Opinion

I Feel No Sympathy for the Settlers

Beneath the veil of sanctimonious and hypocritical unity, and the media’s fake show of national grief to advance its own commercial goals, the truth must be told: Their tragedy isn’t ours

The funeral of the baby who died following the shooting in Ofra, West Bank, December 12, 2018.
Emil Salman

I do not sympathize with people who profiteer from tragedy. I have no sympathy for robbers. I have no sympathy for the settlers. I have no sympathy for the settlers not even when they are hit by tragedy. A pregnant woman was wounded and her newborn baby died of its wounds – what can be worse than that? Driving on their roads is frightening, the violent opposition to their presence is growing – and I feel no sympathy for their tragedy, nor do I feel any compassion or solidarity.

They are to blame, not I, for the fact that I cannot feel the most humane sense of solidarity and pain. It’s not just that they’re settlers, violators of international law and universal justice; it’s not just because of the violence of some of them and the settling of all of them – it’s also the blackmail with which they respond to every tragedy, which prevents me from grieving with them. But beneath the veil of sanctimonious and hypocritical unity, and the media’s fake show of national grief to advance its own commercial goals, the truth must be told: Their tragedy isn’t ours.

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Their tragedy isn’t ours because they’ve brought the tragedy upon themselves and the entire country. It’s true that the main blame goes to the governments that gave into them, either eagerly or out of weakness, but the settlers cannot be absolved of blame, either. The extorter – and not just those who have given into extortion – is also to blame. But they are there, generations born on stolen land, children raised in an apartheid existence and trained to think it is biblical justice, and with government support. Perhaps we cannot blame those who are sitting on land usurped by their parents. But their tragedy is not ours because they exploit every tragedy to advance their aims in the most cynical of ways.

When a baby dies they install trailer homes, when soldiers are killed defending them – they do not seek forgiveness from the families of these soldiers, despite their blame for the lives that have been cut short – they only present demands so as to whitewash their crimes. And with these demands the appetite for revenge grows: to imprison even more of their neighbors, to destroy their homes, to kill, to arrest, block roads and exact more revenge. And if that, too, is not enough, their own wild militias raid the Palestinians, throw stones at their vehicles, set their fields on fire and wreak terror on their villages. They are not satisfied with the collective punishment imposed by the army and the Shin Bet security service, exercised with cruelty and sometimes criminality. The settlers’ lust for revenge is never satisfied. How is it possible to identify with the grief of people who behave like that?

It’s impossible to identify with their bereavement, because Israel has decided to avoid looking at all that is done there in the land of Judea. When you are capable of being indifferent to the execution of a psychologically impaired young man by soldiers, you can also be indifferent to the shooting of a pregnant woman by Palestinians. When you ignore the goings on at the Tulkarm refugee camp, you can also ignore what takes place at the Givat Assaf junction. It’s moral blindness to everything. Yesha isn’t here, that’s the price being paid for the lack of interest in what is going on in the territories and for ignoring the occupation, under whose sponsorship the settlements are based. Giant budgets are poured out there without any public opposition – so there is also indifference to the fate of the settlers and their tragedies. The piece of land they have taken over doesn’t interest most Israelis living in the land of denial, and that’s the price.

We have no reason to apologize for the lack of interest and identification. The settlers have brought it on themselves. Those who have never shown any interest in the suffering of their Palestinian neighbors, which they have caused, those who preach all the time that the iron fist must always be tightened, to torture them even more – don’t deserve to be identified with, not even in the hour of their grief. I take no joy in their suffering but I have no sympathy for their pain. The real pain is borne by their victims, those who moan submissively and those who take their fate in their hands and try to resist a violent reality violently and sometimes also murderously. The Palestinians are the victims deserving of pity and solidarity.