The bubble inside the bubble

I spent the past weekend on a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, attending my nephew’s post-wedding festivities. The last time I was in the vicinity of this particular settlement was about ten years ago, when I went – together with a group of Israeli peace activists – to the adjacent village, to express solidarity with a Palestinian farmer whose vineyard had been destroyed by settlers. The last time I had been to the settlement itself was on a high-school class trip, nearly thirty years ago. My sister has lived there for the past 15 years or so, and her children have grown up there, but this was the first time I had been to her home. When she told me, years ago, that she would be moving to a settlement, I made it clear that I would not come to visit. Last week, mitigating circumstances led me to make an exception to my longstanding rule and I do not regret it, although I will have to make sure my sister and her family understand that it was just that, an exception, and that my opposition to the illegal and immoral settlement project has not “softened” in the least.

I wonder if the ultra-nationalists I spent the weekend with would be more or less shocked by my general anti-Zionism and views on the Nakba, for example, than the left-wing Zionists I have spoken to in the past (Yehouda Shenhav-Shaharabani’s book on the subject, The Trap of the Green Line, is next on my reading list). I kept my mouth shut, for my nephew’s and sister’s sake, and because a political discussion with some of the most extreme Zionist nationalists you’ll ever meet would probably have been rather pointless. Interestingly enough, especially considering the ideological nature of this settlement and reputation of its residents, I heard no political discussions of any kind (Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas, Hamas,Turkel Committee, peace talks, settlement freeze), although much of the conversation seemed to take various religious, political and historical ideas for granted. I met a lot of very nice people and saw a lot of cute kids (I cringed a little when my brother-in-law called kids “our no. 1 industry”). The sermon at Saturday-morning services (this is a religious settlement and nearly everyone goes to services) was rather philosophical and seemed to address my own dilemma in deciding to make an exception to my no-settlement-visit rule. The speaker discussed the conflict between ideological purity and consistency, and individual conscience and judgement. A conversation with a former classmate also touched upon the compatibility/incompatibility of Rabbinic Law and humanistic ideals. I saw no uniforms and very few guns (only a couple of handguns, obviously worn by residents on guard duty). 

From the inside, isolated even from the Palestinian village only a kilometre or two away (although the muezzin did seem a little too quiet in those reverberating, scrub-clad hills), it all seemed so normal, even idyllic. Beneath the attractive veneer however, is a society, a reality, rooted in religio-ethnic supremacism. As a left-wing Zionist pointed out to me last week, talk of Palestinian land and dispossession is dangerous, because “it could bring the entire Zionist enterprise into question”. I couldn’t have put it better myself, but there is something different about settlements like this one. The protective shell of denial and self-righteousness is much thinner, the act/s of dispossession more recent, more patently deliberate and much harder to justify beyond the self-referential bubble. This difference is the basis for belief in the two-state solution, and the lifeblood of denial of the earlier and more profound injustices of 1948. The post-1967 Zionist colonial project also offers self-styled moderates, Israeli and non, something they can sink their reasonable compromise-seeking teeth into, without rocking the boat too much or questioning Israel’s “right to exist”. This illusion of fairness and morality is better constructed, far easier to spin and promote but is, in fact, no less of an illusion than the blatantly supremacist bubble that allows the most extreme settlers to sleep at night, in their ostensibly nurturing, model communities.

About Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel is a Canadian-Israeli translator living in Italy.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Settlers/Colonists | Tagged , , , , , , ,

{ 99 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. potsherd says:

    Schumel, have you read LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”?

    I always remember it when I think of the idyllic life in Zion.

  2. Citizen says:

    Have you ever seen a bubble that did not eventually pop?

  3. What exactly do mean by supremacist?

    I heard an interview by Carlos Santana yesterday, a sympathizer with Palestinian plight. He distinguished between the religious attitude of “chosen” as in privileged, and “significant” as in determined to keep one’s commitments and to regard oneself and community as important.

    I’ve met religious Jews, that fit both descriptions. Even those with neo-orthodox Zionist kipas, and those with fur hats (Satmar and Neturai Karta – I’ve not met any Neturai Karta yet).

    And, even among settlers, I’ve spoken with some that regard the state of Israel as critical, and a component of their religious motivation for settlement, and I’ve spoken with some that regard the state of Israel as insignificant, that their commitment to living on the land and in a humane and ecological manner is what is most important.

    I don’t see a clear dividing line of good from bad, except to comment on policies and options.

    We are ALL beneficiaries, or the oppossite, of political policies. And, NONE of any political policy is all good.

    • Citizen says:

      Witty, many Germans during Hitler’s reign parsed “supremacist” the way you do. Some peas are at the ends, some nearer the middle–all in the same pod, the same ideological pod.

      • I am actually trying to understand what he means by “supremacist”, so it is a comment with some specific meaning, rather than just a political swear word.

        • Sumud says:

          Oh please, you can drop the charade Richard.

          It’s not an ambiguous word or concept. There’s even a reference to ‘jewish supremacism’ in the historical examples on wiki entry – along with some prominent other supremacist movements:

          link to en.wikipedia.org

          What’s your address or PO Richard? I’d like to buy you a gift:

          link to urbandictionary.com

        • Citizen says:

          Witty, what does “anti-semite” mean to you? What does “racist” mean to you? Are they merely political swear words? A supremacist believes that a group is superior. You know this. So what’s the point of
          raising the question without context except to accuse the user of politically swearing? The context provided here is “religio-ethnic supremacism.” What does anyone mean when they call someone or a group “white racist?” Is that phrase too general, devoid of any specific meaning? Merely just political swearing?

        • Chaos4700 says:

          No, you are trying to subvert the actual semantics of the discussion and forcibly inject ambiguity where it doesn’t exist. This is like when you put “international law” in derisive quotes. Or “justice.”

  4. Mooser says:

    “As a left-wing Zionist pointed out to me last week, talk of Palestinian land and dispossession is dangerous, because “it could bring the entire Zionist enterprise into question”. I couldn’t have put it better myself,”

    No, you couldn’t, could you. You will never turn your back on these people, will you? Keep working at it, I’m sure you can arrange some sort of acceptance and special status for them.
    Anyway, it keeps the number of Jews in US prisons artificially low, and I appreciate that.

