Just So We're Clear on Settlements ...

Andrew Sullivan, in a recent post about my recent posts on the attempted murder of an Arab man by a gang of Jewish hooligans in Jerusalem, wrote:

To be fair to [Goldblog], since his first rather defensive post on a recent Jewish attempted lynching of Arabs, he has posted context that makes clear that the rise of this kind of bigotry and hatred is real - as Peter Beinart bravely reported to Goldblog's dismissal - and that the authorities in Israel are genuinely rattled by it. The Israelis have ridden the tiger of settler racism for a long time; it's now leaping from the West Bank to Israel itself.

He posted this after writing a bit of drive-by post on my post. What he wrote in the second post is fair, as far as it goes, although the "defensive" post I wrote made the argument, ultimately, that this is all very complicated, and Andrew has previously expressed disdain for the idea that the Middle East conflict is complicated. And the implication that, unlike Peter Beinart, I'm a recent convert to the idea that hardcore settlements are spawning hate and violence, is unfair. (And it's not Peter's criticism of the settlements that sparked my criticism of his book.) Andrew and I used to talk about this subject frequently, so he's aware of my views. But just in case he forgot them, here's something I wrote last December:

The Israeli Defense Forces are increasingly confronting a truth that many Palestinians learned awhile ago: A not-insignificant number of the Israelis who have settled on the West Bank are unhinged zealots who, in their self-righteousness, myopia and contempt for those with whom they disagree, comprise a kind of Jewish Hamas... Violent bands of settlers have been throwing rocks at Palestinians, and on occasion defacing their mosques and ripping up their olive trees, for some time. These are known as "price tag" attacks, meant to scare the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of making concessions on settlements. (Every demolition of an unauthorized "hilltop" settlement comes with a price, in other words.)

Here's something I wrote several years ago, part of a long piece on the settlers for The New Yorker (titled, by the way, "Among the Settlers: Will They Destroy Israel?":

The most hard-core settlers are impatient messianists, who profess indifference, even scorn, for the state; a faith in vigilantism; and loathing for the Arabs. They are free of doubt, seeing themselves as taking orders from God, and are an unusually cohesive segment of Israeli society. Hard-core settlers and their supporters make up perhaps two per cent of the Israeli populace, but they nevertheless have driven Israeli policy in the occupied territories for much of the past thirty years....

...A de-facto apartheid already exists in the West Bank. Inside the borders of Israel proper, Arabs and Jews are judged by the same set of laws in the same courtrooms; across the Green Line, Jews live under Israeli civil law as well, but their Arab neighbors--people who live, in some cases, just yards away--fall under a different, and substantially undemocratic, set of laws, administered by the Israeli Army. The system is neither as elaborate nor as pervasive as South African apartheid, and it is, officially, temporary. It is nevertheless a form of apartheid, because two different ethnic groups living in the same territory are judged by two separate sets of laws.

Careful readers know that I've tried to stop using the word "apartheid" to describe any aspect of the conflict, in good part because it so highly-charged a word that it shuts down conversation completely. But the description of a two-tiered justice system on the West Bank is still relevant today, and the threat to Israel's democracy, and good name, posed by settlement ideology is more real than ever. I realized this a long time ago -- twenty years or more, back to the time when I was writing a column for The Jerusalem Post, and before.