In a must-read post on settler violence, Hilzoy uttered the necessary mantra against trolls.
Obligatory disclaimer for Israel/Palestinian threads: No one should draw any conclusions from this post about my general views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In particular, no one should infer from the fact that I wrote about settlers behaving despicably that I do not believe that any Palestinians have done things that are equally bad. I do. I am not on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side. If I have to choose sides t all, I side with those decent people in both groups who want peace, and against those in both groups who either practice violence or engage in injustice.
When it comes to settler issues there is no need to be cagey like this. People who support the long-term success of Israel as a state should absolutely detest the violent extremists who establish provocative, illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. Conversely those who want Israel isolated, discredited and eventually forced to give full citizenship to a Palestinian majority has every reason to cheer them on.
Violent, counterproductive, self-righteous activists are hardly unique to the Israel-Palestine issue. Blinkered greens inspired by Ed Abbey’s semi-paranoid books wrecked the credibility of environmentalism. When I led an environmental group in the 90’s I had the dubious privilege of watching it happen. People like this focus on purity. They see consensus and incremental progress as a sort of betrayal. Purity of cause, ideological purity and the purifying effect of violence crop up whenever the mindset corrupts one cause or another. It is not an illness of any particular ideology. Self-righteous manicheanism is an inbuilt weakness, a mold that grows on lazy minds, whenever a group finds a cause.
You do not have to hate environmentalism to detest extremists like Earth First! and the ELF. The only crowd who loves them, or should, is Exxon and the other polluting interests. Those guys, certainly not anyone else, benefited when misguided activists sidelined the movement.
In foreign policy we call the disease neoconservatism. Weirdly enough (or not, if you get my point) neoconservatives sound to me exactly like the self-righteous pricks I knew from my activist years. You can hear it when they insist that you do not have to know much as long as you have pure motives. The self-righteous entitlement is there plus the usual twist that criticism equals hating the Cause (the Earth, America, Jews). It is not a coincidence that settlers’ most important ally in America, evangelical zionists, quite literally want Israeli Jews to die in a fire. No doubt America’s fringier Christians have grown sick of waiting for Israel to bulldoze the Dome, reuild the Temple and trigger that nuclear apocalypse already. Gestures towards peace, e.g. the late Yitzhak Rabin, must drive them crazy.
The other day a settler cussed out a reporter on TV. He came back again and again to the same point. Are you an anti-semite?!? Are you an anti-semite!? One would guess that the reporter, a Jew living in Israel, might find the question silly. Of course it also seemed quite ridiculous that Americans skeptical of invading Iraq might secretly want their home country destroyed by terrorists, but somehow that idiocy soaked into the discourse here as well. No doubt settlers have more profound arguments to make, but, like American neocons who pulled the antisemitism card just as hastily, you don’t have to cut very deep with these people to reach the toxic victimology.
To his credit Ariel Sharon recognized that Israel’s neocon wing was long term poison. Unlike others who saw but failed to act, Sharon made tangible steps towards fixing the problem. It would be perfectly fair, given their behavior, to ask settlement supporters angry rhetoricals like Do you hate Israel?! Why do you hate Ariel Sharon!?, but there is already enough stupid in this debate. The rational reasons for any friend of Israel to oppose the worst excesses of that country’s neocons are already more than enough.