“The Settlers”: Voices from the Holy Land Film Salon

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.

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It’s Already Happened There

A Facebook post (copy/pasted with permission) by Jeff Halper, Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, on the results of the recent Israeli election:

The most surprising thing about the Israeli elections is the surprise and “disappointment” expressed by liberal Zionists, in Israel and abroad. “How could this happen?” Shock at “the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.” As if anything has really changed except that Israelis no longer feel the need to dress up their settler regime in liberal, “democratic” terms. The fact that people are surprised means either that they have never grasped the meaning of Zionism – a case of mass self-delusion – or that they are embarrassed by the public exposure of their violent Judaization of Palestine.

In fact, the outcome of the elections was a natural consequence of the Zionist enterprise – indeed, the very culmination to which Israelis have aspired since 1948 (and well before). From its very beginning some 130 years ago, Zionism has been up-front over its intent to Judaize Palestine. To displace the indigenous population and replace it with Jews. To turn an Arab country into a Jewish one. To transform Palestine into Israel.

Casting Zionism as a settler colonial enterprise is not merely an academic exercise; it explains the necessary and ongoing the violence of conquest, displacement, land grabbing and ultimate repression, if not elimination, of another people whose very presence poses a challenge to exclusivist Jewish national claims to Palestine. Ben Gvir, odious as he may be, is simply the true face of Zionism that has been well hidden behind the suited and “moderate” politicians: Gans, whose election video a couple years ago featured him boasting of having killed 4000 “terrorists” in Gaza; Kohavi, the IDF Chief of Staff who just launched a billion dollar plan to boost the “lethality” of the IDF; Bennett, whose government oversaw an unprecedented peak of house demolitions; Labor and Meretz, the (Zionist) “Left” parties that never mention the occupation; and of course Netanyahu and all the others.

As long as people continue to view Israel as a normal country that just happens to be beset by a “terrorism” problem, they will continue to be surprised by election results and the heights of violence against Palestinians that Israel is capable of. Ben Gurion, Settler-in-Chief, would have been pleased by those results, but not surprised. Zionism’s supporters, American and European leaders at the head, might be less pleased because the unleashing of Netanyahu, Ben Gvir and Smotritch will expose their complicity in permitting Israel to carry out its settler agenda with impunity. They must reject the accusation of apartheid presented in painful detail by Amnesty, HRW, B’tselem and the UN.

Apartheid is today a fact. Zionism’s decades-old campaign of replacing Palestine by Israel has, in Israeli eyes, been accomplished. Israel is now in the process of mopping up. Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Bennett publicly support the annexation of the West Bank (not Gaza, God forbid). Only two things remain: breaking once and for all Palestinian resistance, a task Gans and Kohavi have readily accepted, the IDF and the settlers given a free hand; and the normalization of Israel’s apartheid regime over all of historic Palestine with the help of the international community, including the corrupt and repressive Arab regimes who rely on Israeli surveillance and technologies of repression to stay in power.

So let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. Ben Gvir, Smotriych and their cronies are not an anomaly. The upcoming Netanyahu/Ben Gvir government is the “most right-wing” one only in its rhetoric, not in its policies. They are merely the product of Zionism’s 130 years of colonization. Only by formulating a program of decolonization, of thoroughly dismantling the structures of Israeli control and establishing a state of all its citizens (refugees included) can the Zionist project be defeated. The required intellectual honesty and political courage on the part of liberal Jews and “Left” Israelis is, however, totally lacking. It is incumbent upon Palestinians, supported by anti-Zionist Israelis, to mobilize the international grassroots towards the end of decolonizing Israel and liberating Palestine through an inclusive, shared civil democracy.

For a more decorous mainstream take, there’s always Thomas Friedman at The New York Times. But Friedman’s reaction is in a sense what Halper is referring to. Incidentally, note Friedman’s sly, subtle suggestion that Israeli settler violence is a problematic vigilante reaction to Palestinian violence.

Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.

Where and when was it established that the Palestinians were or are the initiators of violence? It doesn’t need to be established. That it doesn’t is the axiom that facilitates the Zionist enterprise in the first place.

“Pedagogy Under Occupation” Revisited

I’m mentioning this mostly pro forma, given the cost of registration, but I thought I’d announce that I’ll be giving a paper at the forthcoming conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. The paper is called “Between Indoctrination and False Neutrality: Pedagogy Under Occupation,” and is a re-conceived 18-minute version of this post from way back in 2015. The conference takes place October 13-16 at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, but for financial-logistical reasons, I’ve had to drop my plans to attend the on-ground conference, and opted to do one of the Zoom sessions instead. My presentation will be in the Sunday, 11 am session (Panel 8A). (Conference schedule in the first link above.) Continue reading

Imprisoned: A Tale of Two Households in Hebron

Guest post by Gary Fields
Dept of Communications
University of California at San Diego

Al-Khalil (Hebron) is the paragon of Israeli apartheid, exemplified by the Abu Eisheh family and Zlekha Mutaseb and her mother. Both families were kind enough to spend a few hours with me telling me about their life in the Old City. It would take a lengthy explanation to provide enough context for their similar predicament but let me just say that both households are victims of the outrageously violent settler community in the Old City and the State of Israel that defends them.

 
What is different in Hebron is that the 500 Israeli settlers here have colonized the core urban space of the Old City through property theft and live literally next to, and even on top of the 30,000 Palestinians who reside in the same space. What the Israeli apartheid state has done for these settlers is create gated communities for them by prohibiting Palestinians from accessing large areas of the Old City that they have used for generations. In what is shocking even to South Africans who come here, Palestinians are literally forbidden to walk on certain streets in the Old City because they are Palestinian. If that is not apartheid, nothing is.

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