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Monday, November 19, 2007

Peace: Israel-Palestine I

Peace Series : Israel & Palestine 1

Efforts must be made on a human level, person to person level. The goodness of a majority is always silent, if they can speak up on both sides, peace is possible.

Palestinians need to understand and acknowledge the eternal security needs of Jews, not the military, but mental security where they can put their guards down for the first time in their history of Diaspora and live their life in peace.

Jews need to recognize that the Palestinians have suffered immeasurably as well, no human should be stripped of his/her hope; hope to have a family, work and own a house and call a place their homeland.

Neither side of the leadership has understood the human aspect of the issue, and simply believes in the might of the gun powder, that is the 1% minority in both sides that have simply failed. The majority on both sides need to push their minority leaders to consider the human choice where family to family relationship is encouraged. If you want peace, Mother Teresa says, you talk with your enemies and not friends.

From this piont forward, we will bring a series of thought provoking articles to help us understand all aspects of the issue.



A Moral Witness to the 'Intricate Machine' By Avishai Margalit
Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine by David Shulman


"I am an Israeli. I live in Jerusalem. I have a story, not yet
finished, to tell." This is the opening line of David Shulman's
powerful and memorable book, Dark Hope, a diary of four years of
political activity in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is a
record of the author's intense involvement with a volunteer
organization composed of Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews, called
Ta'ayush, an Arabic term for "living together" or "life in common."
The group was founded in October 2000, soon after the start of the
second Palestinian intifada.

"This book aims," Shulman writes,

at showing something of the Israeli peace movement in action, on the
basis of one individual's very limited experience.... I want to give
you some sense of what it feels like to be part of this struggle and
of why we do it.
Struggle with whom? Shulman explains:

Israel, like any society, has violent, sociopathic elements. What is
unusual about the last four decades in Israel is that many destructive
individuals have found a haven, complete with ideological
legitimation, within the settlement enterprise. Here, in places like
Chavat Maon, Itamar, Tapuach, and Hebron, they have, in effect,
unfettered freedom to terrorize the local Palestinian population; to
attack, shoot, injure, sometimes kill—all in the name of the alleged
sanctity of the land and of the Jews' exclusive right to it.
His diary proceeds to show how this happens.

Shulman speaks of "the last four decades." It is forty years since the
Israeli victory of 1967 brought the West Bank under occupation. That
was also the year Shulman immigrated to Israel from the US, just after
graduation from high school. In the Israeli army he was trained as a
medic, which turned out to be a great asset for his later work in the
West Bank. His first aid skills, as well as the medical kit he always
carried with him, were equally in demand by Israeli comrades and
Palestinian villagers injured by settlers, soldiers, and police.

Shulman attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he
acquired, among many languages, a good mastery of Arabic. This, too,
proved to be useful in dealing with the Palestinians whom he and his
friends tried to help. He emerged as a formidable scholar: on Tamil,
Telugu, and Sanskrit poetry, Dravidian linguistics, Carnatic music,
and Tamil Islam. His linguistic and cultural interests were mainly
focused on South India. In 1987, when he was thirty-seven, he received
a MacArthur Fellowship. He has published many translations of Indian
poetry. Shulman's language in his diary is fresh and uncontaminated by
the lazy clich├ęs often used to describe the conflict between Israeli
Jews and Palestinian Arabs. By temperament and calling, Shulman is a
scholar, not a politician. Recalling Auden's lines on Yeats, we may
say that mad Israel hurt him into politics.

Into what sort of politics, one may ask. Shulman's work on India and
its culture suggests that his politics—if this is the term—would draw
on Gandhi's example. He writes, "We follow the classical tradition of
civil disobedience, in the footsteps of Gandhi, Thoreau, and Martin
Luther King." This suggests a much larger question: Would the two
sides to the conflict have fared better if the Palestinian struggle
against the occupation had been carried out in a Gandhian spirit of
nonviolent resistance? This question can be raised as a matter of
moral principle, but it can also be raised on practical, tactical
grounds.

It is by no means new. At the beginning of the first intifada, in
1988, Israel expelled Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American child
psychologist who advocated Gandhian tactics for resisting the
occupation. The Israeli government understood right away that
nonviolent tactics had the potential to embarrass Israel, and was
determined to stop him. In truth, however, the government had no
reason to be worried, since Awad made no headway among the
Palestinians. I once asked a Palestinian friend why in his opinion
Awad failed to convince the Palestinians of the validity of nonviolent
tactics. His answer was revealing: nonviolent struggle is perceived by
his fellow Palestinians as "unmanly." They are drawn to the slogan
"What was taken by force must be regained by force."

