The only Middle Eastern paper I read regularly -- Ha'aretz seems to have had it with the settlers and the increasing destruction of anything resembling a sensible government in Israel. Who can blame them? The settlers are destroying any moral credibility that Israel once had. They are no better than the apartheid government of South Africa, and they are increasingly the people who set the terms of debate in Israel.
Buried in the stories (here is one from the Daily News, not exactly a pro-Palestinian paper) of the latest suicide bomber is this:
Six miles away, a mob of 10 Jewish settlers set upon 30 Palestinian farm workers and peace activists, pummeling them with stones and rifle butts, when they heard about the attack.
A Palestinian couple, their two children and four activists were treated at a nearby hospital for their injuries.
An American, James Deleplain, 74, suffered a possible broken rib and an American-British citizen, Mary Hughes-Thompson, 68, had both arms broken, according to the International Solidarity Movement.
Those attacked were harvesting olives.
One of today's Ha'aretz essays, titled "Before Jewish fascism takes over", discusses interesting similarities between this era and that of the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. Yossi Sarid argues that what caused Jerusalem to collapse was zealotry, and Israel faces the same danger today:
There was no "civil war" in those days because wars require two sides. The zealots of the day decided during the Great - and doomed - Revolt against the Romans to begin a campaign of organized terror against all those they decided were too moderate. The domestic terror toppled the responsible leadership, which feared the zealotry that fell upon them. The leadership threw up its hands in surrender without battle, so there was no "civil war."
The crazed "patriots" didn't cool off until they had managed to burn all the grain silos of Jerusalem, driving the residents of the besieged city into hunger and making certain that if there had been any chance for the Great Revolt, the fall of Jerusalem became inevitable. Therefore it was Jewish zealotry that destroyed the Second Commonwealth - and not a civil war.
It appears likely that the Labor party will leave the government over its opposition to payments to the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories. It also appears that the government won't fall, forcing new elections, because a far right party will join Sharon's government. That party is National Union-Yisrael Beiteinu, which has advocated mass expulsions of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. I think it's time for Israelis to ask themselves how they've reached this point. I read a quote from an American Viet Nam veteran at Saturday's anti-war rally in DC, who said, "If violence made people safer, Israel would be perfectly safe".
But wait, there's more.
There is a column by Akiva Eldar in which he argues that the Labor Party has abandoned American Jews, allowing the right to have its say, and to be able to argue that Americans support Sharon's government.
The lack of an alternative to the Sharon/Ben-Eliezer government has paralyzed the supporters of compromise inside the Jewish community. MK Avshalom Vilan, who recently visited Washington as part of a Peace Coalition delegation, says that congressmen, including Jewish congressmen, were surprised to learn that the majority of the Israeli public supports the establishment of a Palestinian state and opposes the settlements. The pro-Israeli lobby constantly feeds them information about corruption in the Palestinian Authority, but they've never been told that in less than 10 years there will be an Arab majority between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Obviously, nobody asks them to protest the highway robbery of olive harvesters and the land grabs of Palestinian properties.
The leaders of Reform and other liberal movements in American Judaism admit to their friends in the Israeli peace camp that their communities refuse to listen to a word of criticism about the Israeli government's policies. "How can you expect us to pressure the administration to change its attitudes to Sharon's brutal policies," they ask, "when the Labor Party's leader executes those policies and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate [Shimon Peres] does such a good job of explaining the policies?"
For that sin, the abandonment of American Jewry, the peace camp may yet pay for many years to come.
I'll end with an excerpt from one of today's editorials -- "The settlers' persecution".
The settlers of Itamar in the West Bank have taken upon themselves security powers and are violently chasing away the farmers from the adjacent villages of Yanoun and Akrabeh. According to reports from the villagers, armed settlers are riding into the villages on all-terrain vehicles and are threatening and beating the farmers who are going out to harvest the olive trees they own or lease, thereby undermining their principal source of income at this time of the year.
This ongoing persecution - which has been accompanied by gunfire directed at the farmers and their homes, the torching of the Yanoun village generator and the contamination of the well in the area - has already caused most of the village residents to abandon their homes. The village, which was once home to 150 families, now has less than 10 families living there.
Dozens of complaints dating as far back as 1998 and concerning the vandalization of property have been filed by the village residents with the Israel Police, but these have gone no further than a confirmation of their receipt. Till now, no one has stood trial and no indictments have been served against the persecutors.