The Settler-philosopher Everyone Loves to Love

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Micah Goodman at his Kfar Adumim home, in September.
Micah Goodman at his Kfar Adumim home, in September. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Dr. Micah Goodman is a man people love to love. Handsome, eloquent, smart, au courant, a bit religious, a bit settler, sometimes wearing a knitted skullcap, sometimes a baseball cap. Middle of the road.

Nothing he told Hilo Glazer in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz on Friday can be disputed. Nothing. After all, who could oppose “limiting the experience of the occupation”? And who isn’t for “limiting the conflict”? And who doesn’t want an eight-step plan? That’s always good.

No wonder Goodman is everyone’s friend. He meets with the army chief of staff, he has an open channel with four generals; the current president quotes him and his predecessor was Goodman’s friend. The communications minister put him on a panel. The justice minister incorporated his thinking into his platform and the defense minister recommends his books.

He’s friends with the former head of the Shin Bet security service, the current prime minister sees him as a guiding light; obviously, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid it was love at first sight; on one of their dates, Lapid waited 45 minutes for him on Hatzuk Beach and told him: “Never mind, I saw the sunset.” Makes you want to weep.

The Americans also melt with pleasure – Martin Indyk has invited him to lecture – as do the readers of his bestsellers. Israel has an intellectual voice. A prophet is born. As for Goodman, he never wanted this at all: He was taken from his flocks. He prefers to be a monk, to sit at home with tea and books or to seek solitude in the desert. And not just any desert – the desert of the occupation that surrounds his home.

The desert surrounding his home is Goodman’s story and that of all the Israelis who want to be Goodman. In Goodman’s desert, at the foot of his settlement, Kfar Adumim, is a Bedouin village, Khan al-Ahmar. The residents of Kfar Adumim, as opposed to most settlers, are divided between supporting and opposing the eviction of the residents of Khan al-Ahmar.

There is even a handful of people of conscience in Kfar Adumim, like Prof. Dan Turner, deputy CEO of Sha’are Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, who are fighting for the Jahalin Bedouin inhabitants of the village. And what does this luminary think? He “doesn’t take sides.” He “has not yet begun to understand the event, to study it and form an opinion.” His neighbors have been fighting for their home for 25 years, and Goodman has not yet formed an opinion. We’ll wait. Why hurry?

This is the story of the entire middle-of-the-road Israel. “Moral laziness,” Goodman calls it, affectedly, and that is the core of the story. Don’t take any stand that could anger anyone. Stay in the middle, in the sacred, hollow center. Don’t say anything, and preferably do so with polished clichés, and be considered an important philosophical voice.

Goodman makes dreams come true and legitimizes crimes. That’s why he’s so popular. Lapid in an intellectual cloak. Goodman wants it all. The main thing is to remain beautiful and pure. Goodman doesn’t see what’s happening in the desert around him. He doesn’t want to see. He only wants quiet. Micah the prophet suggests that we prefer “a little less justice,” in exchange for “a little more security.” Less justice for whom? And more security for whom? Don’t make the centrists laugh. After all, the desert that surrounds them is empty of people, certainly of non-Jews with rights of their own.

Take for example the word “state.” The word is an obstacle according to the philosopher from Kfar Adumim, because it’s “binary.” Such sweet talk. Autonomy, on the other hand, is a “quantitative” term that allows for “flexibility.” And so this man of conscience would propose that to the Palestinians. But if the word “state” is so obstructive and binary, what does the Israeli Sartre think about the idea that Jews also give it up and make do with autonomy? It’s funny even to bring it up. Goodman, after all, is the latest version of Zionism.

Goodman certainly is imbued with good intentions. He is certainly a fascinating interlocutor. He’s not a racist or a hater. He’s the most enlightened liberal Israeli. And he does exactly what middle-of-the road Israelis want to be done for them: Make reality more pleasant and easier to swallow. That’s why they love him so much. That’s why they call him the intellectual with the greatest influence on the government today. That’s why I prefer the overt nationalists. At least they’re honest.

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