Posted by: sean | April 8, 2011

I had no idea Sydney was so terrible

I know I’m a little late to the sensation that is the BBC’s Louis Theroux, but I just watched one of his documentaries for the first time. Although everyone seems to be talking about his recent work on religious fundamentalists in Florida, I decided to watch the one on Ultra Zionists.

Theroux (as he is apparently wont to do) lets himself be taken around with an air of straight-faced naïveté to visit various settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem by various Israelis who all agree on the idea that all land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River was given to Jews by God. The connector, though, is an Australian Israeli named Daniel Luria (pictured with Theroux above) who works for an organization, Ateret Cohanim, that uses foreign and Israeli money to buy up properties in Arab neighborhoods and villages in order to install Israeli Jews there. He also organizes tours of recently acquired East Jerusalem property (sometimes with Palestinians still living there) to prove that Jewish life unites  Jerusalem.

The Palestinians Daniel has doing construction at his home in the settlement of Ma’ale Adunim to prepare for the feast of the tabernacle are perplexing to Theroux, who comments, “in a sense, they’re building themselves out of existence.” Daniel disagrees with this, saying that Khamis, the Palestinian worker, “knows that life is good under the Jews.”

Daniel sees his work as a continuation of the war of 1948, “a war of survival for the Jewish people.” For him, it’s either continually settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem, or “pack our bags and go back to the ovens of Auschwitz, go back to the shores of Australia.”



  1. What a shock that this is the one episode you chose to fixate on. How dare those Jews purchase property from Arabs who are voluntarily selling it? Or employ Arab workers? Don’t they know they’re supposed to be Dhimmis? Appalling, indeed!

  2. That might be somewhere in the ballpark of reality if everyone had equal rights between the river and the sea, but unfortunately, Daniel’s project is explicitly aimed at taking all Palestinian land and property piece by piece so that there are no more Arabs in historic Palestine. Elsewhere in the documentary, he says that Palestinians have no claim on the promised land and should go somewhere else. He suggests Jordan.

    But you’re probably right. Being opposed to ethnic cleansing probably just means that I’m trying to establish a global caliphate. Yawn.

  3. “Taking” all Palestinian land? As long as they’re wanting to sell, it’s not being taken, and as long as they want to be in Palestine, they will never sell all of their land. And while there are certain matters in international law that support his opinion regarding the claim to a Palestinian state, I don’t remember any word from you on “ethnic cleansing” in response to the Palestinian leadership (rather than this random dude) calling for their state to be Judenrein. What I find more interesting is that despite all the things that have been happening in your region of choice, you have been rather silent until you found a documentary that showed an extreme Israeli who represents a tiny minority. Not a word on the slitting of the throat of a 3-month old girl or the fact that a third of Palestinians support this crime. Not a word on the missile targeting a school bus. Not a word on Goldstone’s stepping back from his allegations. Or, if Jewish lives don’t matter but Palestinian ones do, not a word on a young boy who died in Lebanon because being Palestinian meant he couldn’t access health care. Nor a word on Egyptian women protesting that they couldn’t pass on their nationality to their children if the children’s fathers are Palestinian.

  4. You crack me up with your “Judenrein” straw man. Right: not wanting new settlements built on illegally occupied land is pretty much exactly the same as Hitler’s final solution! Or maybe I can turn around the reductio-ad-Hitlerum to say that the Israeli people are pushing about for Lebensraum, and that’s why they’ve occupied the West Bank, Gaza, the Egyptian Sinai, the Golan Heights and Southern Lebanon at various points in the last 40 years. But that would be offensive and silly, now wouldn’t it? Or how about we talk about the Israeli fatwas against renting or selling to Arab citizens of Israel? And I’ve got news for you, if the settlers were such a “tiny minority” of Israeli opinion, there wouldn’t be half a million of them, nearly all of whom are supported and subsidized by the Israeli state.

    As for what this blog does and does not cover, I’ve been traveling a lot and as such have been much more active on twitter (where I’ve Tweeted about Syria, Libya, Egypt and Mohamad Nabih Taba, the young boy who died in Saida) than here. But even if if you look at the last several posts here, they were on intervention in Libya, Lebanese sectarianism and the fall of Hariri’s government. Otherwise, if you want to read about citizenship in the region, you can start by looking here, here and here for a start. There are other posts too, but you can find them yourself.

