What the PTPs seem to have achieved is a flushing out of those who have now been able to channel their previously coded animosity towards the Settlers into full throated, dare I say, over the top condemnation of the PTPs. This extreme reaction seems like a release for all that restraint about the whole Settler enterprise.
There is a not so subtle equation of what the PTPs have done and what the Settler Movement is all about. This use of a few bad apples to depict the whole bushel basket is of course reminiscent of classic anti-Semitism, wherein Jews were only as good as their most reprehensible fellow.
Lastly, the unvarnished depiction of the PTPs is yet another in the recent annals of what I would call nostalgia-driven hatred. Best exemplified by Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land,” this hatred is borne out of displacement resentment and is directed at the newer, messier Israel that is no longer run by Israeli WASPs (White Ashkenaz Secular Poalim [meaning Socialists]), and which no longer conjures up the idyllic remembrance of pre-1967 Israel.
Whatever is ultimately going on, it is not good. While the PTPs are certainly not to be cheered nor excused, the over the top depiction of what they have done is itself a huge problem. While there can be reasonable debate as to how to best handle the ultimate configuration of the State, we ought to remember that there are about 500,000 Settlers, which makes them about 8% of Israel’s Jewish population. They are a very strong component of the IDF and they have a great attachment and love for the Land, People and State of Israel.
Settlers are in so many ways the spiritual, ideological and Zionistic backbone of Israel. These are people that we need, that we rely upon more than we know. Most of them share a disapproval and rejection of PTPs, even as they understand the underlying frustration that has given PTPs an unwanted outlet.
To self-righteously condemn the Settlers because of the actions of the PTPs would be a major self-inflicted wound. It is playing into the hands, the very many hands, of those who truly hate Israel, and would be happy to use any means to weaken it.
So many of Israel’s detractors are probably thrilled to have this straw dog to pummel. They are excited to be revving up their righteous indignation, conjuring up in the PTPs all of the civil dissension of the ‘90’s that culminated with the Rabin assassination.
Fortunately, we have moved far from that terrible place. The PTPs serve no purpose for those who love Israel and cherish Zionism. The adults in the room can certainly condemn the deeds of the PTPs without reaching overarching and misplaced conclusions.
Dealing with PTPs is a chance to show political maturity and a quiet existential confidence.
Let’s hope we are up to the task.