I’m pleased to announce that this Sunday, Nov. 13th at 3 pm ET, Voices from the Holy Land, in conjunction with Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago and Tzedek-Chicago, will be hosting a salon-style discussion of the documentary film “The Settlers.” It’s a public event, but requires free registration. The idea is to watch the film on one’s own time prior to the event, and then attend the discussion, featuring two veteran commentators, filmmaker Shimon Dotan and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, with moderator Lara Friedman. Here’s a link to the meeting registration, as well as to the film.
THE SETTLERS is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the West Bank, which is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Radicals, idealists, messianic fanatics, true believers and political opportunists, living on the fault lines of an age-old conflict, come face-to-face with history. Today, the settlers threaten to destroy what little peace remains in the Middle East.
Thanks to my friends at Jewish Voice for Peace of Northern New Jersey for the heads-up. The event couldn’t be more timely.
Whatever else it says, the film makes clear that the settlements were and are an explicit instrument of Zionist conquest, deliberately intended to dominate the Palestinians and make Palestine an ungovernable Hobbesian State of Nature requiring annexation by Israel. Their inhabitants are not “civilian non-combatants,” but for the most part willing participants in an ongoing act of conquest, many of them acting under that explicit description. What both the Israelis and the Americans and others have done is to facilitate this project for over five decades, pretending that it’s something other than conquest, pretending that the residents are something other than conquerors, and demanding that we feel sympathy for any losses that they suffer. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to feel either indifference or gratification at the losses suffered by “Palestinian terrorists.” The whole game proceeds on the refusal to clarify who is the aggressor and who is the victim of aggression, replacing that question with loose metaphors and hand-waving ethnic and civilizational stereotypes.
What also becomes clear is the inadequacy of a Lockean conception of property to deal with the complexities involved here. Eventually, it becomes clear why Western liberals and libertarians have left the Arab-Israeli issue severely alone. They lack an adequate normative and conceptual framework to do deal with it. Dealing with it would require the revision of so many of their fixed assumptions that they’d rather leave the assumptions in place than face the prospect of wholesale revision.
In case Birthright tours weren’t surreal enough:
An interesting, well-moderated discussion, but with an anti-Zionist rabbi (Shapiro) and a liberal Zionist filmmaker (Dotan) on the panel, it was predictable that the conversation would be dominated by that old ideological chestnut: does Zionism lead straight to the settlements (Shapiro), or is Zionism fundamentally discontinuous with the messianic vision of the settlers (Dotan)? I happen to agree with Shapiro, but the discussion seemed out of place, and a distraction from the actual content of the film. Still worth attending, all things considered.
More remarkable was something highlighted by the moderator, Lara Friedman–the unapologetic explicitness of the settlers’ commitment to racism and conquest, and the particular extremism of the Americans involved, including the delusional character of the evangelical Christians, whose version of Christianity seems to owe more to Thrasymachus and Machiavelli than it does to the Gospels.
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Sorry to have missed this.
There’s always a next time:
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Can’t make that one, but I’m on the mailing list now.