  5. Good point. A post on sectarianism in which no side was wrong and a post on Libya in which a commentator was wrong. Not much room for actual Arab culpability in these posts, is there? As for Judenrein, I’m sorry if the word offends you. I’ll gladly retract it. How bout Jew-free? That sounds nice. Jordan and Egypt carried out actual ethnic cleansings to make the West Bank and Gaza “Jew-free” (while the Palestinian population has quadrupled under Israeli control) and you have no problem with a leadership that validates those acts and demands that their country not allow a single Jew to live in it even under Palestinian sovereignty. How very progressive. I suppose it’s in keeping with your silent confirmation that Jewish lives don’t matter as much. Now, I think you are willfully being ignorant on some matters. Far from having such racist policies enacted by the state and silently accepted by the masses, Israel’s leadership and society in general have forcefully condemned these “fatwas” you refer to, and unlike their Arab counterparts, they refused to have people continue to live in refugee camps, thus fully absorbing and naturalizing not only all Jewish refugees from Arab countries, but all Arab refugees that were in camps in Israel proper following the 48 war. Finally, I didn’t say that settlers are a tiny minority, but for you to imply that this opinion represents that of all settlers is simply more willfull ignorance since poll data showing their support for two states is readily available, and almost every solution that’s ever been proposed by either side has involved Israel keeping the largest blocs anyway. Also, you must know that there have been no “new settlements” in over 20 years.
    As atrocities continue in the region you profess to care about, I’ll look forward to more ambivalent articles in the future, unless you can find an Israeli angle to rail against.

  6. Nate,

    You’re nothing more than an apologetic to a system of apartheid and continued discrimination. People in Gaza are smuggling food and medicine in under ground tunnels. If you had a piece of sanity, you would have looked at them and remembered your own people in Warsaw ghetto and the all the hardships the Jews had to live in. Other than that, just looking at zionism itself with its “land without people for a people without land” is enough to feel nauscious that such a movement is still alive in the 21st century and continues to occupy lands and drive natives and destroy whole communities because of some reference in a holly book. Just think about it a polish or an austrian has more right to live in that land than a local who had burried his whole family and lived there for 2000 years. Just the fact that you can’t even see it says a lot about the kind of system you live in, a system of segregation and discrimination. I have nothing for you except pity!!

    It does not matter how long it would take, but the Israeli occupation will end. It’s just a matter of time!! So, take your time…we’ve got all the time in the world!!

  7. Oh good, the wolves have come out. I challenge anyone to explain how Israel is in anyway similar to South Africa under apartheid. It’s a strong word, true, but good luck finding real parallels. It’s also a very useful word to insult the black people who suffered under and overcame actual apartheid. And since tons of goods make their way to Gaza from Israel every week, your reference to the smuggling of medicine and food are unfounded. Pretty much everyone has come around to the fact that their is no humanitarian situation in Gaza… another strong emotional idea without real merit. Unlike the Warsaw ghetto, a despicable comparison, Palestinians were not herded into Gaza by an outside force, leaving the remaining area free of Arabs. Furthermore, the Nazis never left the Ghetto in the name of peace only to have missiles lobbed at their civilian populations daily. The Nazi did not continue to send in humanitarian aid while under attack, and – little tidbit- the ghettos were emptied and the Jews were sent to extermination camps… remember? Meanwhile Gazans have opened malls in the past year, built an Olympic sized swimming pool, frequented cafes and waterparks and shopped at well-stocked stores. If you think there is any genuine comparison to be made, you’re basically denying the true nature of the Holocaust, a charming and tolerant element of Muslim education. More importantly, none of what you’ve said is remotely relevant. I’m not sure if you know this but Jews have actually been on that land consistently for thousands of years and actually made up the majority in the area designated to be Israel in 1948. The area was not unpopulated, but was certainly underpopulated only to surge when the Jews came in and Arabs built villages in proximity because of the newly available opportunities. The notion of families that had been on that land for 2000 years is certainly the exception rather than the rule. Nevertheless, if the Arabs wanted a Palestinian state on the rest of the land -something they’d never had before – they had the opportunity at that time (as well as before and since), but like those guys that built the Warsaw ghetto, a Jew in their midst was simply too much to tolerate (as has been proven in every other Muslim country). My point was that so many crimes are ignored so long as they are perpetrated by Muslims and not Jews. If you think it’s more important to discuss a single extremist (but non-violent) group of Jews, than it is to discuss the killing of a 3-month old girl and her family (and the popular support for such acts), or the targeting of a school bus with a missile, or a public bus bombing, or the Gazans injured by terrorist missiles that fall short, or allegations of Hezbollah building an infrastructure in population centers, or the deaths that have taken place since the Koran burning, or the violent crackdowns in Iran and Syria and elsewhere, or the violent abuse of Copts in post-Mubarak Egypt, or the inexcusable abuse of Palestinians and Kurds by their Muslim brothers, then it is you who I pity. A little self-reflection in the Arab world wouldn’t hurt one bit.