Since the second intifada, the Palestinian philosopher Sari Nusseibeh
has become the main advocate of Gandhian nonviolent tactics among the
Palestinians, both on moral and practical grounds. Nusseibeh does not
accept that nonviolent tactics have no chance with the Palestinians
because of cultural macho. He believes that nonviolent struggle—in the
form of strikes and other protests—was very much in use by the
Palestinians during the Ottoman rule of Palestine, and later against
the British and the pre-state Jewish settlement in Palestine.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Are Israelis more likely to support making concessions to the
Palestinians when they are violent or when they are nonviolent?

We seem to have an answer to this question from a surprising source.
When Ariel Sharon came to power, he commissioned the political analyst
Kalman Gaier to conduct a private poll for him. Gaier asked Israelis
whether they were ready to accept a solution to the conflict that
would relinquish 94 percent of the territories to the Palestinians in
exchange for peace, with 2 percent of the rest of the territory
exchanged in a land swap. Palestinian refugees would be settled in
Palestine, and East Jerusalem divided. (These terms are close to the
Clinton proposals of December 2001.)

Raviv Druker, an Israeli TV journalist, recently had access to polls
Sharon never published. They reveal that in March 2002, at a moment
when the second intifada was particularly violent, 70 percent of the
respondents were willing to accept such a settlement; but when the
poll was repeated in May 2005, a period of calm (just before Israel's
disengagement from Gaza), only 44 percent were willing to settle on
those terms.

Do these findings indicate that Israelis understand only the language
of force, and should they be seen as a decisive argument against
nonviolent resistance? I don't think so. In order to assess a
nonviolent strategy one should not compare a period of violence to a
period in which violent attacks were not taking place. One should
compare, if possible, a period of violent resistance to a period of
active nonviolent resistance. But more important than the question of
how Palestinian violence influences Israeli public opinion is the
question of how it influences Israeli leaders; and here my
impression—and it is no more than that—is that no prominent leader,
whether of the center-right or center-left, is willing to make serious
concessions to the Palestinians in times of violence, lest he or she
be perceived as weak. (Sharon, the exception, could withdraw from Gaza
while maintaining his popularity.) The factual question—how
Palestinian violence affects Israel's policies toward a peaceful
settlement—remains in my opinion an open question. The effect of
Palestinian violence on Israel's war policy is clear. During the
second intifada, Palestinian violence elicited an intense military
response from the Israeli side, resulting in devastation of the
Palestinian community in the West Bank.

Regarding the moral issue of violent struggle, Shulman cites Mordechai
Kremnitzer, a law professor at the Hebrew University, whom we both
regard as a moral force in Israel:

Even if you accept the Palestinian reading of what happened at Camp
David and assume that the Israeli proposals were inadequate, still it
is impossible to accept the violence they have adopted as their weapon
while still faced with an Israeli partner who wanted to reach a
solution. It is not clear what the Palestinians want—for us not to be
there [i.e., not to exist at all], in the territories, or for us not
to be. They have the right to end the occupation, but not at any cost.
But the Israeli Right uses Palestinian violence to its own advantage.
Thus, worst of all, we may well find ourselves in a paradoxical,
soul-destroying situation of having to serve in an army that is bent
on illegal acts.
Shulman advocates a Gandhian approach on moral grounds and perhaps
also on practical grounds, and a large number of his activities would
have pleased the Mahatma. But in my opinion he is trying to do
something that can be accurately seen as part of the nonviolent
struggle to alleviate the burdens of the occupation but is also
different from it. Shulman is a moral witness[1] —he makes an effort
to observe and report on suffering arising from evil conduct. He may
take risks in doing so, but he has a moral purpose: to expose the evil
done by a regime that tries to cover up its immoral deeds. A moral
witness acts with a sense of hope: that there is, or will be, a moral
community for which his or her testimony matters.