    • sherbrsi says:

      Anyway, it keeps the number of Jews in US prisons artificially low, and I appreciate that.

      Criminal Zionists have just as much chance of being imprisoned in the US as they do in Israel, that is, none. And considering Jonathan Pollack’s activities, probably even less in the US.

  5. Mooser says:

    ” rooted in religio-ethnic supremacism.”

    What a nice euphmism for criminal behavior, theft and murder. Makes it sound almost attractive, or at least excusable.
    The eagerness with which you create excuses to go among them, and the security you feel while you are there betrays you.
    If you are not afraid at all times they will murder you, you have not taken their true measure, or your own.

    • David Samel says:

      Mooser, the fact that you have a good sense of humor does not entitle you to be a schmuck. In the first place, it is bizarre for someone whose contribution to Palestinian freedom appears limited to making anonymous on-line comments to accuse of cowardice someone who reveals his true name and location (an who offers an uncompromising critique of Zionism that does not allow for the continuation of a Jewish State). You’re upset that Shmuel did not put his life on the line? I know neither of your histories, but would be shocked if you’ve done one-tenth of what he has. (btw, I admit I am much closer to you than to him in this regard, but at least I don’t criticize those braver than I am). What are you going to do next? Complain about those passengers on the other flotilla ships who did not fight back when boarded?

      As for substance, you interpret Shmuel’s phrase “rooted in religio-ethnic supremacism” as “attractive, or at least excusable.” Really? I’m sure Shmuel means it the opposite way – that this ideology can never be acceptable, any more than white supremacism. I can’t even fathom how you came to your conclusion.

      You want to criticize Shmuel for making one exception in 15 years to his self-imposed rule not to visit his sister’s home? Go ahead, make your case, but he deserves a lot more respect than you give him. If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, take a nap and try again.

      • Danaa says:

        Well-put, David Samel. Mooser who’s clearly no friend of supremacy, jumped too fast* on one who has to live with what it actually means to practice rejection of “choseness”, at a cost of having to take a perch outside the tribal patch. From which I conclude that he did not read Shmuel’ vignette with the attention it deserves**. Mooser awes an apology for being prematurely glib, and Shmuel is lucky to have you as his defense counsel (that free of charge too!).

        _____
        PS I’ll jump the knife*** and imagine the Mooser retort:
        * he needed the exercise (Jumping Jacks, first thing in the morning?)
        ** so what’s a poor schmuck with ADS to do? dig deeper?
        ____
        ***I like my exercise a bit more on the cutting edge….

        • LeaNder says:

          Mooser awes an apology for being prematurely glib,

          Yes, I think you should Mooser. Will you? At least you should explain to Shmuel what makes you so angry.

          I like this sentence a lot:
          The protective shell of denial and self-righteousness is much thinner, the act/s of dispossession more recent, more patently deliberate and much harder to justify beyond the self-referential bubble.

        • David Samel says:

          Hold on, Danaa. So now you’re setting my legal fees? And setting them at zero? Gee, thanks.

        • Avi says:

          Hold on, Danaa. So now you’re setting my legal fees? And setting them at zero? Gee, thanks.

          I was going to tell Danaa not to be surprised should she receive an invoice from your office detailing services rendered. You never know with lawyers ;)

      • Mooser says:

        David, as you can clearly see just above your comment, the words ” rooted in religio-ethnic supremacism.” is an ambigious, and not entirely prejorative description. Richard Witty, I’ll think you’ll agree, is far more typical than me, and he demands a detailed indictment of all of those terms before he will accept them as condemnatory.
        I think “criminal” is much more the mot juste, and if I’m not mistaken, covers the situation much better.
        As for the description of me in your comment, there’s little I can do. I may not have the right to be a schmuck, I won’t stand on that, but about some things, I am a schmuck.
        And I am always a suspicious schmuck about Israelis, no matter what they say.
        If the Gentiles can survive the way some Jews, as reported here, talk about them, I’m sure Shmuel can survive my distaste for settlers.

    • Mooser,
      I know I could have fleshed it out a bit more, but it escapes me how you could possibly have drawn the conclusions you did from the piece I wrote. Well, maybe the extreme superficiality of your final sentence offers some clue.

      • LeaNder says:

        thanks Shmuel for giving us your impressions, and I think it’s good you made an exception for your sister or her kids.

        I am also pleased, although I don’t have the time now to understand what exactly triggered his response that our dear residential jester, Mooser, hasn’t disappeared into the moderation bin never to surface again.

      • annie says:

        thanks for your report shmuel, i can’t imagine what it would be like to have a sibling so woven into a fabric of life that diverges from my beliefs. must be very difficult.

      • Citizen says:

        Thanks, Shmuel. I really appreciate your comments on this blog. You are a dear man and so full of erudition, and more important, wide and highly principled wisdom. Damn, yours was a really tough decision. From what you say, I think you chose the humane way–obviously a very tough personal decision. I wish your nephew and sister well yet I can’t help but think of Fiddler On The Roof’s “God bless and keep the Czar, far away from me.” Or something like that. As you know the ideal German mother lived to breed too–under Nazism. I wonder if your sister ever read about that? They even had a war medal for it, the German Mother’s Cross. It came with a nice blue and white ribbon too.

        • LeaNder says:

          Citizen, should I be surprised that you manage to even twist eulogies back into the stereotypical Nazi comparison? Probably not.

        • Citizen says:

          LeaNder, you really need to get off your stereotypical notion that only Nazis are really evil. You should take to heart Arndt’s notion of the banality of evil. I didn’t twist anything, but you did. Idealism is not a virtue, no matter what train it is pulling.

        • LeaNder says:

          Look, citizen, (this seems to develop into my standard) maybe our problem is that you are American, ok with partially German roots, if I recall it correctly, but American nevertheless, and I am German.

