09 June 2007

Unconscionable Squatters

The Forward, which bills itself as "the Jewish daily", had an article this week on American Jews who choose to become illegal settlers on occupied Palestinian land. The "difficulties" they face are illustrated by the following comment:

"'Before we found Neve Daniel, my husband told me, 'I love you and I want to live in Israel, but I'm very materialistic and if I don't have a nice house, we're not moving,' said Lara Kwalbrun, a peppy mother of six, as she gave a tour of her luxurious new home while toting a baby in her arms."

As long as moving into an illegal settlement meant life in a mobile home, a large number of American Jews weren't interested. They left it up to their more pioneering and violent brethren to go out and "colonize" the area, to actually confront the owners of the land with clubs and guns and chain saws and bulldozers. Now that the out and out outlaws have "claimed" the land, so to speak, and the base can move into a gated community fed by water siphoned away from the Palestinians and policed by troops paid for by American taxpayers, these new settlers can move in and never have to come into contact with the people they have displaced. You know, the ones walled in.

Another choice quote:

"Jerusalem has evolved to be like Manhattan in terms of prices and having to live in an apartment," said Michael Chernofsky, an orthopedic surgeon from Pennsylvania who recently moved with his family to Efrat, a Gush Etzion settlement. "If you want to live in a house, you need to move out to the suburbs."

Language is a powerful means of creating an illusory world. We make up words to replace other words, antiseptic words to replace bothersome and ugly words, neutral or comfortable words that point away from injustice and suffering. The Palestinians are being ejected out of Jerusalem by force and by a series of laws that mean that if they are essentially imprisoned on the West Bank and unable to return to their homes in East Jerusalem, after a certain amount of time, the state can confiscate their property.

"Suburbs" brings to mind the manicured lawns of the New Jersey many of these settlers have left. "Suburbs" has associations of being the epitome of American life. "Suburbs" is a telling example of how language is used to create an illusory world that we take for reality.

Settlements on Palestinian land are illegal in international law. The settlers are criminals. Not only that, they are actively abetting the genocide of the original inhabitants of the land, the Palestinians who have been walled off into compounds on their own land.

If such actions don't make your blood boil, then you probably don't have a conscience. I'm not talking about a set of rules you live by that let you believe you are a 'good person', the kind of thing you can apply mechanically as a series of if-then statements that allow you to see how much you can get away with in any given situation. We all go through that stage as kids, and some people do actually outgrow it. Though from the state of the world, it is clear that it is a small percentage. But there are unfortunately large numbers of people for whom this stage represents the pinnacle of their moral development.

Illegal settlers are certainly counted among their number. They are, however, buttressed in their selfishness by the ideology that justifies killing off the Palestinians in the name of their god, so their crimes, crimes to anyone of conscience, become holy acts under the ideology of Judaism as well as to their Christian supporters.

There is no excuse for these acts. None. And anyone with a functioning conscience knows this, feels this deep in his or her gut. Any attempt to justify or explain away the theft of land and genocide of the people of Palestine is a clear marker that the individual has no conscience or that it is so far asleep that it may as well not exist.

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