About such hopes, Shulman can be ambivalent. The original Hebrew title
of his book is not Dark Hope but Bitter Hope. Abraham, the great
believer, is praised by Saint Paul as he who "against hope, believed
in hope." The Russian writer Nadezhda ("hope" in Russian) Mandelstam
admired Paul's account and called her first book about persecution in
Stalin's Russia Hope Against Hope; yet the title of her second book,
Hope Abandoned, is drawn not from Paul but from Dante's Inferno.
Shulman's account seems to me to vacillate between the two: between
hoping against hope and abandoning hope.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shulman starts with an impersonal account describing what happened on
April 2, 2005, near a settlement south of the Hebron Hills where the
Palestinians lived in caves and kept flocks of sheep and goats:

It began some two weeks ago when Palestinians from [the village of]
Twaneh noticed a settler —almost certainly from Chavat Maon, the most
virulent of the settlements in the area—walking deliberately through
their fields in the early morning. Shortly afterward the animals got
sick and the first sheep died. Then the shepherds found the poison
scattered over the hills, tiny blue-green pellets of barley coated
with... deadly rat poison from the fluoroacetate family.... The aim
was clear: to kill the herds of goats and sheep, the backbone of the
cave dwellers' subsistence economy in this harsh terrain, and thus to
force them off the land.
Visiting the Arab settlement, Shulman writes:

After half an hour I start to wonder if we have come here for nothing.
I stare hard at the rocky ground, the purple wildflowers, the thorns,
the fresh sheep droppings. Still no poison. Then a surprise: bending
low, with my face nearly touching the soil, I see two —no, three—of
the blue-green grains of poisoned barley....
Five minutes later Judy [his companion] strikes gold—a huge cache of
them.... The real art of this grotesque treasure hunt is to retrace
the vanished footsteps of the poisoner; one pile of pellets should, in
theory, lead to another. And so, indeed, it goes.
Shulman then observed that all the while, on the hill opposite,
directly under the settlement,

one of these settlers, with his gun, is watching us, advancing...as we
move; he is dressed in black, an ominous presence, an Israeli Darth
Vader. Farther up, a set of army jeeps is also in place. Maybe this
time, at least, they'll keep the settlers from attacking us.
Shulman seldom makes general comments: he sticks to the concrete and
shies away from the symbolic. Not this time, though. Here is his
explanation:

I have always hated the symbolic. It is the cheapest, most
meretricious act of the mind, and the furthest away from anything
real. But today, as I sift through the brown, moist soil under the
eyes of the settlers, even I cannot resist the sense of something
horribly symbolic. [The settlers] claim to feel something for this
land, yet they treat it—her—with contempt. It, she, interests them
mostly as an object to be raped, despoiled, and above all stolen by
brute force from its rightful owners. It belongs, in this wild,
ravished, ravishing landscape, to the people of the caves.
This is not merely a matter of injustice, though flagrant injustice
screams out, unmistakably, at every point. Nor is it a matter of
madness, though the settlers here are truly demented. It is, in the
most serious, most atrocious sense of the word, a crime—a crime
against the land the settlers glibly call holy, against life itself.
Who, what human individual, would deliberately poison a wild deer?
What kind of man would poison a whole herd, and through this, the
community of human beings who live off this herd?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shulman's account needs some background, which can be found in the
reports of the Israeli human rights group B'tselem for July 2005. As
it happens, Assaf Sharon, a former student of mine and currently a
graduate student at Stanford, also took part in many of the activities
that Shulman describes. He is mentioned in the book, like all other
"comrades," by his first name only. Assaf, who studied in his youth in
a yeshiva not far from Hebron, is a particularly shrewd observer who,
unlike Shulman, has intimate knowledge of the settlers, including the
younger generation.

In the southern West Bank, Assaf tells us, southeast of Yata, the main
township in the area, more than a thousand Palestinians dwell in
caves, in an area of some 7,500 acres. Some of the cave dwellers live
in this area only during the seasons for planting and harvesting; some
live there throughout the year. Water is scarce and the cave dwellers
are dependent to a large degree on local cisterns.

In the 1970s, Israel declared part of the Yata region a "closed
military area." In 1980, next to the closed area, Israel established
four settlements, which now have about two thousand settlers. Between
1996 and 2001, these settlers erected four additional outposts—small,
armed encampments, said to be needed to protect the larger
settlements. A fifth outpost, Maon Farm, was set up inside the area
that the occupation forces had said was closed to settlement, and the
settlers at Maon Farm were evacuated by the army for a few months; but
they soon returned. Before they did so, the army had already expelled
the Palestinian cave dwellers by force from the closed area,
destroying their wells, blocking their caves, and confiscating their
meager property of blankets and food. The army justified the expulsion
on grounds of "a necessary military need," specifically, its need for
a training ground that would use live ammunition, endangering anyone
who lived there. But the settlers of Maon Farm returned to the closed
area unopposed by the Israeli authorities, and there was no mention of
live ammunition endangering them.