          If you say not only Nazis are evil, I obviously agree, they weren’t very creative but – and that’s the story about the Protocols many people don’t really understand, the Protocols are the perfect mirror of the European authoritarians – they stole freely the worst repressive ideas over the centuries.

          The Zionists both cultural and political took antisemitism seriously, versus the Jewish citizen of whatever nationality. Who am I judge them, living now. Not only the antisemites but also the vast majority of whatever political denomination, here in Germany, offered Jews at the time only three main objectives or “solutions” if you like:

          integration – meaning assimiliation ultimately expecting them to give up their Jewish faith

          segregation – reversing emancipation, that is taking away their equal rights again

          or exclusion – sending them no matter were.

          In this larger context Zionists simply embraced what was offered them from the outside “the state within the state” the “nation apart”. They hoped that once they had their own state anti-Semitism would go away.

          That they are now caught in their own “nationalist dilemma” is a completely different story.

          I simply would like to ask you to realize who pushed them into their Colonial position. That’s really not a purely Jewish dream but something you’ll find in European history quite early as a demand from outside the Jewish community. Napoleon already in 1799 called on the Jews in Western Asia and North Africa to join his military campaign and reconstitute “Jewish national life in Jerusalem”, and he wasn’t the last, the British were eager too to get a foot into the Fertile Cresent. No matter how angry we are, we can’t wipe away European, and especially German and Russian history in our desire to assign easy guilt. And that’s exactly what the easy Nazi comparison feels like to me.

        • LeaNder says:

          I missed to add the most important bit, most important since it is important to us now:

          The Zionists both cultural and political took antisemitism seriously, versus the vast majority of Jewish citizen of whatever nationality.

      • Shmuel – thanks for a helpful perspective.

        I’m going to have to repeat a version of the complaint I make of J Street, however.
        I complain that J Street says, “AIPAC is a problem.” “Settlers are a problem.” “Let’s go to Washington to tell Obama to fix it.”

        If you are not willing to confront your family, in love and compassion, with the injustice of their behavior, who do you think should do so? Would you expect any outsider — especially a non-Jew — to be as firm and also as loving as you would be? Or do you default to the goyim because they are so easily intimidated, and because so much time, effort, and money has been invested in sensitizing non-Jews to the proper attitude of deference they should take towards Jewish people?
        What we’re left with, then, is only Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is willing to speak harsh words AND absorb the retribution meted out by Israelis stung by confrontation with their own failings.

        You did a good thing, Shmuel, and I am sympathetic with how difficult it was and with your terrible dilemma. But you are not out of the woods.
        I wish you well, Shmuel, and I wish you and your Israeli relatives the courage to confront each other and a just truth, in compassion and love.

        • Philip Weiss says:

          i regard shmuel as brave. i am afraid to confront many a good friend of mine on this issue.

        • MRW says:

          PG, there’s a time and a place. A wedding is not one of those times. Shmuel’s nephew looks up to him, as he’s stated before. His silence and respect for the occasion may have a longer lasting consequence.

          Now, if Shmuel had been Irish, well hell, what better time than a wedding to ruin the gathering and have a free-for-all. ;-) I could trot out some family stories, or seventeen.

          Shmuel is not his sister’s keeper. Far better that she comes to any new reality with those in her community; they’re going to have to live with the new reality. Besides, she knows how he feels.

          One of my greatest faults is blurting out the truth about something at the wrong moment with a ‘damn the consequences’ approach; I never seem to learn. I think Shmuel was being smart.

        • Tuyzentfloot says:

          I think ‘the dilemma’ is about guilt more than about courage. Or it would be with me. “I hope you know what you’re doing being so cruel to us, you and your stupid abstract principles!” . That feeling(I hope I got it across), and then over many years. If you want to handle that part with courage it becomes just another word for blinders.

          The courage part is when you’re afraid to stick your neck out expecting to make yourself unpopular, to make yourself suspicious or to stand isolated. It doesn’t count as courage there if you’re not afraid btw :) But again there are always reasonable arguments not to talk up and they should be taken in account, they make things more complicated, and they can be used as an excuse for inaction.

        • Phil and MRW and Shmuel,

          If not now then when? If not Schmuel and Phil, then who?

        • Citizen says:

          Well, Phil, if they are good friends, can we assume they all know about your blog? If so, your invitation is open to them. Their choice. Shmuel’s sister knows his stance. The visit was apparently by mutal consent. They agreed to disagree in silence there and then. “Let’s not fight in front of the children,” comes to mind. OTH, nobody should remain a child forever, huh? When a family visit is rare, as in Shmuel’s case, there’s more hope in that rare (and discreet) visit than curring off such personal contact forever.

        • Citizen says:

          curring=cutting

        • MRW says:

          Correction, not a quibble: One of my greatest faults is blurting out the truth—or what I perceive to be the truth yet it’s always my truth, isn’t it—about something….

      • Mooser says:

        I think Richard Witty made my points much better than I could ever make them.
        And I apologise for the tastelessness and it must be admitted, implied insult,of my last sentence. What I should have said, and what engendered the sentence is that under the circumstances, I would be very afraid of being harmed or even killed. But I’m sure you are a much better judge of the situation than me.

    • andrew r says:

      Mooser, I usually appreciate the agility with which you expose Zionism as a racket hijacking Jewish identity. And I don’t have any more sympathy for those who stick with it. But I don’t understand this witch hunt against Shmuel. Rejecting Zionism there is a whole ‘nother task than doing it in America. What exactly must he do to get your certification?

      • Mooser says:

        I’m sorry andrew, but I have a real crappy attitude towards Israel. And towards settlers even worse. That it should be directed at Shmuel is with very little doubt, unforgivable, but that’s me. “Since he’s from Israel he’s just got to have some kind of ulterior motive”, goes my twisted brain “He’s just trying to soften us up, to get us to think these people can be fixed” screams my brain, (whoops, wife says it’s not just the brain) as I pound the desk and kick the wall to show I’m not overexcited or irrational. “He’s trying to make them appealing instead of appalling” wails Frumah Sarah “Marry the tailor, Mottel Camzoil!”
        Oh crap, now there’s a cop at the door, wanting to arrest me for anti-Jewish hate speech! Don’t Tase me, bro!

