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.