On the face of it, the story of the cave people may seem to present a
relatively small issue in comparison, for example, with what Shulman
tells us about how the separation wall has disastrously affected the
lives of Palestinians in the more populated parts of the West Bank or
in Jerusalem, places where the main drama of the conflict unfolds. The
South Hebron Hills, where the poisoning scene took place, is a
sparsely populated area, remote from the main action.

But what takes place in the South Hebron Hills shows in stark form
what is so bad about the occupation. The actions of some other Israeli
settlers may be more ambiguous morally; but what Shulman saw in the
South Hebron Hills causes him to use the word "evil" unsparingly:

What we are fighting in the South Hebron Hills is pure, rarefied,
unadulterated, unreasoning, uncontainable human evil. Nothing but
malice drives this campaign to uproot the few thousand cave dwellers
with their babies and lambs. They have hurt nobody. They were never a
security threat. They led peaceful, if somewhat impoverished lives
until the settlers came. Since then, there has been no peace. They are
tormented, terrified, incredulous. As am I.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shulman shows that the settlers are supported by what he calls the
"intricate machine," a term he uses to describe various Israeli
government agencies, including the army, the police, and the civil
authorities that administer the West Bank. But the relations among the
various agencies can be so intricate that it is no longer clear who is
in charge of a particular policy or action. Hagai Allon, an Israeli
official appointed by the former defense minister to be in charge of
"the social fabric" in the territories, stated that the army does not
comply with the defense minister's orders. Referring specifically to
the Hebron Hills area, Allon said the army acts "in the service" of
the settlers. It carries out, he said, "an apartheid policy,"
establishing facts on the ground that are meant to make evacuation of
settlers of the West Bank impossible.

Shulman's book is not an analysis of how the intricate machinery of
the occupation works or, for that matter, of what the settlers do in
their daily lives. It mainly describes the face-to-face clashes
between human rights activists like himself and the settlers, the
soldiers, and the police.

He makes it clear, however, that the settlers in the South Hebron
Hills are almost all religious people. The established leaders in most
of the older settlements often belong to the Gush Emunim or reflect
its mentality: religious, intensely nationalistic, idealistic. They
are not just seeking agreeable suburbs from which to commute to
Israeli cities. They were born and raised in Israel and are still
attached to Israeli society.

By contrast, the members of the second generation of settlers—roughly,
those under thirty-five years of age— were born and raised in the
closed communities of the territories. They were shocked by the Oslo
peace accord of 1992, fearing they were going to be betrayed by
Israel's leaders and forced to move back to the Israel defined by the
pre-1967 Green Line. Another formative experience was the
assassination in 1995 of Yitzhak Rabin by a fanatical young man who
had social and ideological connections with the settlements. Many
settlers felt that they were unfairly and collectively blamed for
Rabin's murder. In my own experience, I have found among the second
generation a lethal combination of attitudes: a conviction that they
have the right to dominate Palestinians and a sense that they are
themselves victims. They share the historic megalomania of their
parents, seeing themselves, with no small degree of
self-righteousness, as a misunderstood avant-garde of a messianic
vision. But they have not benefited from the civilizing effect of
rabbinic learning as some of their parents did.

In short, Shulman shows that a wild generation was born in the
territories, a generation whose members are far bolder than their
parents, far more ready to defy the law, and far more capable of utter
lawlessness with regard to Palestinians. It is a generation saturated
with intense hostility toward the Arabs, and ferociously tribalistic.
Shulman describes his encounters with tribalistic young settlers who
scorned him:

By now the settlers are upon us, all in their twenties or so, with
long embroidered skullcaps and tzitzit fringes and guns. "You should
be ashamed," they scream at us. "What kind of Jews are you?" Helpless,
angry, I yell back: "I am a Jew. That's why I am here."
There seems no chance that these young people will understand what
Shulman is trying to do. On a cold, wet, and muddy January day,
Shulman and his friends are on their way to bring blankets to the cave
people. The settlers try to stop them. "One of the men shouts that we
are on the side of Bin Laden.... They are determined to keep the
blankets away from the cave dwellers." The man who shouted "You are on
the side of Bin Laden" was not making a political remark of the kind
we expect from Dick Cheney but was expressing a tribalistic view. For
these people and especially the young among them, providing the cave
dwellers with blankets is giving aid and comfort to mortal enemies of
their tribe—to people on the side of bin Laden.