      • Mooser says:

        “What exactly must he do to get your certification?”

        First of all I wouldn’t ever think that a guy like Shmuel might ever need it. He’s got a much, much more difficult row to hoe concerning his relationship with Zionism than I can even imagine.
        I have a lousy, suspicious attitude about anything which comes from a person whom I perceive as an Israeli, no matter what they have to say. And it launches itself at Shmuel.
        Actually, you know, I wasn’t so bad before I started reading Mondoweiss. But between Phil’s brilliant pieces and “Today in Palestine” I seem to have gotten a bad attitude.

  6. kapok says:

    “left-wing Zionist” As a leftie I take umbrage at this phrase. I look forward to a commune of the entire earth. No Zionists allowed.

  7. David Samel says:

    Shmuel, thanks for the personal report about your visit. I am especially interested in how you grapple with your personal ideals, which you have shown time again are quite strong, when they conflict with your loyalty to and consideration of a family you continue to love despite your political divergences. I have faced similar situations many times, and have dealt with them in different ways. Sometimes I am disagreeably vocal and sometimes embarrassingly silent. I am rarely satisfied with how I respond.

    I have noticed on this site that some people are insensitive to the dilemmas we face as Jews from Zionist families. They see the issue as clear cut, and expect people who feel similarly to take a stand and damn the consequences. Frankly, I don’t blame them one bit for their “insensitivity” to my dilemma, but it is real nevertheless. The most inspiring thing I’ve seen on the subject was in Bishop Tutu’s letter to the Berkeley Senators, urging them to vote for BDS. To very grossly paraphrase him, he said, if you feel uncomfortable taking a public stand that might piss off your Jewish friends, think of how much more discomfort Palestinians must endure.

    • Citizen says:

      Yes, it’s hard. A real case of damned if you do, dammned if you don’t. The true beliver has it easy. Shmuel actually lives in Israel. The White Rose actually lived in their homeland too. Perhaps that’s what Mooser meant when he said, “If you are not afraid at all times they will murder you, you have not taken their true measure, or your own”?

    • Avi says:

      David Samel August 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      I have noticed on this site that some people are insensitive to the dilemmas we face as Jews from Zionist families. They see the issue as clear cut, and expect people who feel similarly to take a stand and damn the consequences.

      Frankly, I don’t blame them one bit for their “insensitivity” to my dilemma, but it is real nevertheless.

      Whenever I feel that way about any issue whether it’s politics or anything else, my inner voice reminds me that I need not be selfish and must consider my predicament within the grand scheme of things. In other words, I wouldn’t burden someone with my own dilemma — even if he or she were insensitive — as I know that my dilemma does not compare to that of the person or persons who are facing a grand injustice.

      Case in point, if I were the group from LA that wanted to support BDS but was having second thoughts — i.e. a dilemma — I would be embarrassed to voice those thoughts out loud knowing that my ‘dilemma’ is minuscule compared to the grand scheme, to the occupation and oppression of the Palestinians. Thus, such a dilemma would be something that I would try to work on quietly and internally. Otherwise, I would feel selfish.

      • moderators are apparently not happy with an earlier comment I made, and neither am I; moderator limbo gives a chance to clean it up a bit, perhaps.
        Here’s part of what I said 6 hours ago:

        Shmuel – thanks for a helpful perspective.

        I’m going to have to repeat a version of the complaint I make of J Street, however.
        I complain that J Street says, “AIPAC is a problem.” “Settlers are a problem.” “Let’s go to Washington to tell Obama to fix it.”

        If you are not willing to confront your family, in love and compassion, with the injustice of their behavior, who do you think should do so? Would you expect any outsider — especially a non-Jew — to be as firm and also as loving as you would be?

        You did a good thing, Shmuel, and I am sympathetic with how difficult it was and with your terrible dilemma. But you are not out of the woods.
        I wish you well, Shmuel, and I wish you and your Israeli relatives the courage to confront each other to arrive at a just truth, in compassion and love.

        • PG,

          You make a good point, and it is a constant dilemma for me. In the case of family, we also know each other well enough to sense how far to go and at what times. Confrontation for the sake of confrontation is pointless, although certain lines can and must be drawn – such as my decision not to visit my sister’s home (my brother-in-law wouldn’t speak to me for two years). Protest without communication or the possibility of actually changing minds may be appropriate for strangers, but it doesn’t work within families.

        • Do you think of your sister as “supremacist”. It is a very very big word, a swear at her (even if she didn’t hear).

          It is a different word than “she has attitudes that cause me distress”.

        • Donald says:

          “supremacist”. It is a very very big word”

          It is a pretty big word–I counted eleven letters. None of the words I’m using are that big. “Eleven” gets me to six, which is like some weird Godelian paradox. “Letters” has seven.

          Whether it is an accurate word depends on the circumstances (thirteen letters, yaay me!) and Shmuel knows those, but moving to a settlement seems kind of “racist”. “Racist” is a small word–six letters.

          “It is a different word than “she has attitudes that cause me distress”.”

          Whether someone is a supremacist is a question about their beliefs, not about whether their beliefs cause Shmuel distress. It’s like saying that it’s wrong to call someone who blows up civilians a “terrorist”, because “terrorist” is a big word (nine letters). Instead, we should say that such actions cause us distress.

  8. MHughes976 says:

    I suppose that a relative visiting one of these settlements wears a Gyges’ ring, formed by what I presume is the totally overwhelming assumption in the place that he is ideologically one of them, and therefore does not fear for his/her life unless (s)he chooses to remove the protective amulet. I can see the reasons for not removing it, ie the desire to retain some family solidarity amid political difference and perhaps the desire to observe scientifically what manner of place this is in its normal working rather than in its response to a alienated ‘self-hater’. Scientifically we already know how close akin crime, religion and idealism are. But I suppose we may as well renew our acquaintance with this truth from time to time and experience the resulting fear and trembling. Shmuel’s report certainly sends a terrible frisson through me, as did Rachel Marcuse’s report on Birthright.

