A Canticle For Goldstein

There are the kinds of people who are taking over Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem…

PS: Many attendees of Saturday’s demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah reported that a speech by young Israeli activist Sara Benninga was the highlight of the demonstration. Click here for the complete text of her speech, translated into English.

12 thoughts on “A Canticle For Goldstein

  1. YBD

    I am surprised that you, a thoughtful person, take a minor ugly incident and then extrapolate it to apply to a whole group of people. A tiny number of “settlers” and others celebrate what Goldstein did. THE VAST MAJORITY ARE REVOLTED BY IT. What Goldstein did caused immense damage to the settlement movement.
    You have no right to attribute these views to everyone within this ideological camp.

    I’ll give you a counter example—after the Sabarro massacre carried out by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in which something like 15 people were killed, including 5 of one family (2 parents and 3 children), at the Islamic University in Shechem, the HAMAS students organization set up display celebrating it with cardboard pizzas spread over a room and dismembered body parts represented by limbs of dolls covered with ketchup also scattered around.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      For goodness sakes, YBD, I was simply pointing to the behavior of the new Jewish residents of Sheikh Jarrah. I didn’t in any way state or imply that this example represented the entire “settlement movement.”

    2. Shirin

      THE VAST MAJORITY ARE REVOLTED BY IT. What Goldstein did caused immense damage to the settlement movement.

      Wow. That kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

  2. Stewart Mills

    Thanks for posting this Brant.

    YBD it is good that we can all agree that Baruch Goldstein’s acts were despicable and stands against everything that Judaism should represent.

    The question then is how do we respond to settlers today who continue to support such violent racist views? This is not to say that all settlers have those views but for those that do…how can religious instruction be used to promote peace for all rather than for some? This is not to ignore any violent racist views within the Palestinian community – but given your clear opinions in relation to the Jewish colonists what is your response to such a colonist/expansionist movement?

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      I’m not sure there is an effective way to influence those who adhere to such racist views. Yes, more enlightened, progressive religious instruction would certainly be welcome, but that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

      If there is a response to be made, it’s to an Israeli government that empowers racists like this through expansionist policies – and to an American government whose unconditional support sends Israel the message that there are no consequences for pursuing them.

    2. YBD

      I completely reject your characterization of the Jews living in Judea/Samaria (and Sheikh Jarrah, for that matter) as “colonists”. Unless, of course, you also consider David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir as colonists too, because they came from outside the country and settled in it AGAINST the will of the local Arab population. The Arabs do not recognize the outcome of the 1948 Israel War of Independence and do not recognize the cease-fire line (the so-called “Green Line”) as a political border. The proof of this is their demand for the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return” to WITHIN the Green Line, showing they do not recognize sovereign Israeli rights to decide who lives within those lines.
      The fact is that large numbers of Jews lived in Sheikh Jarrah before 1948, and also Jews lived in Judea/Samaria and Gaza for centuries before the State of Israel arose.
      If a Jew has a right to live in Tel Aviv then he has a right to live in Hevron. If he does NOT have a right to live in Hevron, then he has no right to live in Tel Aviv.

      1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


        By any definition, I think West Bank settlers should be considered “colonists.” So were David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir. You stated it very well yourself: they came from outside the country and settled against the will of the existing population.

        When you say “The Arabs” do not recognize the outcome of the 1948 war you make a fairly sweeping generalization. I do think it is safe to say, however, that most Palestinians consider that event to be catastrophic and unjust.

        You say “so-called Palestinian Right of Return.” The right of return is not “so-called.” It is enshrined in international law. From which law do you determine that Israel has the “right” to decide that only Jews can “return” to this territory (and not inhabitants who have lived in the land for generations?)

        No one is disputing that Jews, Arabs, or anyone else should be allowed to live anywhere they like in Israel/Palestine. The question is how can full and equal rights be extended to all who live in this land?

  3. Stewart Mills

    (1) Terminology used by early Jewish nationalists (1897-1916)

    I agree YBD that some of the early European founders of the modern state of Israel could be considered as colonists. This is supported in:

    Terminology used by early Jewish nationalists (1897-1916)

    The word colonization in the nineteenth and early twentieth century lacked the negative connotation it carries today and was innocently used by early Jewish nationalists.

    The First Zionist Congress used the term colonization. For example at the First Zionist Congress in 1897 objective number 1 of the programme called for “the promotion, on suitable lines of colonization or settlement (besiedlung) of Palestine by Jewish agricultural and industrial workers” .

    The Jewish Colonization Association (in Yiddish ICA) was the name of a Jewish organization founded for the purpose of settling Jewish emigrants to Ottoman Palestine. Edmond de Rothschilds was an influential contributor to this association (Parkes 1970) .