Most of what is written on the ideologically motivated settlers deals
with the founding generation. They were more articulate and produced
texts that can be quoted. But the older generation in the settlements
is by now irrelevant to the day-to-day reality in the occupied
territories. After the evacuation of the settlements in Gaza in 2005,
which was blamed by the young generation of settlers on the timidity
both of the older generation of settlers and of Israelis generally,
the older leaders of the settlements lost their grip. For the young
generation, Israel itself is a remote reality, an entity to be
confronted when it does not go the settlers' way. The young generation
in the South Hebron Hills is a particularly strong manifestation of
the second generation of settlers. They have, in fact, succeeded in
radicalizing their parents, who are now willing to confront the army
and the police in ways that for ideological reasons they would not
have dared to do before.

The fantasy of the young generation is "biblical," and owes something
to movies about the American West: you can see them riding horses in
"biblical" gowns. They are inspired by charismatic, Sergio Leone types
such as Yehoshafat Tor and Dov Driben, the founders of Maon Farm.
Driben, who incessantly threatened the Palestinian neighboring cave
dwellers, was murdered. The villager accused of killing him was
released for lack of evidence after serving four years in jail. Dov
Driben's admirers regarded his death as a license to go wild. In the
South Hebron Hills, there is now a place aptly called "Lucifer's
Farm." Its "owner," Yaakov Talia, is an Afrikaner who converted to
Judaism at the end of apartheid in South Africa. He is another wild,
charismatic tough guy who attracts many religious young people. They
spend time on his farm helping to take over more and more land.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The second intifada, beginning in 2000, brought about a radical change
not only in the young settlers but also in many of the young peace
activists, who became highly skeptical about any grand scheme to bring
peace. They want to do something concrete, even if it is very limited
in scope, not because it will have a large impact, but because it is
the morally right thing to do. From my own experience, they know the
Palestinians in the West Bank better than the activists of my own
generation who advocated the "peace process" ever did.

They have their heroes too, among them Ezra Nawi, a plumber of Iraqi
Jewish extraction from Jerusalem, who was greatly admired by the cave
dwellers. He organized a summer camp for their children and took them
for the first time in their lives to a swimming pool in Jericho. He is
constantly subjected to derisive, homophobic shouting by the settlers.
To those who know him and those who saw the recent documentary film
about him,[2] his warm, humorous character is unmistakable. Now in his
fifties, he exemplifies the desire of young Israeli activists to act
concretely, even if it means working locally and avoiding involvement
in large-scale proposals for peace.

Shulman uses as a motto for his book a phrase by the
Australian-British human rights activist James Mawdsley: "Hell is
realizing that one did not help when one could have." He does not feel
at ease with ambitious plans for peace. He made this view clear when
we met a few years ago in Jerusalem with some members of Peace Now to
support Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University in
Abu-Dis, near Jerusalem, in protesting the separation wall that was
being built across the soccer field of the al-Quds campus. Shulman
asked himself whether the wall across the soccer field was worth the
effort to oppose it. "The loss of a few dunams belonging to a
university is trivial," he writes, relative to the other acts that
have devastated Palestinian life. He decided, "Yes, it is worth it.
Every small victory counts." Nusseibeh and his supporters were "our
colleagues and friends. We cannot just stand by." In fact, the
protesters had a small victory at al-Quds University. The wall was
removed from the university grounds after Nusseibeh got some Israelis
to appeal to Condoleezza Rice, who asked the government to stop
building the wall.

Returning from al-Quds with Israeli protesters from Peace Now, Shulman writes:

My mind wanders away from the relatively minor distress of our
colleagues and friends in Al-Quds, away from the intense political
discussions going on in the car. There is talk of a new initiative, a
document signed by leading public figures on both sides that sets out
the basis for an agreed settlement to the conflict—the Geneva
initiative.... I listen, halfhearted, my attention wandering.
I was one of those in the car who talked of possible peace plans and
of working for a political solution through party politics, winning
votes, forming coalitions, and compromising on the way.

Now a new grand scheme is being discussed: a conference of Middle East
nations and others is to take place in November, at Annapolis,
Maryland. Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President
Abu Mazen, or so it is hoped, may agree on principles for a settlement
of the conflict. But Abu Mazen, according to reports, wants an
agreement to be specific and Olmert wants it to be vague, and the
question is whether they can arrive at a compromise. The conference
would deal with the core issues between the two sides: Jerusalem,
refugees, and territories. The two men are desperately in need of an
agreement, even if only to show that they are still politically
relevant. Many believe that any such deal would fall apart even if it
were signed: the two leaders are so politically weak that it does not
matter what they agree on.