    • Citizen says:

      Is one good because one fears punishment? If a ring made one invisible, would he/she steal? I found a nice new expensive cell phone the other day in the gym bathroom. I thought of keeping it. Nobody would ever know. The bathroom is small, the door was locked. I turned it in, wondering if the guy I turned it in to would simply keep it himself. The settlers stole the land. Their invisibility consists of government OK, enforced by the IDF and Israeli cops–by the whole Israeli state apparatus. Germans once wore that gyges ring, yes?

    • MHughes,

      There is more to it than the assumption of identification. In the eyes of the settler community, I am a member of the privileged group, regardless of my beliefs – unless I happen pose a direct threat or challenge, which was not a role I chose to play on this visit. There is also the arrogance of the true believer, convinced that those who dissent will eventually see the light.

  9. Danaa says:

    Shmuel, I liked your title of “bubble within a bubble” and the framing of life on the inner bubble, with its veneer thinner than that of the outer shell. It more than a little reminiscent of cult life, which is defined by an “inside” and outside” with no way to connect the two (or else it stops being a bubble, by the very Physics of it). One can’t help but note how Israeli life – as a whole – has been acquiring cult-like aspects – seemingly at an accelerating pace. Spending some time at a settlement makes that obvious, especially when religion is used to weave part of the protective skin to define the boudaries.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon – bubbles. We saw just how interesting with the market collapse, when it suddenly became obvious 9at least to many of us) that the entire Free Market model is, in fact, a bubble model one with some really good fizz to keep us all inibreated. The smartest of those living inside the bubble are tasked with constructing the sustaining Myths to fudge away that which cannot be explained. Like the Myth of the Invisible Hand (which to me always sounded too much like infamous “ether”). For israelis – and their assorted co-tribalist sympathizers outside – the ruling Myth is probably Zionism – which requires the assumption of exceptionalism as a built-in tool to deflect too close an inspection. Over time, like the Invisible hand, zionism becomes not just a guiding principle (rooted as it is in ‘exceptionalism” and propelled by fear of persecution), but the stuff on which self-identity rests. By becoming identity, zionism turns into that which needs no justification and tolerates no questioning.

    Perhaps more Israelis from the coastal “bubble” should visit settlements now and then. Nothing like seeing another’s bubble to jolt one into perceiving one’s own. I you, a one, who made the journey outside one or more mini-bubbles (because israel has quite a few of those) is uniquely positioned to see the larger bubble(s).

    Thanks for the telling. Now go get Mooser (careful with those antlers though!).

    • Citizen says:

      Danna, I thought of cults too; how strained it can get when a family loves its children but one has joined a cult (or even a different sect as in Big Love?) who may also still love his or her family. “… if you feel uncomfortable taking a public stand that might piss off your Jewish friends, think of how much more discomfort Palestinians must endure,” said David Samel. That’s a very relevant point, yes? Some cults at most
      operate to disconnect the family members when one joins–a state cult may harm more than the families of its members, and consistently; we all knows the usual historical examples–consider also the tensions here in America right now as to who is the real patriot?

    • The title was artful, yes.

    • Danaa,

      I also like the “bubble within a bubble” title, but it’s not mine; it’s Phil’s. You’re right abut the different bubbles in Israel, but I’m afraid that seeing and recognising flimsier bubbles than one’s own simply help to sustain the illusion that it is others who are deluding themselves. I’ve been told that my own disillusionment with Israel and Zionism is the result of having lived in Jerusalem, where everything is so raw. Had I lived on the coast (so the argument goes), things would have been different. It is true that a Jerusalem bubble of sanity is much higher maintenance than a coastal one, but the reality that must be kept at bay is very much the same.

      As for Mooser, I’m willing to cut him some slack. Maybe it’s moulting season.

      • MRW says:

        Shmuel,

        I think Mooser’s getting ready for rutting season. ;-) [C'mon back, Mooser, join the fray, you're forgiven, we all have our days.]

        I wondered where the hell you were, and I’m glad you made the trip. Who better to take a look around. Beneath the attractive veneer however, is a society, a reality, rooted in religio-ethnic supremacism, which I am sure you would have been subjected to in highly palpable form had you not been vetted and approved as the brother of a longtime resident. There’s no point in making the settlers a monolithic cabal of evil. They are human and driven by concerns that most of us here find completely counter-productive.

        This phrase stuck out: some of the most extreme Zionist nationalists you’ll ever meet. As I’ve written elsewhere here before, I got emails from this crowd in the WB for months on end because a friend was secretly bcc’ing mine onto them. The return emails—it was an onslaught—were so vitriolic, so full of intransigence and extreme one-note fervor that I felt as if an 8-in long and 1-in thick stake was being pile-driven into my forehead. You were smart to avoid provoking even a modicum of the same.

        Welcome back. I missed you.

      • Walid says:

        Shmuel , I felt for you having to go through these conflicting feelings and appreciated your moving message but I also understood or maybe I should say guessed where Mooser was coming from; I also have some reservations about Palestinian-sympathizing Jews. I’m finding it very simple for Jews to talk against the occupation as an easy out for what has been done in their name. Jews that talk against the occupation as being the only wrong and Israelis that participate in pro-Palestinian demonstrations while not being disturbed in their own enjoyment of the fruits of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians inside Israel are not very convincing; I doubt many of those sympathizers realize or give a damn that every time Israelis are drinking a glass of water, or taking a shower, that two-thirds of that water is stolen. It has become somewhat of faddish thing to be a Palestinian-sympathizer but being a real one has to be about getting involved with much more than ending the occupation.

        • Walid,

          It’s interesting to see this comment coming from you – an Arab (Palestinian?), who does not “tow the line,” but calls things as you see them. I can imagine a Palestinian Mooser making a similar comment about you.