    Justice Brandeis referred to Jewish colonization in his book – ‘The Jewish Problem, How to Solve it’ (1915).

    Click to access Louis_Brandeis.pdf

    (2) Current military support for Jewish colonists in the West Bank demonstrates the irony of YBD’s statement about “Arab rejection of the Green Line”

    YBD, with respect so who rejects the Green Line? You limit your answer to one group. Why do you not include those who reject the Green Line as the Israeli Government and the Jewish settlers? This seems an obvious oversight since it is this group that supports the colonization of land in Hebron and Nablus. Or are you saying this is Israel proper? If you answer yes – we have a problem – morally, ethically, religiously and legally.

    Similarly where is the barrier/wall/fence built? The act of building the West Bank barrier beyond the Green Line is a sign of the Israeli Government seeking to expand it’s influence in the region. Such acts follow the tried and tested expansionist approach of ‘getting facts on the ground’ a policy that dates back to the debates between Herzl and the practical Zionists whereby the aim was to put settlements on the ground so as to advance future bargaining power.

    On my return from Israel I discussed the issue of settlements with a high profile Jewish representative who made the connection between the Israeli settlements and the squatters in Australia. Squatters took possession of land outside the settled districts of New South Wales known as the Nineteen counties. The limits of these were proclaimed by Governor Darling in 1829. Taree my home town was the northern most border which followed the Manning River.

    Squatters sought British military support to retaliate from attacks by Aboriginal tribes. The consequence of which further established British supremacy of the land.

    A similar approach was used to acquire Texas from Mexico. And to acquire Liberia by freed African Americans from the local inhabitants of Liberia.

    I have added the following reflection to expand on this:

    (3) Lessons from other conflicts

    Below is a reflection on the benefit of looking at similarities between the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with the story of other indigenous nations – remembering that there has been an indigenous community of Jews and Palestinian Arabs to the land.


    Throughout the ages land has been bought and sold, conquered and possessed by different peoples.

    China conquered Tibet; Indonesia annexed East Timor and West Papua; and the United States defeated Mexico to obtain Texas, California amongst other present states of America.

    Aboriginal people in Australia were dispossessed of their land by military conquest by the Europeans. The Aboriginal people are now only slowly reclaiming their right to land with the advent of State based land right legislation and federal based native title rights legislation

    Native Americans were dispossessed of their land by Europeans by military conquest and broken treaties. They were put onto reservations and lost much of their traditional right to land.

    Indigenous people of South Africa were dispossessed of land by the Europeans.

    Years after the event people reap the benefits of these conquests in the relative comfort of their homes and can use the free market system to buy or sell land title.

    There is a case to distinguish the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from the conflicts that have been mentioned above. The general ground for this is the ancient connection of the Jewish people to this land. There is truth behind that claim, but is that enough to ignore similarities between other conflicts both past and present. I think not. To do so is to miss out on the opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes or successes. To ignore history dooms present generations to repeat the mistakes of the past.

    a. The story of Liberia


    One national struggle that I have found particularly revealing is the story of the freed African American slaves who returned to West Africa in the 1820s-30s. White American philanthropists succeeded in buying land for freed African American slaves in what is now Liberia. This country was named in honour of the “liberation” or emancipation of the freed African American slaves [The British did the same in Sierra Leone – rewarding freedom to African Americans who fought against the American Colonialists in the American Revolution].

    What happened was that the freed slaves originally acquired land by treaty, however, when the freed slaves sought to expand and the local tribes refused to secede territory then the freed slaves went to war to take the land. The end result was between 1847 and 1980, Liberia was governed by the small minority of African-American colonists and their offspring, together called Americo-Liberians, suppressing the large indigenous majority of 95% of the Liberian population. It was only since 1980 that this rule by the minority has changed.


    b. Mexican Texas

    What rights did Mexico have to defend their claim to the land? How had American settlers taken advantage of the hospitality offered by the Mexican government to settle?


    c. Squatters [akin to Israeli Settlers] in Australia

    In Australia we had the squatters? How did squatters use attacks by indigenous Australians as justification for intervention by English troops to attack Aboriginal nations?


    I raise these 3 case studies as a means to help frame the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in another way. It is important to look outside the box to find creative solutions to this conflict. One method is to acknowledge commonalities in the struggles that are occurring in this conflict with other conflicts.

    Other references


    Map of the Liberian colonies (1825)

    The following colonies were established along the coast of Liberia: Pennsylvania Colony, Mississippi Colony, Louisiana Colony, Maryland Colony. Monrovia was built by the colonists in 1824 and was named after James Monroe, 5th President of the United States (1817-1825).

    Timeline – Liberia

    1817, January 1 The American Society for Colonizing Free People of Colour of the United States, founded at Washington DC with Bushrod Washington [George Washington’s grandson] as president and Elias Caldwell as scecretary.

