Olives, Violence, and Settlers

Loving Israel sometimes means denouncing Jewish extremists.

I have a basic sympathy with the aim of settlers in Israel who want to see all of Israel belong to the Jewish people (though I would add that non-Jews who own land must be incorporated with justice as the Torah strictly commands).

I do not have sympathy with the terroristic tactics of the settlers or their disdain for Torah. In the name of Torah they prioritize the right to the land above the greater aspects of love and mercy and respect for human life. They claim a holy war where none has been authorized by God. Nor do I approve of the “squatters’ rights” approach in which settlers claim land belonging to others. The Torah has a word for it: stealing.

Take for example what is happening right now with the olive harvest in Israel. I, for one, love being able to enjoy the olives and olive oil in Israel each year when I go. They are primarily harvested and marketed by Arabs and Druze.

But in some places, extremist Jewish settlers are coming in bands of thugs to beat Arabs working in their own olive orchards. They have even fought with Israeli soldiers and Jewish activists trying to protect the Arab workers.

What would God say about a Jew who steals an olive orchard from a poor Arab family (or even a rich Arab family)?

The actions of these settlers hurts Israel more than anything the Palestinian leadership, Hamas, Hizbullah, and all of Israel’s enemies can do. Righteousness, justice, and respect for human rights is what Israel must be known for. Justice, even justice, says Torah, you shall pursue.

Here is an excerpt from today’s Ha’aretz newspaper about the incidents:

Israeli rightist wounds soldier guarding Palestinian farmers

By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent

A right-wing activist on Wednesday lightly wounded an Israel Defense Forces soldier protecting Palestinian olive harvesters near the West Bank settlement of Otniel.

The incident occurred as twelve masked rightists, armed with clubs, scuffled with IDF soldiers deployed to guard the Palestinians. The rightists subsequently fled the scene, after which police embarked on a search for them.

The current olive harvest has been marked with other violent incidents. On Saturday, witnesses and Reuters crew said that Israeli settlers clashed with Palestinians and others helping them pick olives in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad on Wednesday issued a harsh condemnation of the attacks by settlers, calling them “terrorism.”

“The settlers being here in itself is illegitimate. And on top of that they engage in acts of violence against our citizens, particularly at this time of year when they pick olives, with all that the olive tree signifies to our people,” Fayyad told Reuters.

“This is nothing short of terrorism by the settlers.”

Fayyad said the olive tree was not only a source of income for most Palestinians, but more importantly a “symbol of the determination of the Palestinian people to stay on their land and to preserve and defend it”.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio on Monday that the army was deploying with “supreme effort” to allow the harvest to take place.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Messianic Jewish, News. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Olives, Violence, and Settlers

  1. judahgabriel says:

    I read an article sometime ago on SamsonBlinded.org (caution: an ultra-right wing religious Jewish website) which stated something to the effect,

    Israel should not persecute it’s Arabs. A humane and Torah-based approach would be to either:

    -Let them live peacefully in Israel.
    -If they cannot live peacefully, expel them.

    The persecution of Arabs does little but help their cause by inciting humanists to feel compassion for them.

    Derek, you criticize some Jewish settlers’ approach to Arab Israelis, perhaps rightly so, but you don’t offer a solution other than to say it must respect human rights. Respecting human rights isn’t a solution. You can respect the rights of Arabs in Israel, but that doesn’t solve their claim to the West Bank or the Golan Heights or Jerusalem itself. Many of them, or at least, the Palestinian leadership would be satisfied with nothing less than the destruction of Israel and an Islamic theocracy setup in its place.

    No amount of respect of human rights will solve that problem.

  2. Gene Shlomovich says:

    I agree that the settlers are wrong to treat Arabs this way – especially if this has been unprovoked. However, I have seen too many stories of settlers being killed by the Palestinian Arabs. There are MANY news stories of Palestinians that have entered the Jewish settlements and slaughtered women and children in cold blood (news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2831515.stm, guardian.co.uk/world/2002/jul/27/israel, iht.com/articles/2007/12/28/africa/mideast.php). At the same time, I do not see too many stories of Palestinians actually getting KILLED by settlers. The news is, as usual, both from world press and liberal Israeli reporting is very one-sided in criticizing one group (the Jewish settlers) for harassing Palestinians, where is the other group (the Palestinians) is committing murder.

    The Arabs in the story ARE NOT Israeli citizens – but rather they are Palestinians, which as a group are sworn enemies of the Jewish nation. As a people who want to see Israel destroyed and have tried to do so on many occasions, who teach their children to hate and murder Jews, they certainly do not qualify as peaceful aliens living in the land, abiding by Israeli laws, whose human rights must be respected.

  3. Judah and Gene:

    I am not saying that I advocate a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine). Obviously I am pro-Israel. But Israel in the past has recognized the rights of local Arabs to their own farm lands and Israel must continue to do so.

    As I said, I am somewhat sympathetic to the settlers. But I am not sympathetic to stealing, thuggery, and allowing some extremists to make fools out of the nation of Israel. These Jews do more harm to Israel’s cause than good when they stoop to stealing and beating up farmers. Most Israelis agree with me, by the way, which is why the Israeli police and military are defending the farmers.

    If there ends up being a one-state solution in Israel (no separate country of Palestine) then the Arabs who remain in the land are going to have to have the same property rights as Jews. This is Torah (the alien in the land) and it is good government.

    Gene, you mention that Palestinians kill settlers. Yes, but these farmers are not likely those who have done the killing. There is no basis for stealing olive groves from people merely because they are part of a people, some of whom commit terrorist acts and kill. These farmers have not been charged with and certainly not convicted of terrorist acts. They are farmers.


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