The Seeds of Fascism


Disgrace: this is one of my first emotions when I watch the settlers’ uprising against the eviction of the settlements of Gaza and a couple in the West Bank. Take a look at these guys: adults and youth, men and women, with no fear, no hesitations, no need to apologize when they struggle against their own state. All over the country they block roads. They put chains on school gates at night, they pour glue into the door locks in state offices. They obtain the schedule of the prime minister and boo him wherever he goes. They threaten to kill the chief-of-staff, they harass individual officers at home. They pour oil and scatter nails on the highways. They sabotage army and police vehicles; they pour sugar into bulldozers’ oil tanks. They resist and hit soldiers and police; their favorite curse for the Israeli forces is “Nazi.” They incite soldiers to disobey orders, and they actually disobey them. An inner uprising like Israel has never seen.

Nothing of this kind happened here when hundreds of Palestinians were butchered under Israeli auspices in Lebanon in 1982. Or when Rabin deported 400 Palestinians to Lebanon in 1992. Or when an Israeli settler massacred dozens of Palestinians praying in the Patriarchs’ Tomb in Hebron in 1994. Or when an Israeli jet killed nine children by dropping a one-ton bomb on a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza in 2002. Or when Israel tried to kill with missiles the entire Hamas leadership in 2002, or when it finally succeeded in killing the 65-year-old spiritual leader Yassin in his wheelchair last year. Not when thousands of Palestinians lost their homes in the Second Intifada and became refugees in their own land. Not when the entire Palestinian population is caged by the Wall. None of these atrocities, and so many more, ever brought about a protest even slightly reminiscent of the present settlers’ unrest, caused by a legitimate decision (not yet taken) by the democratically elected Israeli government to move less than 5 percent of the settlers from one point to another within their “holy” land of Israel, with most generous compensations for their possessions and inconvenience.

I believe it was Kierkegaard who once said you can learn a lot about a person from the one thing that makes him serious. By the same token, you can learn so much about a society from the one thing that makes it take to the street. The fact that no atrocity ever made Israeli society, taken as a whole, protest the way the settlers do now, is disgraceful evidence for the complete moral bankruptcy of the Jewish state.

Roads Blocked

Not everything leaves the average Israeli so indifferent, of course. When settlers again blocked highways all over Israel this week, angry drivers approached them with iron bars. This story made it to the headlines: on one side the settlers, well-organized as always, on the other side the police, or what’s left of it after the neo-liberal waves of privatization and budget cuts, and some drivers, furious enough to confront the settlers physically. Indeed, if there is one thing Israelis cannot bear, it’s waiting for a highway to reopen. Five years ago, when Israeli Arabs dared block a few roads in Israel as the Second Intifada had just started, the popular Israeli wisdom unanimously agreed that such blocking is totally unacceptable, backing the police decision to use live ammunition and kill Arab-Israeli citizens to keep the roads open. Nowadays, the police found out there are other methods to keep the roads open, or even that human life is sometimes more important than an open road – at least when Jewish, not Arab, life is at stake.

I wonder how many of those furious Israeli drivers ever think of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, where there are no highways (not for Palestinians, that is), but where the roads, wretched after decades of stingy occupation with zero investment in infrastructure, are paved with hostile Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks, where humiliated Palestinians have to wait again and again, sometimes long hours in the burning sun, just to be able to cross on foot (cars not allowed).

Israeli drivers by now come equipped with iron bars to open the roads blocked by the settlers: after all, we have a right to move freely in our own land. But Palestinian violence always remains incomprehensible to us. Surely they don’t suppose they have any right to move freely in their own land; and even if they do, is this a reason to become violent?!


The blocked roads were top news; only later, much later down the line-up, came the Palestinian Ziad Majaida, aged 16 or 18 (reports vary), lynched by extremist Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip the same afternoon (29.6). Television footage shows the wounded boy lying on the ground, a soldier trying to protect him, while settlers keep stoning him. The boy later told television that it all started when a soldier pushed him to the wall, making him an easy prey for the murderous settlers; Ha’aretz journalist Nir Hasson reported from the scene of the crime about a paramedic, a "moderate" settler, fetched to treat the fainting boy:

"He wavered for twenty seconds whether or not to treat Hilal, as one of the attackers yelled at him: ‘If you treat him, we’ll kill you.’ He turned back embarrassed, and left. The injured man was laying on the ground, his face covered with blood, losing consciousness."

Israeli television later "explained" that when the lynch was taking place – next to a private Palestinian house violently taken over by settlers just a couple days before – not enough soldiers were around. But there were lots of cameras and reporters around, from all over the world: Hasson reports that unlike the brave paramedic, he and several other journalists were actually trying to help the lynched boy. So no one was surprised by the lynch – no one except the Israeli army. Pay attention to this "surprise." We Jews know it all too well: we experienced it for centuries, all over Europe, when everybody knew of an imminent pogrom, except for the local police, which was "surprised" and therefore "regretfully unable" to protect the abused Jews.

Seeds of Fascism

The settlers thus do not operate on their own. For almost 40 years, they got used to the total support of the state for their illegal project. “Illegal” not just because the settlements are contrary to international law, but because the entire settlement project – about 200 settlements housing 250,000 settlers – has been carried out illegally, in clandestine cooperation among the settlers, the army, the state apparatus, and the political echelon, working in harmony against all law and order, bypassing democratic procedures, cheating the public and the media: “it’s all right to lie for the Land of Israel,” as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once said. This covert cooperation has turned the settlers into the “Lords of the Land” (the title of a new Hebrew book on the settlers’ history, by Akiva Eldar and Idith Zertal), who got used to doing whatever crime and offense they wanted and being backed, or at least pardoned, by the state.

Every Israeli conscript knows: a radical left-wing record, your own or in your family, disqualifies you for any elite army unit. However, this week the Israeli Air Force proudly announced that the son of the mass murderer Baruch Goldstein has become a pilot. No wonder then, that the army now admits that all its operative plans, no matter how classified, are immediately leaked to the settlers.

The settlers obeyed the state only as long as it obeyed them. Having been used by Israel as its Freikorps, as the thugs who do the dirty jobs the state is unable or unwilling to do for itself, the overflow of settlers’ traditional violence into the heart of Israel is a natural development. As the Jewish writer Albert Memmi experienced and described so well during the French colonization of Tunisia, “Every colonial nation carries the seeds of the Fascist temptation.” Those deadly seeds flourish these days in Israel.

Author: Ran HaCohen

Dr. Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has a B.A. in computer science, an M.A. in comparative literature, and a Ph.D. in Jewish studies. He is a university teacher in Israel. He also works as a literary translator (from German, English, and Dutch). HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter From Israel" appears occasionally at