          The problem you raise is the classic problem faced by members of a privileged, oppressor group (colonialist, racial, economic, etc.) who wish to fight the injustices from which they themselves derive benefit. You are wrong however, about it being “faddish” to be a “Palestinian-sympathizer” in any real sense of the term in Israel. It is an unpopular, uphill path. Speaking for myself, I couldn’t take being a member of the oppressor class, so I left. I’m not sure it was the most ethical decision.

        • “Speaking for myself, I couldn’t take being a member of the oppressor class, so I left. I’m not sure it was the most ethical decision. ”

          You should speak to Harveystein who posts here. He lived in New York, got married to an Israeli, and moved TO Israel partially to dissent.

          He can correct me if I’ve gotten his story wrong.

          Its an IMPORTANT question of how to make change, and requiring the question what change is desired?

          Many radicals that remain in Israel that contend that “Zionism is racism”, still derive benefit from the institutional privileges.

          Many that you apparently relate to as not personally affected by the tension of ambiguity that you describe, actually are, and perhaps moreso than dissenters.

        • potsherd says:

          I know Zionists who constantly use terms like “faddish” and “fashionable” to discredit people who express sympathy for Palestinian rights. The presumption being that no one without a personal stake in this issue can possibly be sincere.

        • Walid says:

          Shmuel, I’m not Palestinian and I don’t look on Palestinians as mascots so a Palestinian Mooser would have nothing to say to me. I have the utmost respect for their intellect and industriousness that give both Arabs and Israelis the jitters. It’s not only Jews that have been oppressing Palestinians. You escaped your oppressor class by moving out of the country but all this accomplished was to make you feel less miserable and this is what I was trying to say about those that believe that the occupation is the only root of the evil. You don’t like what is happening in the OT but have you ever given a thought to what was happening to the second class citizens living inside Israel? Maybe “faddish” was my generalizing more than necessary. Anyway, those settlers didn’t just spontaneously grow there, they were planted there in neat settlement rows by the people of Israel that provided them with free land, incentives, cheap labour, fiscal breaks, military cover, restricted roads, electricity and so on to establish facts on the ground to somehow eventually help Israel. Today, those that helped put the settlers there are are thinking of them as lepers. There is something wrong in this story that is starting to look like the one about the settlers that Sharon yanked out of Gaza.

        • Walid,

          What I meant by a Palestinian Mooser is someone who might tell you that you are not pure enough in your hatred and condemnation of Israel and America, that your attempts to understand complexities are in fact attempts to justify and excuse, for whatever ulterior motives you may have.

          You ask whether I have “ever given a thought to what was happening to the second class citizens living inside Israel”. As a matter of fact, that – and not the oppression in the OT – is what made me realise that I could not live in Israeli society. I thought I had addressed that very point in my post, in which I refer to the illusion/bubble of ’48 – less obvious, but no less pernicious.

          Of course it is Israeli society that put the settlers there, and a part of Israeli society indeed uses the settlers (and the “Russians” and the religious and the Mizrahim) as a convenient scapegoat and salve for their own consciences – less so now that support for the 2ss is waning and it is “faddish” to blame everything on the Palestinians.

  10. VR says:

    I am convinced that people can live with anything as long as they think they have a perceived benefit. Since the earliest of times people have invoked the “deity” for any type of atrocity. They take comfort in the insulation of their own group. So there are general characteristics common to all that are in practice here, and unfortunately have a long history. All of this not giving excuse for what is currently occurring.

    All of this leads to a callous view of those who have become the victims, a demonizing or denial of humanity, or as in this instance the use of previous tragedy in order to bury current atrocities. None of it would be possible without a support of a state apparatus, which preys upon the people who they say they support and upon the victims of the region. Bubble within a bubble indeed, and delusion within delusion – turned into a destructive force.

  11. Antidote says:

    re: settlers referring to their children as their ‘no. 1 industry’

    not unusual in the history of reproductive politics and economics – think of the Victorian slogan: ‘close your eyes and think of England’ , the Nazi ‘Mutterkreuz’, or much more recent incentives to boost declining birthrates in Europe against ‘waves of immigrants’ whose often higher birthrates pose a challenge to increasingly obsolete notions of the nation state.

    It strikes me as odd that there is considerable public outrage at the proposed deportation of children of migrant workers in Israel (who have replaced the Palestinian workforce over the past decade)

    from the Guardian:

    “The government estimates there are currently 1,200 children born to around 200,000 migrant workers. After debating the issue for about a year, it decided two weeks ago to allow 800 who have lived in Israel for more than five years, speak Hebrew and attend school to remain; the rest – most of whom are less than five years old – will be deported to their parents’ home countries.

    Yishai, a member of the ultra-Orthodox rightwing Shas party, rejected Mrs Netanyahu’s appeal. Earlier he accused migrant workers of using their children as “human shields”. “The foreigners came to Israel, some of them illegally, and gave birth to illegal children here,” he said.

    Following the decision, defence minister Ehud Barak – who was absent from the cabinet vote – publicly dissented. “The state of Israel cannot expel hundreds of children,” he said. “It is not Jewish or humane and will scar the entire Israeli society.” An umbrella organisation of Holocaust survivors also objected. “The state of Israel is … founded on a Jewish heart and conscience,” it wrote in a letter to the prime minister. “We who experienced the Holocaust were witnesses to the death camp selection and the separation between children and their parents … We are overcome by a sense of suffocation and shame.”

    Several thousand people demonstrated against the move in Tel Aviv at the weekend.

    The children are scheduled to be deported at the end of the month.”

    Why is there no such ‘sense of suffocation and shame’ expressed at the injustices suffered by the Palestinians? If racism was the central or only problem of Zionism, it should also apply to migrant workers and their children. Does Israeli racism or guilt/fear stand in the way of empathy with Palestinian families being torn apart?

    BTW, I’ve read several articles on this upcoming deportation plan. none addresses the question whether the children (all or most under 5) will be deported with or without their parents. Does anyone know?

    • marc b. says:

      Following the decision, defence minister Ehud Barak – who was absent from the cabinet vote – publicly dissented. “The state of Israel cannot expel hundreds of children,” he said. “It is not Jewish or humane and will scar the entire Israeli society.”

      what an odd statement: neither jewish nor humane.