  8. BTW, another charming cultural element is caring more about your hatred and taking “all the time in the world” to destroy your enemy, than compromising because you care more about your children’s future than anything else.

  9. I have a question (haven’t seen the documentary in question) :
    Who really “owns” the land that is “sold” by the “Arabs”? Is it really bought & owned by private individuals? The way I understand it, there is no such thing as “private” ownership in IL, as is commonly & legally understood in the West. The state owns/controls over 95% of the land; “private property” per se does not exist. I wonder if the land that is owned by non-Jews and is sold to Jews is then turned over to the Land Administration, or if it remains “private” (if it ever was considered “private” property in the first place).
    As a European, I find the idea of the IL Land Administration totalitarian and non-democratic in its conception. It spooks me in the same way as the absence of a framework providing for civil/interfaith marriage (considered a given in Western democracy, just like *actual* private ownership of property).
    Even if IL is not an apartheid state, it is a far cry from being a democracy granting basic equal rights for one and all residents, as is commonly understood in Eur. & N. Amer.
    If the IL state had a proper constitution to begin with, maybe these issues wouldn’t cause so much conflict and confusion.

  10. Thank you, alaggeri, for proving my point. Israel leases land for about 100 years at a time and doesn’t repossess upon completion of the lease. It’s a law that has it’s foundations in Israel’s creation as a socialist state and Israel’s taking sovereignty of what had previously also been state land, but where – in effect – the lease pretty much amounts to private sale in practice. The privately owned land is split evenly between Israelis and Arabs and the public land allows equal access both in theory and in practice to both. And, as for your question, private land remains private upon sale whether it be to Arab or Jew. The idea of calling such a system “totallitarian” is nothing short of hilarious and attempts to purposely misrepresent and demonize the system without any understanding of how it works (or any justification for why it would be a sign of totalitarianism). In the PA, just so we’re clear, selling land to a Jew warrants the death penalty. Could that be what you were describing? I’m not sure what any of this has to do with the denial of basic equal rights but, in Israel there is no ban on minarets or burkas, which I suppose means that France and Switzerland are a far cry from being democracies granting basic equal rights for one and all residents as is commonly understood in N. America, Israel and the rest of Europe.
    What I thank you for proving, though, is that this “forum” is nothing but a place to find random and obscure reasons to nitpick at Israel, while people in the region are being subject to the real and horrific crimes I previously mentioned including deadly suppression of demonstrations. But then, if Muslims kill Muslims (I won’t even question whether you care about Jewish deaths), it’s clearly not nearly as pressing or even noteworthy.

  11. In addition to his nastiness & his repeated insinuations of antisemitism, virtually everything Nate has written here defending Israel is incomplete, misleading, or flat out dishonest. Take his statements about Gaza. It is simply a bald-faced lie to say that “Pretty much everyone has come around to the fact that their is no humanitarian situation in Gaza”. Actually, there are numerous reports by various international organizations – ranging from the World Health Organization to the International Committee of the Red Cross to Amnesty International – establishing that there has been severe deterioration in measures such as employment, malnutrition, health, water & sewage in the Gaza Strip:

    I would also like to see the source for Nate’s assertion that “the notion of families that had been on that land for 2000 years is certainly the exception rather than the rule”, because that contradicts the writings of every serious scholar I’ve read regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even ardent Zionist historians like Yehoshua Porath have rejected the idea of large-scale Arab migration to Palestine after the Balfour Declaration as a blatant falsehood.