Still, it is too early to dismiss the possibilities that something
useful might emerge from such a conference. To put the matter crudely,
Jews and Arabs have to deal with three situations: war, peace, and the
"peace process"—which is not a process that leads to peace, but an
intermediate stage of neither war nor peace. A realistic way to view
the negotiations between Olmert and Abu Mazen is that they could make
a move from open hostility ("war") to the intermediate situation of
"peace process."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shulman's diary, however, gives an acute sense of the gap between
peace schemes in their "peace process" phase and the relentless and
dreadful reality on the ground. The reality is shaped not by
agreements but mainly by the violent workings of Israel's intricate
machine and by the violence of Palestinian forces.

The diary gives us only a glimpse of some of the visible workings of
the intricate machine. But I believe that understanding what is going
on in the South Hebron Hills, a tiny part of the conflict, can free us
from misconceptions about how the intricate machine works. There are
relatively few settlers around Hebron and far fewer in the outposts
that have been set up there. Their number is not about to get
dramatically larger. Nonetheless, the official Israeli machinery is
inexorably having its effect—it controls the land and gets rid of the
Palestinians living on it by making their lives intolerable. The
intricate machine does not depend on the number of settlers. It
depends far more on the ways the roads to the settlements and the
outposts are planned, built, and protected by the Israeli forces.

In fact, many of the outposts in the West Bank are little more than
Potemkin villages, but this, too, is almost irrelevant, since the
roads leading to them are roads that, according to official doctrine,
need to be protected constantly, in order to ensure the safety of the
inhabitants even if they consist of only one or two families. The
fewer the number of settlers, the more vulnerable they are, and so
they need heavier protection. Protecting a road means preventing the
Palestinians from getting near both sides of it and regulating their
movement by means of barriers on the roads they are allowed to use.
There are 539 barriers to movement in the West Bank, eighty-six of
which are manned checkpoints.

So the roads are the method by which the West Bank is fragmented, with
almost no mobility for the Arabs locked in their enclaves. In addition
to this, every settlement and every outpost is surrounded by a safety
zone called a "special security area." So the expansion of Israeli
control of the West Bank is not determined by the number of settlers
but by the extent of the zone of protection, from which Palestinians
are excluded.

Here is how it works. First, a settlement is established with a
designated area for future development and a wide zone of protection.
Then satellite outposts are erected in the hills on the outskirts of
the settlement. The outposts enlarge the area to be protected and
especially the roads leading to the outposts. The commentators who
emphasize the growth of the number of settlers in the West Bank miss
the intricacy of the machine. Population growth is not the main
factor. In fact, the main growth in population in recent years has
been in four ultra-orthodox towns that are not far from the Green
Line. The population in these four towns now amounts to nearly one
third of the settlers in the West Bank. Clearly more important than
the increase of settlers is the increase in the number of outposts and
their interconnecting roads.

The intricate machine works relentlessly—it hardly matters which group
is in power. Center- and Labor-based governments believe that it is
too much of a political and military hassle to dismantle the
settlements one by one. They say that one day these settlements will
be dealt with on a wholesale basis—the way Sharon dealt with the Gaza
Strip settlements, which were all evacuated at the same time.
Likud-based governments, by contrast, are against removing the
settlements in any case. All governments of Israel have also shared
the view that all the settlers—authorized as well as
unauthorized—should be protected by the army. Benefiting from these
shared views, the intricate machine works no matter who is in power.

No one among the Palestinians is going to believe in a grand scheme
for a final settlement as long as their lives are so degraded. Hamas
has declared itself, as a matter of principle, against a large-scale
scheme for a peaceful settlement with Israel; but the issue that must
be faced is the utter mistrust of large-scale schemes on the part of
Palestinians who are not followers of Hamas and want to lead peaceful
lives. To narrow the gap between the grand schemes and the reality on
the ground, the intricate machine must be halted. Daily life has to be
seriously improved if any grand scheme is to be trusted. To believe
that this is going to happen, however, calls for a leap of faith—the
sort of faith, perhaps, that keeps a man like David Shulman trying to
help Palestinians, even while he distrusts grand schemes.

—November 7, 2007

Notes
[1] For an extensive discussion of the idea of moral witness, see
Avishai Margalit, The Ethics of Memory (Harvard University Press,
2002), Chapter 5.

[2] Citizen Nawi, Israel 2007, Nissim Mossek, director, Sharon
Schaveet, producer.

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