Saturday, January 3, 2015

U.S. consular staff assaulted in West Bank

Jewish settlers threw stones at U.S. consular officials visiting the West Bank, according to Israeli police. The officials were apparently security personnel conducting a preliminary investigation of alleged vandalism of olive tree orchards planted by Palestinians.

What the fuck?

If Jewish settlers in the West Bank — who I have the impression are fundamentalist and deeply right-wing — are looking to kill support for Israel in the United States, they're going about it rather well.

The settlers are a fanatical bunch who claim Jews have a historical right to the land, conveniently ignoring the centuries during which others established their own deep roots. The settlers' argument requires that you buy into their religious beliefs, which means that from the settlers' point of view there is no counterargument, while for the rest of us the settlers' argument is bald assertion without actual merit or substance. In short, neither side much cares what the other is saying.

Obviously I feel that what is needed is a lot less religious zeal and a lot more acceptance of the intervening centuries. However, Israel has shown little official appetite for curbing the wild-eyed expansionism of its most irresponsible citizens.

I've already made clear that I have absolutely no patience with Jewish fundamentalism — with fundamentalism of any kind, in fact. If you act like yours is the only belief system that matters, and your belief system excuses any abuse of non-believers, you've effectively declared yourself opposed to civilization. It's as simple and as stark as that.

Israelis, you face a difficult choice: are you going to curb your most fanatical citizens, or not? If not, you run the risk that Israel will devolve from a democracy to a theocracy. In that event, you'd better have figured out a survival strategy that doesn't include the U.S.: I and a lot of others will demand the cessation of all foreign aid to a theocratic Israel. We're already deeply unhappy with the West Bank settlements (which are illegal as well as immoral): it won't take much more prodding to push us into outright hostility.

If you're Israeli you might be wondering: so what? Maybe it's time Israel shrugged off its "big brother". Israel has built up a pretty strong economy and military, and the U.S. isn't the only game in town anyway.

But I think that losing the "special relationship" with the U.S. would signify something else. It would be the clearest outward sign that Israel was no longer an oasis of pluralism in an otherwise religiously partitioned region. (Lebanon is the only other pluralistic state in the area that comes to mind.) And while the end of pluralism might be a short-term boon for Judaism, it would be a loss for the Israeli soul. What, after all, is a greater sign of strength than permitting nonbelievers to share your living space?

I can't help feeling that in letting the settlers run amok as they did, Israel is compromising the principle of justice that informed its founding as a state.

Look in the mirror, Israelis. Who are you? Who will you be?

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