Shame over settlements is in short supply
By LAUREN ANZALDO
In The Drowned and the Saved, a reflection on life in a
concentration camp, Italian Jew Primo Levi discussed the sense of shame
survivors felt after being liberated. When all was over, Levi
wrote, the awareness emerged that we had not done anything, or not
enough, against the system into which we had been absorbed. Certainly,
others, namely the Nazis and their collaborators, bore infinitely more
responsibility for the horrors that transpired than those imprisoned did.
Acknowledging this, Levi still spoke of having failed in terms of human
solidarity with fellow inmates. Regret haunted him years after his
Of course, there was nothing that those who emerged from the hell of the
concentration camps could do afterward to help their former companions who had
been systematically murdered. Shame after the fact is unproductive and
sometimes dangerous. Guilty feelings drove some Holocaust survivors to suicide.
Guilt over the United States not having done more and acted sooner to end the
Holocaust in part led President Truman to support the creation of Israel in
1948, during which time about 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes to escape
invading or approaching Jewish colonists.
On the other hand, shame that arises during an act of wrongdoing can be
beneficial if it leads to action to stop that wrongdoing. Unfortunately, shame
seems to be in short supply these days. Witness the recent announcement by the
government of Israel that it will add 6,000 homes in Jewish-only settlements in
the West Bank in violation of the U.S.-backed Road Map. More than half of the
6,000 new homes will be built in the E-1 corridor, linking the contested holy
city of Jerusalem to the massive West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim
and solidifying Israeli control over Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Even as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas complies with U.S. and
Israeli expectations under the Road Map and the latest round of peace talks,
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet violate the climate of
trust that must be nurtured if real peace and justice are to flourish.
A seemingly encouraging sign is Israels plan to disband
settlements and redeploy soldiers stationed in the Gaza Strip. However, leaders
of the Yesha Settlers Council say they intend to resist efforts to disband 21
illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land there. Meanwhile Prime
Minister Sharon continues to redraw the boundaries of Jerusalem and build an
apartheid wall inside the West Bank. He hypocritically pressures President
Abbas to stamp out Palestinian militancy even as the Israeli Defense Forces
continue to impose sweeping curfews on Palestinians, assail civilians and
destroy homes and farmland.
Where is the shame of the people in the Israeli military who commit
these incursions and otherwise support state-sponsored terrorism? Where is the
shame of Israeli citizens whose so-called security comes at the expense of
Palestinian lives and livelihood?
U.S. taxpayers fund Israeli terror to the tune of at least $3 billion in
military aid annually. The mainstream media emphasizes the deaths of Israelis
and ignores Palestinian deaths or refers to a period of relative
calm even as the Israeli military attacks Palestinian children, women and
the elderly. (Between Jan. 1 and March 30, 2005, there were 200 Palestinian
injuries and 78 deaths as a result of Israeli military action, according to the
Palestinian Red Crescent Society.) Where is our collective shame over these
actions being carried out in our name?
Like the Holocaust survivors Levi wrote about who were ashamed at not
having acted more humanely toward their fellow inmates, we may later be
overcome with guilt for our role in quietly permitting injustice to continue in
Palestine. By then it may be too late. The Wall will be completed, the
settlements will grow larger and Palestinian cities, towns and villages will be
turned into disconnected enclaves with little possibility of sustaining
themselves. These situations are already fast being realized as we stay
Instead, we can direct our rightful shame and outrage toward a goal:
ending the 38-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East
Jerusalem and supporting Palestinian self-determination. We can join in human
solidarity with other concerned people -- including embattled Muslims and Arabs
and principled Jews and Israelis -- dedicated to bringing peace to the Middle
East. We can speak out and act. Not to do so would be shameful.
Lauren M. Anzaldo is a teacher and global justice activist who has
traveled twice to the occupied West Bank. She is one of the founders of the
Florida Palestine Solidarity Network (www.flpalsolidarity.com).
