Sunday, August 08, 2010

"One Mean Jewish Settler"

Silke, in a comment to my last post about the real life of so-called "settlers," linked to an excellent post from a new blog called West Bank to West End. 

Here's a small part:

The paradox is that some people only seem to like you once you become mean. A good case in point is the groups of German journalists, politicians and lecturers who are brought to Israel by their government and after having met a wide range of Israeli leaders and experts, come to Maale Adumim to meet settler Judah Ben-Yosef.

I began working for the German government (occasionally) about four years ago. I had no illusions that after two weeks of careful brain-washing by Arab spokesmen and far worse the Israeli Left wing, my two hours wouldn’t go a long way towards changing many minds. I am a chess player, so I defined for myself what I considered to be three realistic, realizable goals:

To physically show them the size of a 40,000 man strong city. I hoped this would go some way to denting the stereotype of the two tents, a goat and a flag Jewish settlement.

To demonstrate that historically Maale Adumim has never been part of any kind of Palestinian or Arab state, that nobody besides us and a few 13th century monks have ever lived here and that geographically there are plenty of other barren mountaintops.

To demonstrate that we are not all religious Right-wing fanatics (like me) but that the population of Maale Adumim contains a cross-section of Israeli citizens Religious, Secular and others; new immigrants and old-timers, Right, Center and even some Left-wingers.

My main objective is to try to dent stereotypes. I believe that when an intelligent person realizes that many of the stereotypes he’s been sold are incorrect, he or she may begin to question them all. This might lead to researching the subject more thoroughly, which in turn even affect some change in opinions.

In many ways it’s the first few minutes that will determine to what extent the tour influences each person. They all look out the windows and see a picturesque, peaceful, modern, well-run Western city. This sight is invariably the exact antithesis of everything they’ve been taught to expect. When stereotyping clashes with reality there is an immediate state of shock, or even crises. In very broad terms one can talk about three characteristic responses:

Some choose to look in the directions of the surrounding mountains rather than at the city. They will henceforth prefer to focus on the “bigger picture” having understood that they know precious little about the “details”

There are those who honestly seem to believe that Maale Adumim is some kind of clever scam that the Israeli government is running to trick visitors like themselves. “Everything here looks fine, but what about the real settlers? Why aren’t you all carrying guns? Is that a Bible?”

Occasionally I come across intellectually honest individuals who absorb what they are being told and ask questions not to try to catch me out, but because they really want to know. Surprisingly, two groups that stand out in this category are journalists from former East Germany and a group of German, Moslem journalists and lecturers.
Read the whole thing.