  12. yourstruly says:

    For what it’s worth my attitude in visiting conflicted areas such as West Beirut during the 82 U.S. backed Israeli siege of that city, Jerusalem, the West Bank & Gaza during the First Intifada was to serve as a witness so as to be able to return home and share my experiences & observations with the many who never had the opportunity to visit said places. For that reason I didn’t always identify myself as an anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian Jew – on the ferry from Larnica to Junei, for example, knowing that very likely Phalangists (Lebanese fascists) who hated Palestinians were on the boat. After all I wasn’t there to confront fascists but to gather as much information as I could, so that upon returning home I could contribute further to the Palestinian struggle. Martyrdom not only wasn’t on my agenda, it would have prevented me from fulfilling that mission. That’s not to say that there weren’t harrowing moments when idealist meets Israeli undercover agents, or visits a Palestinian recently released from prison whose initial reaction is to say, “Why me, and with the Israelis still watching, just what I don’t need, an outside supporter!” But the real value of such moments is in the retelling upon returning home. And retell them I did, mostly at Palestinian rallies where I, the Jewish returnee, was the featured speaker. As a consequence I received death threats & was once physically accosted by a JDL thug, which explains why right now I write anonymously. True, it’s not as forthcoming as writing under one’s own name, but it beats doing nothing.

  13. Keith says:

    SHMUEL- I liked your post a lot. What came through for me is what Hannah Arendt referred to as the banality of evil. Evil deeds are rarely done by people who are intrinsically bad, rather, they are done by rather ordinary people enmeshed in a system which inevitably produces evil results, such as Zionist Israel or the US Empire. The people caught up in such a system don’t see themselves as evil or believe that what they do is evil, the prevailing ideology, mythology and information filters make accurate perception next to impossible. Surely, we Americans should be aware that the way Third World people view us is quite different from our own self-image. In the case of Israel, significant change for the better is unlikely to result from internal pressure, rather, change is more likely to come in response to outside pressure.

  14. Avi says:

    The post-1967 Zionist colonial project also offers self-styled moderates, Israeli and non, something they can sink their reasonable compromise-seeking teeth into, without rocking the boat too much or questioning Israel’s “right to exist”.

    So, in essence, the entire two-state solution was a flawed one from the getgo. Many knew that, many on here know that, but somehow seeing it put the way you put it gives it an entirely different meaning, a resounding meaning.

    As a left-wing Zionist pointed out to me last week, talk of Palestinian land and dispossession is dangerous, because “it could bring the entire Zionist enterprise into question”.

    Did you get a sense, Shmuel, of what that particular person considers to be a permanent solution? It’s evident that he/she supports the two state-solution, but how does he/she envision the Palestinian position within that framework?

  15. By chance, one week before Shmuel spent a Shabbat at his sister’s, I spent a Shabbat at a West Bank settlement as well. While he had the excuse of his nephew’s post wedding Shabbat, I had no such excuse, only a desire to see an old friend from 40 or so years ago and a desire to see him on his home turf. I found the experience quite confusing, besides the usual: friends of old who have kept the faith with Torah, with large families, looking forward to retirement, the presence in a settlement nowhere near the lines of 67 added an element of unusual confusion.

    Although as has been noted the two state solution is nowhere near, that is still my hope and thus my friend’s home, would have to be evacuated like the Gaza settlements. I imagined receiving a call in the middle of the night (Friday night) from the IDF, telling me to help evacuate the family of my host from their home, to ease the process of evacuation.

    In fact my only mention of politics was at the lunch table, “Do you think Israel will ever annex the West bank?” and my friend said, “Not today and not tomorrow.” Although the heat was intense my friend and his wife took me on a tour of the settlement and from the fringes we could see the surrounding hills, mostly empty. My friend’s wife said, “See. There’s plenty of room here for everybody.” I didn’t argue. If everyone would get the vote and full rights, she is right. It’s not a lack of room that’s the problem(although there is a lack of water, it seems.) but the lack of a political agreement.

    As a rule I try to minimize my participation in prayer services because they tend to send my compass’s needle twirling instead of pointing towards true north. But Shabbat afternoon I participated, but when I reached the paragraph that prays for peace, I found the contradiction between my vision for peace and the fact of the settlement a bit too glaring.

  16. jonah says:

    Thank you, Shmuel, for you interesting personal report. Even if I disagree with your strong anti-Zionist views, I appreciate the honest approach to your dilemma, which shows that Israel and the ME is neven just black or white, rather in most of the cases nuanced and contradictory.
    But this is exactly what many of your fellow anti-Zionists outside Israel do not want to acknowledge, as Mooser’s harsh reaction gives evidence. They prefer to keep alive their monoithic castle of ideas in which the roles of the good (all Palestinians) and bad (all Israelis, respectively (Zionist) Jews, and even those Jews who doesn’t condemn in no uncertain terms the state of Israel) are well distributed and distinct from each other. This leads often to hatred and demonization.
    Your story demonstrates, for those who can read and listen, that the tragic reality in the Middle East has many different faces, is indeed complex, and that probably only the full realization of this fact can really help to find a lasting solution based on compromise.

    • jonah says:

      errata corrige:

      …… monolithic ….. Jews who don’t condemn …

    • Donald says:

      You’re generalizing from Mooser’s reaction. Most people seem to sympathize with Shmuel.

      Anyway, a lot of us Americans can identify–presumably like most people, I have friends and some relatives who are racist and recognizing that people are complicated is something that you come to terms with fairly early on. Probably the majority of the whites I knew growing up in the south were racist and defensive about Southern history, very similar to the way Zionists tend to be. They weren’t a bunch of Hitlers–they were good people in most ways with a huge moral blindspot, one which was taught to them from birth by their culture.

      In the case of Jim Crow and before that, slavery, the solution was imposed from the outside. By force. And many people changed for the better, gradually growing out of their racism, though maybe never being completely honest with themselves about Southern history. Which doesn’t mean that the same exact lesson carries over to Israel–war won’t work and shouldn’t be advocated, but maybe sanctions will.

