Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Enemy Within

Gershom Gorenberg writes about the development of settler movement activism against Arabs within Israel's borders:
"For several years, extremist West Bank settlers have conducted a campaign of low-level violence against their Palestinian neighbors — destroying property, vandalizing mosques and occasionally injuring people. Such 'price tag' attacks, intended to intimidate Palestinians and make Israeli leaders pay a price for enforcing the law against settlers, have become part of the routine of conflict in occupied territory.

"Now that conflict is coming home. The words 'price tag' spray-painted in Hebrew on the wall of a burned mosque inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders transformed Israel’s Arab citizens into targets and tore at the all-too-delicate fabric of a shared democracy.

"Indeed, the mosque burning represented the violent, visible edge of a larger change: the ethnic conflict in the West Bank is metastasizing into Israel, threatening its democracy and unraveling its society.

"The agents of this change include veterans of West Bank settlements seeking to establish a presence in shared Jewish-Arab cities in Israel and politicians backing a wave of legislation intended to reduce the rights of Arab citizens...

"Rabbi Yossi Stern, the yeshiva’s dean, described the transformation of Acre’s Wolfson neighborhood — a set of Soviet-style apartment blocks built in the 1960s — from a Jewish to a majority-Arab area as 'a national sin.' He argued forcefully that Jews should move back into such shifting areas. For Arabs and Jews 'to be in the same neighborhood, in the same building ... that’s not good,' Rabbi Stern said. Coexistence was clearly not his goal.

"Segregation, though, is intrinsically a denial of rights. The countryside throughout the Galilee region of northern Israel is dotted with a form of segregated exurb, the 'community settlement.' In each of these exclusive communities, a membership committee vets prospective residents before they can buy homes.

"The concept, born in the mid-1970s, originally allowed West Bank settlers to ensure that their neighbors shared their 'ideological-social background,' including the same shade of religious commitment. The Likud government that came to power in 1977 applied the model to create Jewish-only bedroom communities in the Galilee and in the Negev."

I remember that the Knesset did not approve the first new Arab town since Israel declared independence since some point during my time there from 2006-2008.



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