Commentary Magazine


Topic: West Bank settlers

What Happens When You Assume

When I pulled up the home page of the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz this morning, I was greeted with a somewhat humorous sight. The top headline, in large print, was: “Israeli security forces evacuate settlers from Hebron house.” Immediately to the right of that headline was this one: “Haaretz Editorial: The Israeli government gave in to the settlers.” Oops.

It appears Haaretz was expecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to evict the residents of a house in Hebron who the government says are not there legally. So the editors wrote a blistering editorial excoriating Netanyahu for what they assumed he would (or would not) do. It’s true that Netanyahu had recently indicated that he was not yet ready to evict the settlers. But that is a common tactic used by the government to ensure that the soldiers carrying out the evictions are not met with organized resistance. It’s not the first time the Israeli authorities have done this–it’s not even the first time they’ve done this in Hebron. Should Haaretz have assumed that Netanyahu would not evict Jews from Hebron? Just the opposite–Netanyahu has a track record of willingness to move Jews out of Hebron. He even signed an agreement with Yasser Arafat during the Clinton administration relinquishing some control over Hebron.

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When I pulled up the home page of the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz this morning, I was greeted with a somewhat humorous sight. The top headline, in large print, was: “Israeli security forces evacuate settlers from Hebron house.” Immediately to the right of that headline was this one: “Haaretz Editorial: The Israeli government gave in to the settlers.” Oops.

It appears Haaretz was expecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to evict the residents of a house in Hebron who the government says are not there legally. So the editors wrote a blistering editorial excoriating Netanyahu for what they assumed he would (or would not) do. It’s true that Netanyahu had recently indicated that he was not yet ready to evict the settlers. But that is a common tactic used by the government to ensure that the soldiers carrying out the evictions are not met with organized resistance. It’s not the first time the Israeli authorities have done this–it’s not even the first time they’ve done this in Hebron. Should Haaretz have assumed that Netanyahu would not evict Jews from Hebron? Just the opposite–Netanyahu has a track record of willingness to move Jews out of Hebron. He even signed an agreement with Yasser Arafat during the Clinton administration relinquishing some control over Hebron.

Should Haaretz have assumed Netanyahu wouldn’t respond to political pressure to turn parts of Jewish holy cities over to the Palestinians? No again. As the editorial itself notes, during his first term as prime minister Netanyahu “ordered the settlers to evacuate Ras al Amud,” a neighborhood in Jerusalem. (Netanyahu once even indicated, in a 2010 speech, that Jerusalem could be on the table for negotiations–an unprecedented move.)

What else surprised the Haaretz editorialists? They write that Netanyahu was ignoring the West Bank military prosecutor’s opinion, which includes a “warning of violence.” Yet, as the article on the evacuation notes, the mission was carried out “without any unusual events”–code for “peacefully.” It continues to surprise the media that settlers aren’t violent fanatics. (The picture accompanying the article shows a young Jewish mother pushing a stroller with a couple of young children walking peacefully next to her. Because Haaretz would generally post the most violent picture they have of any incident involving settlers, it would appear they were unable to locate anything but peaceful cooperation.)

Personal dislike of Netanyahu by the left has, since the very beginning of Netanyahu’s career, perverted the newsgathering and political processes to such an extent as to present a picture wholly unrelated to reality. In November, after President Obama and French President Sarkozy were caught trying to prove to each other who dislikes Netanyahu more, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl asked a good question: “Why do Sarkozy and Obama hate Netanyahu?”

He argued that Netanyahu has been responsive all along to Obama’s initiatives, even when Netanyahu didn’t like them. He agreed to settlement freezes, declared he would evict squatters, agreed to immediate negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, and even announced his support for an independent Palestinian state. (The list is even longer than this, but Diehl was on the right track.) But what about the Palestinians? Diehl went on:

Abbas, it’s fair to say, has gone from resisting U.S. and French diplomacy to actively seeking to undermine it. Yet it is Netanyahu whom Sarkozy finds “unbearable,” and whom Obama groans at having to “deal with every day.” If there is an explanation for this, it must be personal; in substance, it makes little sense.

It is personal, not to mention petty and counterproductive. Netanyahu’s commitment to peace and the rule of law is only surprising to those, like the president and the Haaretz editorialists, who allow personal animus, rather than a fair reading of the facts, to guide them.

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Dutch Fund West Bank “Settlers” Game that Incites Anti-Semitism

From the seemingly harmless country of cycling enthusiasts, windmills, and those little wooden shoes nobody understands, comes the latest in a string of nefarious and anti-Semitic episodes, as a self-described liberal-Protestant Dutch website, VPRO, marketed an online game based on the popular board game ‘‘The Settlers of Catan.’’

Apparently, ‘‘The Settlers of the West Bank’’ was conceived and defended as ‘‘satire,’’ despite the overtly politicized idea behind the game, and the numerous, obviously insensitive features, including the ‘‘Jewish stinginess,’’ ‘‘Wailing Wall,’’ and ‘‘Anne Frank’’ cards. Allusion is also made to the ‘‘typical mercantile spirit’’ of the Jewish nation, and, according to the Jerusalem Post, the ‘‘settler’’ may also use the ‘‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad card’’ to avoid losing resources to a terrorist and simultaneously draw resources from other players. The ‘‘Anne Frank House’’ is a ‘‘winning point’’ for the settler. Read More

From the seemingly harmless country of cycling enthusiasts, windmills, and those little wooden shoes nobody understands, comes the latest in a string of nefarious and anti-Semitic episodes, as a self-described liberal-Protestant Dutch website, VPRO, marketed an online game based on the popular board game ‘‘The Settlers of Catan.’’

Apparently, ‘‘The Settlers of the West Bank’’ was conceived and defended as ‘‘satire,’’ despite the overtly politicized idea behind the game, and the numerous, obviously insensitive features, including the ‘‘Jewish stinginess,’’ ‘‘Wailing Wall,’’ and ‘‘Anne Frank’’ cards. Allusion is also made to the ‘‘typical mercantile spirit’’ of the Jewish nation, and, according to the Jerusalem Post, the ‘‘settler’’ may also use the ‘‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad card’’ to avoid losing resources to a terrorist and simultaneously draw resources from other players. The ‘‘Anne Frank House’’ is a ‘‘winning point’’ for the settler.

The website receives state funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, but the minister claimed the state has no authority over content. In any case, according to Dr Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, ‘‘the funding makes the Netherlands the largest financier of hate incitement among youth in Europe.’’ Liberal Dutch Jewish groups, which also protested the game, agreed.

To put this in context, remember that the Netherlands has a ban on Jewish ritual slaughter forever pending in parliament, and a rising Muslim community whose intolerance of Jews provoked a veteran Dutch politician to warn Jews to leave, for their own safety. As for the game itself, it has just been taken offline, but the damage has been done.

In case anyone thought the low-lying Netherlands could not stoop any lower, evidently the Dutch are now prepared not only to tolerate the further abuse of their domestic Jewish population, but also to disinherit Anne Frank. It was precisely this European inconstancy toward its resident Jews – friendly here, lashing out there – that contributed to the need for the Jewish state. Evidently, little has changed, but with Anne Frank – and the many others – gone, the hostility turns to that very entity which could have saved her life.

Maybe that’s playing the Anne Frank card. But it was Europe which dealt the Jews this hand.

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