Palestinian News Network.
Jerusalem – Ellis Weintraub / PNN Exclusive – With a thick grey beard and a wild bushy head of hair, pinned to which rests a Yarmulke slightly skewed, Gershom Gorenberg looks like he might just have descended down from a West Bank hilltop, or perhaps emerged from the depths of Hebron’s militant settler community. Yet Gershom, an Israeli-American historian and journalist and himself an Orthodox Jew, has written extensively on the moral failure at the heart of Israel’s settlement enterprise and the threat that it poses not only to Palestinians, but also to Israelis. He sees the settlements as not only a direct assault upon Israeli democracy, but also a threat to the existence of the Israeli state itself.
“The policy of remaining in the territories and settling them is undoing the basic elements of statehood for Israel,” explains Gershom over a long breakfast of croissants and coffee at Masaryk, a trendy café in Jerusalem’s German Colony. “Remaining in the territories has removed the principle of government by the governed, because you have a whole territory in which only part of the people participates in the government. It has removed the borders which are part of the definition of a modern state. Since so much of what has gone on in the territories has been in violation of Israel’s own laws, the policy undermines the rule of law. In short, it is taking Israel backwards.”
The folly and the danger of the settlement enterprise will be a topic discussed at length in Gershom’s forthcoming book, entitled The Unmaking of Israel and to be published in November by HarperCollins. The book will explore and attempt solutions for what Gershom sees as an existential crisis that could overwhelm the Israeli polity. “I should explain that the book title is a warning and not a desire,” he says. “The book is written as a historical argument from within, from the point of view of Israeli society, and my argument is that a number of decisions or failures to make decisions by Israeli leaders at various times in Israel’s history are undermining the existence of the state and of Israeli democracy. The settlement enterprise is a central but not the sole factor there.”