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Settler terror.

Baruch Goldstein is almost human know. I know, for instance, that he was once Benjy to his friends in Flat, bush. I know that he wanted to win the Nobel Prize in science or medicine. I know that he attended Albert Einstein College in the Bronx, that he was a dogged student, and that he loved his family. I still know nothing about his victims - who their friends were, where they studied, and who they loved.

Many have struggled to put a human face on the Hebron massacre, no matter how lopsided that effort has been. Yitzhak Rabin has called Goldstein a madman. Cynthia Ozick described him as a "crazed Israeli, fed by zealotry," and compared him to Colin Ferguson, the LIRR gunman. U.S. representatives of Kahane Chai likened the mass murder of Muslim worshippers to the bombing of Dresden by allied forces during World War II - messy but (by their reasoning) necessary.

To see Baruch Goldstein as a lone nut, solitary zealot, single fanatic, or gun-toting science nerd from Brooklyn misses the point entirely. In fact, Baruch Goldstein should not be an issue at all. And yet, Goldstein has become the issue in a media rush to ignore years and years of settler terror in Gaza and the West Bank - terror which has been supported by previous Israeli governments, loans from the U.S. government, and private aid.

The media has long been loathe to characterize settler violence as terrorism. Under Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, who as housing minister used the peopling of Arab territories as an instrument of warfare, settler violence grew with every public appeal to Eretz Yisrael - Greater Israel, which in the political mythology of right-wing Zionism is alleged to encompass all lands between the Nile and Euphrates rivers.

In popular iconography, settlers were depicted as pioneers rather than colonizers. They were Kahane's cowboys, tough Jews protecting their neighbors from Arab terror. The Israeli military was instructed to treat these heavy armed militants solicitously. And they did, often because they feared them, respected them, or agreed with their aims. Only recently have we learned that soldiers were told never to fire on settlers - even if they were busy mowing down Palestinian men, women, and children.

But the story does not begin with Baruch Goldstein or Kahane Chai. This is a tale begun almost 30 years ago. Less than three weeks after the end of the 1967 war, Israel annexed East Jerusalem. Three weeks later, the Israeli government began to establish settlements in the territories, opening the first near Quneitra in the Golan Heights. Then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol waited until late September to announce the founding of Kibbutz Merom Hagolan and was rebuked by the Johnson administration for what was seen as an abrupt change in policy. Eshkol assured Washington and the United Nations that the settlement plan was limited in scope.

But by May 1992, there were close to 100,000 Israeli settlers in 180 communities in the West Bank, 3,600 in 20 settlements in the Gaza Strip, and 14,000 in 30 settlements in the Golan Heights. Israel had expropriated 55 percent of all land in the West Bank, 42 percent of Gaza, and all of the Golan Heights, which it had taken with East Jerusalem. Water resources were entirely under Israel's control, with 30 percent of all potable water in the West Bank diverted for settler use.

The settlements exist in direct contravention of the charter of the United Nations and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Despite U.S. declarations under Presidents, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter that the settlements were illegal and all claims void, Ronald Reagan announced in February 1981 that the settlement policy - while provocative - was in fact fully legal. Ten years later, James Baker would shrewdly observe that, while the United States once characterized the settlements as illegal, we now preferred to call them "an obstacle to peace." Needless to say, these obstacles to peace grew and prospered under Yitzhak Shamir.

Ultranationalists and ultrarightists have long flocked to these communities. For years, members of Ateret Kohanim, affiliated with Gush Emunium, have aggressively populated the Old City, hoping one day to rebuild the Third Temple - that is, after clearing Jerusalem of its non-Jewish inhabitants in a grand and apocalyptic war of redemption and reducing the Muslim Dome of the Rock to rubble.

Time and again, Ateret adherents forced Arabs out of their homes with the covert aid of Ariel Sharon's Housing Ministry. Back in December 1991, heavily armed students from the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva forcibly occupied six Arab homes in the neighborhood of Silwan, claiming to hold legal title. They were supported by Shamir's cabinet, which ordered the city of Jerusalem to provide settlers with police protection.

Earlier, in 1990, armed Ateret supporters had seized control of St. John's Hospice, a 70-room building near the Orthodox-controlled Church of the Holy Sepulchre. And according to the Jerusalem Post, Ariel Sharon's Housing Ministry had been assisting Ateret Cohanim in buying up Arab real estate since 1986, hoping to place ultranationalists in the traditionally Christian and Arab quarters of Old Jerusalem.

Every year since the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, Jewish extremists have attempted to storm the Muslim Temple Mount armed with guns or bombs, hoping to touch off the war to end all wars. In May 1980, Meir Kahane was charged with conspiring to blow up the Dome of the Rock Mosque. In 1982, an American-born ultra-orthodox Jew named Alan Goodman strode onto the Temple Mount with an M-16, killing one Arab and seriously wounding another. Year after year, bomb plots were broken up, weapons seized, and small numbers of violent ultraorthodox millennialists jailed. Their sympathizers and supporters in the settlements were left alone, though, to plot other adventures.

Settlers in Kiryat Arba, Baruch Goldstein's neighborhood, have long been known to take "security matters" into their own hands, publishing guerilla-warfare manuals and organizing late-night raids against their Arab neighbors. Ultranationalist settlers affiliated with Meir Kahane's Kach movement and Gush Emunim have shot and killed civilians, destroyed Arab homes, olive trees, and automobiles, turned mace and attack dogs on stone throwers, and strafed and firebombed homes - often armed with government-issue weapons. Settlers have also killed two West Bank mayors in car bombings.

During the first five years of the intifada, 994 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops; 94,830 acres of land confiscated; and 2,074 homes demolished or sealed. Much of this seized land now belongs to the state of Israel, in perpetuity, under the provisions of the Law for Requisitioning of Property in Time of Emergency (1949), the Absentee Property law (1950), the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency (Status) Law (1952), and the Land Acquisition Law (1953). The Jewish National Fund and the state of Israel, which cooperate based upon a 1961 covenant, now control 93 percent of all lands within Israel, most of it confiscated from Palestinians. These lands continue to be developed and settled.

In mid-March, the Rabin government announced that it was outlawing two - just two - of the more extreme settler groups. For years, these people were courted and cultivated by successive Israeli administrations, which believed that, by planting these ultra-nationalists in places like Gaza and the West Bank, real peace would never be achieved. Why? Because the lands of an imagined Eretz Yisrael would never be surrendered by a settler army of Baruch Goldsteins.
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Title Annotation:Ex Umbris; Israel and Palestinians
Author:O'Sullivan, Gerry
Publication:The Humanist
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:1239
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