Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Unmaking of Israel, of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and of The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He blogs at South Jerusalem. Follow @GershomG.

Recent Articles

The Settlement Freeze That Isn't

If there were any doubt of Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to the settlement enterprise, he dispelled it this week.

Israeli right-wing activists rally outside the prime minister's residence against the government's decision to freeze construction in West Bank Jewish settlements, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
"No Entrance To Bibi's Freeze Inspectors," reads the long, professionally printed banner hanging at the eastern entrance to Ariel. Ariel has a reputation of being a relatively moderate settlement. Its residents are mostly secular suburbanites; its eternally re-elected mayor belongs to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's mainstream right-wing Likud. The Ariel finger -- the heavily settled strip of land joining Ariel to Israel -- is one of those blocs that centrist Israeli politicians insist will stay in Israeli hands under a peace agreement. But the suburbanites, like the hard-core ideologues of the religious right, are furious at Netanyahu's declared freeze on building in the settlements. When police and building inspectors showed up this week at Tzofim, a smaller settlement closer to central Israel, to seize a bulldozer being used for illegal construction, an angry crowd blocked their way. One policewoman was hospitalized, apparently with internal injuries, after protesters pummeled her...

Is Israel a Democracy?

Ending the occupation and discrimination against Arab citizens within its borders will alter our perception of whether Israel began as an imperfect democracy or a false one.

A Palestinian woman during a demonstration marking Land Day in the West Bank village of Halhoul, near Hebron, Saturday, April 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
Infant mortality among Arab citizens of Israel is two and a half times higher than it is among Jewish citizens. One out of two Israeli Arab college graduates is out of work. Arabs make up 6 percent of the civil service, though they are over 15 percent of the country's citizens. National testing shows Arab fifth- and eighth-graders trailing Jewish pupils in math, science, and English, and the gap is widening. That's not surprising, since Arabs suffer much more poverty, and the national education system spends considerably more per Jewish child than per Arab child. This a just a selection from the last few weeks' news reports on the ethnic gap in Israel -- not that inequality is big news. The most clichéd phrase in Israeli political discourse is that the country is a "Jewish and democratic state." The phrase is overused precisely because of the tension between the two adjectives, because of the majority's insecurity over whether both can be achieved at the same time. (The minority...

The New Politics of Conscientious Objection in Israel

For years, it was the left that argued about selective disobedience -- but the right is now picking up the charge.

(AP Photo/Israeli Defense Forces)
Driving through the West Bank recently, I picked up two hitchhikers. Both wore the long, thick sidelocks and extra-large skullcaps that have become the mark of young men on the religious right, especially among settlers. Since they were what Israelis call army age (what Americans would call college age), the conversation turned to military service. Despite Israel's universal draft, the hitchhiker in the back seat said he didn't intend to serve. The Israel Defense Forces, he argued, hurts Jews -- a point he presumed was obvious from the "uprooting" of settlements in Gaza four years ago and the occasional dismantling of tiny, illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank more recently. Besides that, he said, the IDF "doesn't want to kill Arabs because it wants to look nice in the world." He didn't want to die because commanders were too concerned with Arabs' lives. As a student at a yeshivah -- a religious seminary -- he had a deferment, and he intended to keep it till he was past draft...

Yaakov Teitel and the Allure of Lawlessness

Can one man's violence be divorced from an environment where acting on fury is sometimes treated as a virtue?

A Palestinian woman gestures as an Israeli border police officer stands above her, during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers during the olive harvest in the West Bank village of Karut. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)
The glossy flier was posted on a bulletin border in a small, illegal outpost of Israeli settlers near Nablus in the West Bank when I visited last week. The black print appeared over a soft green picture of olive trees. The West Bank is famed for its olive oil, and autumn is harvest season. For years, it's also been the season when settlers from the most extreme outposts and settlements clash with Palestinian farmers and vandalize orchards. Citing religious sources, the flier urged Jews to "harvest" the Palestinians' olives if they could, and uproot the trees if they couldn't. Since Judaism forbids not only theft but also the destruction of fruit trees even in warfare, the writer had to use considerable casuistry to make his case. It was, in religious terms, akin to preaching the "obligation" of adultery. The fact that the flier was anonymous indicates that whoever stands behind it prefers not to be known to Israeli law-enforcement agencies. It was condemned a few days later in a...

The Israeli Left Implodes

The lack of leadership on the Israeli left is all the sadder given the new prominence of the dovish camp among supporters of Israel in the United States.

(AP Photo)
Danny Ben-Simon has quit. If anyone needed more evidence of the disarray of the Israeli left, this is it -- but then, no one actually needs any more evidence. Ben-Simon became the whip of the Labor Party's Knesset delegation just five months ago. That sounds like a prominent position for a first-time Knesset member, until you remember that the once-powerful party now has just 13 representatives in the 120-seat parliament and that at least four of them have had nothing to do with Labor since its leader, Ehud Barak, insisted on joining Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government in order to become defense minister. Before running for office this year, Ben-Simon was one of the country's most incisive political reporters. He literally wrote the book on Labor's inability to connect to lower-class voters. At a press conference on Monday, he announced his decision to quit his position as whip with a furious attack on Barak for his failure to pursue peace. The riddle is why he thought he could...

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