    1820. First colonists sent to Africa, resided in British controlled Sierra Leone.

    1821. First land purchases for a colony at Cape Mesurado

    1822, August Jehudi Ashmun (died 1828) arrives in Africa and became the society’s first colonial agent

    1824. Colony named Liberia, settlement named Monrovia.

    1839-41 Thomas Buchanan Governor of Liberia

    1841-1846 Joseph Roberts, Governor of Liberia

    1847- Joseph Roberts, President of Liberia 1847-

    1862 US formally recognises Liberia

    1867, the American Colonization Society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants.


    1964 The American Colonization Society legally dissolved assets turned over to Phelps-Stokes Fund.

    Click to access acsregisterlc.pdf

    Jehudi Ashmun. History of the American Colony in Liberia from December 1821 to 1823 (1826).

    For criticism of the Amercian Colonization Society see:

    The American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States [AFRO-American Almanac]

    The American Colonization Society
    In 1847, the Liberian colony became the independent nation of Liberia. By 1867, the American Colonization Society had sent more than 13,000 emigrants.

    The African American diaspora community
    American Colonization Society
    The first society that was created was the American Colonization Society, organized in December 1816 to resettle free black Americans in West Africa.

    The most active organizations were the Colonization Society of New York, the Ohio Colonization Society, the Young Men’s Colonization Society of Pennsylvania, the Maryland Colonization Society, the Louisiana Colonization Society, and the Mississippi Colonization Society.

    Alan Huffman Mississippi in Africa

    the Constitution of 1824

    Debate as to whether a colony should be established or should the freed slaves be encouraged to emigrate to Sierra Leone (as some had done already).
    http://www.liberiapastandpresent.org/ColonizationSociety.htm#quote [Niles Weekly Register – Free People of Color 1817

    http://www.liberiapastandpresent.org/ (Dr Fred P.M. Van Der Kraaij)

    Theodor Herzl

    Practical Zionism

    Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zionist Philosophies

    The Nineteen Counties

    Illegal occupation of land – Ticket-of-Leave Convicts – emancipists – pioneers

    1. Richard Kahn

      I’m also upset by your stereotyping a large group of people based on a 1:43 video clip. We will not get out of this conflict by making blanket statements about the other.

  4. Eric Selinger

    For an interesting piece on a very different set of settlers, I recommend this Ha’aretz article, “Not All Settlers and Palestinians Want Each Other to Disappear” (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1144264.html).

    Two quotes particularly strike me. This:

    “The hatred and the alienation are not a consequence of the occupation,” says Pachnik “If this state had not been founded by Ben-Gurion and the Ashkenazim, but by the Sephardim, with their mentality, after having lived in Muslim countries, there could have been a wonderful binational state here and we would be managing to live with them in peace.”

    And this, from the same man:

    “Because we were the occupier and they were the occupied, and because they really did not have rights, an intifada developed. At some level I completely understand it. […] There is no actual problem of finding room in the physical territory; the problem is finding room in the heart. The fear is that if I recognized the other I would give him room, and then I wouldn’t have room.”

    The people interviewed include settlers who would prefer a binational state to a two-state solution and some who would rather stay as citizens of Palestine than return to Israel, should the states be separate.

    1. Stewart Mills

      Of course Brant was not stereotyping settlers by this one clip. To say otherwise distorts his work and is an unfair characterization. Of course there is diversity. The question is for those settlers who fit within this category of settlers – ie racist, religiously deviant and dangerous how do we as a broader community respond? A similar question can be asked if a same clip was shown of Palestinians who fell into the same category of this group of settlers ie racist, religiously deviant and dangerous.

      On a separate but related issue why not consider another interesting community ie. the Samaritan community of Nablus. It would be interesting for some scholarly reflection on Samaritan Jews. Palestinians that are Samaritan Jews are often overlooked in the typical narrative of Palestinians. To think of Palestinians as anything other than Muslim and terrorists seems to challenging for the simple agendas set up by some folk in western media.

      Palestinian Samaritan Jews like Christian Palestinians are an important part of the diversity that makes up the Palestinian identity and is important to consider. Interestingly Samaritan Jews were given a seat of Parliament in the 1996 Palestinian Authority.


      1. Eric Selinger

        “Of course there is diversity”–actually, Stewart, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity. I find the settler project as a whole quite alien, and was glad to have the humanizing perspective of the article in mind.

        As for the folks in this clip, I’m happy to go along with “racist” and “dangerous,” and will hope that “religiously deviant” is accurate as well. It seems to me that they give voice to an authentic element within Judaism, alas. Not the only one, but one that’s there, and won’t go away without a fight.

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