Expanding settlements are part of the battle for Jerusalem
By ERAN LERMAN
There was a dramatic tone to some of the media reports on the eve of the
April 11 Crawford Summit about the question of settlement
expansion. A conflict was brewing, it was argued, over the Bush
administrations displeasure with Israeli plans to build 3,500 housing
units in an area known as E-1. This would constitute an extension westward of
the town of Maaleh Adumim and would create an urban link to Jerusalem.
The differences over this plan are real enough and long-standing, but it is not
at all certain that they merit the attention given at this time.
The real agenda of this crucial meeting at the presidents ranch
concerned the urgent need for action on the Iranian nuclear effort as well as
other aspects of the administrations broader regional agenda, and the
more immediate questions related to the implementation within the next three
months of the Disengagement Plan. But all these items seemed to be overshadowed
by the E-1 question and by the forceful Palestinian complaint that
this project, if carried out, would slice the West Bank in two and would render
it impossible to create a contiguous Palestinian state.
However, a closer look at the map, and at the timetables, would indicate
that what is at stake is not the possibility of implementing Stage II of the
Road Map but rather the decisive, though not necessarily immediate, battle for
the future of Jerusalem, which is perhaps the most delicate and explosive of
all Stage III (permanent status) issues. Maaleh Adumim, whether linked to
Jerusalem by a narrow road or by a broad built-up zone, does not cut in half
the West Bank; it is quite conceivable to construct a good road that will carry
people and goods from Ramallah to Bethlehem either under Maaleh Adumim or
around it to the east so that the Palestinians do not have to go through
Israeli checkpoints. On the other hand, the construction at E-1 would indeed
tighten Israeli control over the eastern approaches of Jerusalem, thus making
it more difficult to re-divide the city, which is Prime Minister Ariel
The battle for Jerusalem, which has always been at the core of the
conflict, is thus reemerging, well in advance of the actual resumption of
negotiations. The clashes with far-right Jewish elements who wanted to use the
Temple Mount to trigger a crisis that would derail the disengagement; the
equally ugly responses by some Muslims, who do not want the feet of Jews to
defile the Haram al-Sharif; the E-1 controversy; and the attempt by
Palestinian Authority leadership to move directly to Permanent Status
negotiations, including Jerusalem, all are opening shots in this new round of
political warfare, which, for now at least, have not been translated into
actual fighting, beyond the unrelated deterioration in Gaza.
Was it wise, however, for the Israeli government to add fuel to the
crisis by reviving the debate over the E-1 plans? After all, the construction
itself will not start for some years, and the present timing, apparently
harmful to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his internal struggle with
Hamas, could not have been worse. Explanations based on sheer folly or
inattention to detail are indeed, often, the most plausible. Yet there is
another way of looking at this crisis, which may have been somewhat
more orchestrated than meets the eye. If timing is at the root of the trouble
here, timing, that is, an agreement to delay, could easily be part of the
solution. Meanwhile, the overt pressure on Israel could be used by the United
States to show President Abbas that there is some degree of evenhandedness at
work; and thus it would make it easier for President Bush to require him:
- To help coordinate disengagement plans with Israel, particularly on
the security framework;
- To break the present mold of inaction and take effective measures
against the terrorists who are still raining mortar shells on Gush Katif;
- To abandon the unworkable push for Stage III Now! and
prepare the ground for an acceptable interim agreement, once the preconditions
(an end to terror) are met.
This is reminiscent of the Jewish folktale about a poor man who comes to
his rabbi to cry over the incredible crush he and his large family are enduring
in a small one-room hovel; the rabbis advice, much to the mans
surprise, is to add a goat to the household! Two weeks later, when told they
may now send the goat out, the family suddenly feels so much better, breathing
fresh air in their tiny but comfortable home.
The E-1 plan, in other words, may not mean much on the ground for years
to come, but it has proved a useful device in demonstrating to the Palestinians
that Israel is ready to struggle for Jerusalem while at the same time showing
that the United States is not automatically allied with Israel on all issues.
If taken off the agenda (for the time being) under U.S. pressure, E-1 could
become the Palestinians rabbis goat, that is, the extra
element whose removal makes it easier to adjust to other demands.
Dr. Eran Lerman is director of the Israel/Middle East Office of the
American Jewish Committee.