    And as for the Palestinian Authority ’s laws against selling land to Jews that Nate keeps harping on, let’s be clear: the vast majority of Jews seeking to buy land from Palestinians living east of the Green Line aren’t seeking to live in peace & equality with their Palestinian neighbors. Rather, as Sean says, they are part of an organized effort to solidify and expand Israeli control over East Jerusalem & the West Bank. That is not to say I justify or condone the killing of any Palestinian who sells land to a Jewish settler, but let’s not have any illusions about who these land buyers are.

  12. I’m not sure what I said that was “nasty” unless you’re referring to disagreeing with you, and I have not insinuated that a single person here is anti-semetic, although you haven’t addressed my point at all that such minor extremists /issues in the Jewish state get attention while great atrocities are raging in the Arab world. Even Sean’s post today, finally, gave a lot of understanding and benefit of the doubt to a dictator who’s killing civilians… a luxury certainly never afforded to any Israeli action.
    Next, I’m not sure how a single mention of the Palestinian law is considered “harping”, but as long as those Jews are acting legally, your point is rather moot. Similarly, the Jews arriving in the 1800s legally purchased their land and often from absentee landlords. The land was underpopulated with most guesses putting the population at the time at around 500,000. Neither then nor now were these purchases in any way a violent conquest by which most modern countries were created, but rather an ideological tactic and a private transaction. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s yet another example of a diversion from actual atrocities in the region.
    What else? Oh yeah, I never said that the population exploded after the Balfour Declaration. It actually happened in the 19th century. When Rishon L’Tzion was established, 40 Jewish families attracted 400 more Arab families (many Bedouin and Egyptian) and the same pattern was observed in other settlements and villages. Every historian in this field has a political agenda, even Porath who was far more left-wing at the time of most of his writings. Some historians say that at least 25% of the Muslims of the region were newcomers from after the Egyptian conquest of 1831. Another historian reported that the populations was composed of settlers from other portions of the Turkish Empire (Bosnians, Druzes, Circassians and Egyptians). The number of Arabs in the part to be Israel at the time was small and shrinking as attested to by the British consul of the time who noted that the Jewish population was stable, the Arabs tended to leave and not return, their geography being volatile and not deeply rooted. Land in Palestine, according to these observers was being abandoned and going out of cultivation. The Plain of Sharon was referred to as “a land without inhabitants”. JL Burkhardt noted that “Few individuals … die in the same village in which they are born. Families are continually moving from one place to another… in a few years… they fly to some other place, where they have heard that their brethren are better treated. I would put it to you to make a case for some long-standing rooted presence, but it’s still not remotely the point. The point I’ve been consistently making is about a focus on Israel that has come to the point of obsession, generalization and demonization, while ignoring actual issues that are relevant to basic human rights and decency.
    I’ll leave you with word from the deputy head of the ICRC: “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach. The problem is mainly in maintenance of infrastructure and in access to goods, concrete for example….
    The Red Cross and the IDF are in close contact to “coordinate the entry of goods into Gaza and the entry and exit of people, sometimes our personnel and sometimes patients who are going to Israel to receive medical care”.
    I could also send you photos of markets and surfers and swimming pool and cafes. If you honestly defend comparing this situation to the Warsaw ghetto, or are only further proving my point. Considering that the Palestinians – peace-loving as they are – democratically elected an organization that targets school buses and cafes, calls for Israel’s destruction, and lobs thousands of rockets and mortars, I’d say these inconveniences are rather well-earned.

  13. I will respond in more detail to Nate/Nathan when I get a chance, but I just want to point out I never at any time compared the conditions of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto or defended such comparisons. I have always felt that such comparisons are ridiculous, not least of all because you don’t need to be a Nazi to inflict lots of suffering upon people.

  14. I guess I just assumed that you defended the comparisons because rather than actually say anything about them, you waited to argue against my contention that such comparisons are illegitimate. But it is much easier to gang up on the unpopular opinion than to reflect on the Arab offenses (see Nizar). Wait. Could this be a small, distilled example of what I’ve been saying this whole time?

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