      • David Samel says:

        Donald, that’s an excellent analogy with southern whites and the complications of decent people with a “huge moral blindspot,” exactly how I’ve been thinking about many people I know.

      • Citizen says:

        There’s a lot of such generally good people in places like the more rural parts of PA and NY too, for example. Obviously they are not Southerners.

      • Chu says:

        Comparing the southern beliefs at that time to Zionism is a great analogy. So much rings true.

        What’s amazing is that no one in Congress has brought up this potent analogy. I don’t think it would get much press if it were said on the house floor, given the nature of the press, but it would be something unique to have this topic debated for a few days.

      • jonah says:

        Donald, in your comparison you fails to mention that racism between Israelis and Palestinians / Arabs goes both ways. The Palestinians you hear speaking about the Israelis use instead of the latter the racial pejorative generic term “the Jews”.

    • Shingo says:

      Jonah,

      Yes, Shnuel’s piece did being to light the nuance and contradiction that exists within the Israeli community, but at the end of the day, there is nohing nuanced or contradictory about the fact that those very settlements are illegal, that Palestinian families were likely driven from their land to pave the way for those settlements, that many Palestinians died in the name of “protecting” those settlements, and that this very cycle continues to this day.

      This is not about a tragic reality, it is about an ongiong Zionist crime and the ongoing process of denial that plagues the Zionist conscience. A thief or a rapist does not get to request a comprimise when justice is served, so why should these settlers?

    • Avi says:

      But this is exactly what many of your fellow anti-Zionists outside Israel do not want to acknowledge, as Mooser’s harsh reaction gives evidence. They prefer to keep alive their monoithic castle of ideas in which the roles of the good (all Palestinians) and bad (all Israelis, respectively (Zionist) Jews, and even those Jews who doesn’t condemn in no uncertain terms the state of Israel) are well distributed and distinct from each other. This leads often to hatred and demonization.

      It may come as a shock to you, but the “generalizations” that you bring up in a feeble attempt to discredit other commenters on this website are rather irrelevant.

      I will believe you and your motives when you earn my trust. Until then, your arguments amount to pandering. You’re bound by the new commenting policy, so you have to keep your comments relevant and semi-reasonable.

      Anyway, this entire conflict stems from an idea. At the crux of the hundred year old conflict is Zionism. You can discuss these “nuances” ad nauseum, but until Zionism is removed from the equation, the problems will persist.

      And I’m also noticing a pattern in your posts and those of other posters who agree with your opinion. Lacking the ability to derail the conversation with your common tactics, you have resorted to copycatting witty.

      Yes. Many do realize and know that the conflict is “nuanced”, but that doesn’t change the simple fact that millions of people are supporting a failed idea. Neither does it change the fact that the two parties involved, the Israelis and the Palestinians, are not on a level playing field.

      There is a clear distinction between the occupying victimizer – Israel – and the colonized victim – the Palestinians.

      This entire “demonization” meme strikes me as hollow and meaningless, especially given your posting history on this blog.

      P.S. Do you make mistakes on purpose, just to have the opportunity to type “errata corrige”?

      • I expect that you are perceiving a common irritation with you Avi. Stated commonly by individuals that DO dissent from the status quo, but towards reform and law, rather than towards revolution and imposition.

        Underlying is a question of whether a radical movement directed at Israel can succeed in making change, or can only succeed in making vanity.

        • Avi says:

          If I were you, I wouldn’t position myself as Mother Teresa in this thread, especially given your posting history.

        • rmokhtar says:

          “I expect that you are perceiving a common irritation with you Avi. ”

          OK, that one’s funny seeing who it’s coming from.

        • Dismissal only.

          You want to disagree, address my points when I make them. Actually dialog.

          My consistent point is that militancy FAILS, and in two respects.

          1. It usually doesn’t achieve change, most often the oppossite
          2. When it succeeds, the result is often worse than the starting point

          In contrast, efforts to reconcile, to mutually humanize, are both the goal and the means to the goal.

        • eljay says:

          >> You want to disagree, address my points when I make them. Actually dialog.

          You don’t dialog, you sloganeer. And your posts, seemingly bereft of any sense of real humanity, read like bad “New Age” babble. It’s impossible to “dialog” with such emptiness.

        • Shingo says:

          “Dismissal only.”

          It’s more than your arguments deserve Witty. Avi and rmokhtar are being generous. Your “arguments” have been debunked ad nauseaum, but you refuse to accept those counter arguments, or simply ingore them.

          “My consistent point is that militancy FAILS, and in two respects”

          So does your prescription of pandering even more to Israel.

          “In contrast, efforts to reconcile, to mutually humanize, are both the goal and the means to the goal.”

          Reconciliation only ever takes place after change has beenforced upon the proptagonist. Israel demonstrates less and less humanity and has become increasigly destructive. It needs to be saved from itself.

        • At least you acknowledged that militancy fails.

          If militancy fails and pandering fails, then a third approach is called for.

          Mutual humanization. Peace in a word. The reality that the other is human and deserving of personal and community respect, as the dominant starting point for all subsequent political conclusions.

          When the politics is the starting point, or the only thing heard, then that becomes the idol.

          “Reconciliation only ever takes place after change has beenforced upon the proptagonist.”

          This is only the ideology of war, absent clarity as to goal and criteria, and absent acknowledgement that the “other” equally has valid criteria and goals.

      • jonah says:

        Avi, my reply to your critical comment was censored, presumably because expressing irrelevant dissent to your positions ….

  17. Thank you Shmuel for going through with your experience eyes wide open, going to the other side and “living to tell” your story once you get back, so to speak, and not missing any details.
    MHughes, once I figured out what you were saying (!), it blew me away…
    The discussion is simply great here

    • MHughes976 says:

      Thanks! I was trying to explain my admiration for Shmuel while doing justice to Mooser’s sense that the people concerned are, to put it mildly, extremely scary.

  18. Shmuel,
    I thank and respect you for your sense of irony and acknowledgement of mutual humanity.