The State of Judea

They ask their rabbis whether there is a risk of slander in one act, or of theft in another ... But if these things have to do with Arabs, it is a different story.

In the 1980s, with the peace agreement with Egypt and the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, Kach movement activist Michael Ben-Horin founded what he and his friends called "the State of Judea."

Their intention was symbolic: to indicate a possible alternative to Israeli rule in the West Bank, if and when Israel withdraws from the territories.

Ben-Horin took for himself the title of president of the State of Judea. Later he was one of the editors of the book Baruch Hagever, which eulogized Baruch Goldstein, the Tomb of the Patriarchs murderer, and was one of the heroes of the pulsa denura - the death curse - hounding of Yitzhak Rabin.

The hard core of settlers in Judea and Samaria, veterans of Gush Emunim, do not absolutely identify with Ben-Horin and his colleagues. They have also never declared the possibility of establishing a separate state in the West Bank along the lines of the State of Judea. However, in many respects, with the encouragement of the governments of Israel and under their auspices, a state entity with a character of its own has indeed been established in the West Bank.

At one time, there was a lot of talk about how rule over the Palestinian people is corrupting Israel. It was said it's impossible to maintain a democracy in an Israel that's ruling over a foreign people, and that the manifestations of violence and corruption in Israeli society will increase because of the denial of rights to the Palestinians.

It is difficult to measure these phenomena and to discover their source, but it can be stated rather clearly that this hasn't happened. Democracy in Israel is quite stable; the rule of law is intact, and there are ongoing efforts to combat violence and corruption. In other words, the society within the State of Israel is running itself more or less properly, with no connection to what is being done in the territories. That is to say, a separation has developed: The State of Israel is one thing and the West Bank, or the State of Judea, is something else.

Examples abound. In just the newspapers of this just last week there was a long series of articles about the settlers of Hebron and Tel Rumeida, the death of the little girl in Anata from Border Police fire, the 124 furloughs from prison granted to Ami Popper, who was sentenced to life for killing Palestinians, and the investigative report in Haaretz on the routine of orders, prohibitions and roadblocks that have effectively emptied the roads of the West Bank of Arab cars. In the Palestinian newspapers, every day there are dozens of reports of this sort, which show that the way of life in the State of Judea bears no resemblance to what is happening inside Israel.

Three bodies control the state beyond the Green Line: the Shin Bet security service and the Israeli military establishment; a limping Palestinian Authority; and the Jewish settlers' councils.

In the settlers' community, life is exemplary. There is a high level of solidarity and mutual aid. This is perhaps the only place in the land where drivers pick up hitchhikers. The settlers pay great attention to the details of life in their settlements, especially with regard to religious matters. They ask their rabbis whether there is a risk of slander in one act, or of theft in another, at least when it has to do with their colleagues. But if these things have to do with Arabs, it is a different story. Then they are insensitive and cruel. Every day, as they drive on the roads, the settlers see the distress of their neighbors from the villages suffering at the roadblocks and trailing along the tracks in the hills to scrape out a living, or to get to a field, to school or to a clinic. Their claim is that it is all the fault of terror. And when they are told that it is wrong to punish an entire population, they say anyone who feels pity for the cruel will end up being cruel to those who deserve pity.

A woman from Machsom Watch has told me that a few months ago she saw a setters' demonstration near the southern entrance to the Jewish town of Efrata in the Etzion Bloc. In the morning hours, the Jews of the area have difficult problems with transportation to Jerusalem. The Tunnels Road from the Etzion Bloc north is one big traffic jam. Heading the demonstrators was a local rabbi, who complained of "the damage to the sanctity of the freedom of movement." The settlers' freedom of movement, of course; they must suffer because on a part of this road a few Palestinian cars also travel and an IDF roadblock has to inspect them and delay traffic. In the State of Judea, it is permissible to hurt only Arabs. Do not disturb the Jews.