Mon Feb 06, 10:00:00 AM GMT+2, Blogger Don Radlauer said...

Hi Sam -

I don't have any particular comment about the ambulance driver's claim. A large part of the reason I haven't written my own post on the Amona incident is that the reports coming from various sources are so wildly discordant that I don't feel I have the facts in hand. For every quote like the one you present, there are other accounts that paint a completely different picture - see, for example, Imshin's post on the subject here. I wasn't at Amona, and I have no practical way of performing my own investigation of what really happened (without losing my day job); so what I'm left with is a mess of claims and counterclaims with no reliable way to tell which are accurate.

I could, of course, offer my own opinions and educated guesses - for example, as a horse-person I know that horses don't act as some of the anti-demolition activists accuse them of having done. But this isn't enough to form a coherent and reliable picture of the whole incident. So I've commented on WestBankMama's blog, Ze'ev's blog, and (remotely) on Treppenwitz, because they raised some points that I felt comfortable dealing with based on the facts I do know; I've blogged about Arieh Eldad's comment contrasting "human beings" and "Arabs" because that quote was well authenticated. But until and unless I feel comfortable that I really know what went on at Amona, I don't feel that I can pass judgement on either side's actions in good conscience. I could write something bland and safe saying that there is plenty of blame to go around and both sides are at fault for the violence there, but why bother? There are already enough empty words in the world.

At Mon Feb 06, 02:12:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi Don -

re: 2.2) I have two points here, though I don't even fully agree with them. a. The Palestinians have proven time and time again that violence pays. Throw enough rocks, and Israel will say its tried and doesn't want to "fight" anymore. Olmert said it himself a few months back. The Chareidim have said the same thing; Violence Pays. Whether it be through violent anti-shabbat-desecration demonstrations or anti archeological demonstrations, the government has always folded 10 times out of 10. While I'm not in favor the settlers advocating violence, the question is why the government responded the way it did, with such brutality...and against such a younger population.

My second point is that in normative western countries, passive civil disobedience is an acceptable method of totally disrupting government policy. Thats the way it works...yes, it may paralyze parts of the country, but its far better than say, any of Amir Peretz's Economic Terror strikes via the Histadrut. That affects the country and our democracy many times more than 9 houses in Amona. would never see any action like the above against the Histadrut. (Which is a good thing, but it needs to be applied across the boards and not target the settler's either).

2.3) I don't believe the Israeli police are really better suited for riot control than the IDF. I definitely feel they aren't as competent as the IDF -- I've personally been to incidents this past summer out in Muqata territory, where I showed up to decrease tension between teenage demonstrators and the police. After the police announced that anyone on the road would be arrested, I personally took the lead with 5 other adults, and firmly but in a friendly/sympathetic way started pushing the teens off the road. A particularly clever cop then announced on his megaphone; OK, that's it anyone on the road gets it. We had already moved off 95% of the teens and were at the last 1/2 meter from the edge of the road. The cops then ran at us, and started hitting the remaining teenagers on the road. That for me was the epitome of police stupidity. I know who I'm dealing with, and they are far from the smartest, best and brightest Israel has to offer.

Of course, I need to add that I have a bunch of relatives in the police force, (which I guess doesn't speak that highly of me), yet I honestly do not respect the Israeli police's judgement when it comes to handling situations like this. (Rosh b'Rosh, Koach bimkom Moach)

2.4 Actually, I was paraphrasing you, "most of the movement is becoming only more self-righteous and dismissive of ordinary Israelis " -- that sounds to me like an accusation of societal disengagement, which is why I used to the term the way I did.

My bottom line is this: After generations of settlers building the land, sacrificing personal security and quality of life, and years of a particular direction; the settlers are now clearly being targeted by the government and their backs are up against a wall. The communities they founded and built are now threatened with being destroyed, or turned into cantonized ghettos. The people who till recently, were considered a very Zionist, pioneering, selfless sector of Israeli socity, now find themselves an isolated, targeted pariah. The worst thing for the government to do at this stage of the game, is to continue its current path.

If the government doesn't change its position, the settler population and its followers will end up like the Chareidim, not wanting much to do with the State.

Is that really in Israel's best interest?

At Mon Feb 06, 03:05:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger Emmanuel said...


"Israelis live in little conclaves, and don't have much to do with one another, exept, perhaps, at work."

I find it hard to accept this statement. This is true only of people living in certain areas - the yuppie areas of Zfon Tel Aviv, the Haredi areas of Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, in Kibutzim and a few yeshuvim kehilatiim and settlements, etc. In most of Israel, while people of different socioeconomic levels don't live together, people of different levels of religiosity or different ethnic background (I mean Edot, not Jews and Arabs) - do.

It seems to me that religious people inside Israel do live together with the general Israeli public, not just physically but socially. The religious settlers are the ones disconnecting from the general public.

At Mon Feb 06, 09:19:00 PM GMT+2, Blogger lisoosh said...

Westbankmama - I usually find your posts very interesting. I do in this case have to agree with emmanuel, apart from certain exceptions I've never seen Israelis live in little conclaves, even in Jerusalem which tends to have religious and non-religious neighbourhoods (and neighbourhoods of differing religiosity) as well as Arab neighbourhoods you would have to try really hard not to have contact with any other group.

Jameel - you said:
"The people who till recently, were considered a very Zionist, pioneering, selfless sector of Israeli socity, now find themselves an isolated, targeted pariah." It may be me, but my impression was that members of the settler movement have always been controversial. While some viewed them in a very positive light others didn't. I don't think there has been a sudden overnight change. Maybe you are just hearing more of the negatives now.

As to point 2.4. here are a couple of quotes from right wing blogs. Of course they speak only for themselves. Can you see why this might be seen as offensive and hardly reaching out?

"Yes, because you hate proud Jews, because you are pathetic Jews, empty Jews. ......
This is the last act of a desperate group of losers. They say rule of law, democracy...ok, when the Jews vote you out, you'll have to turn the keys over to the Supreme Court, the Army, the police...or the Jews will take it from you.
You don't have children, you have dogs, and cats, and 'lovers,' and fashions, and tattoos, and piercings. ... The Jews get married, raise their kids on the facts of a continuous 3000 year 'occupation' of Israel, real ethics, real morality, real life."

"But No! I won’t leave this land. This was my land long before the disgusting Israeli conquered it. And understand this, there are two occupiers in my land; the Moslem on Jewish land, and the Israeli on Jewish land."

At Wed Feb 08, 01:33:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well. I guess you told Scott.

I think he meant to tell you that his and his wife's charities were not designed to influence or control Israel. Probably they donate, like most Amerian Jews, through the Jewish Federation. Most of their money probably went to relieve social ills.

I think mostly he desired to tell you of their pain and sorrow over the now clear path that the majority of Israelis have taken.

They probably just want you and yours to understand that they refuse to support a police state.

At Wed Feb 08, 03:06:00 AM GMT+2, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Israel "a police state"?!? Israel is a democracy as long as it does what the settlers want, and once it doesn't it's a police state!


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