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 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...

Trouble at the Temple Mount

When diplomacy appears deadlocked, the chances of violence rise. Jerusalem's most holy space has once again become a tinderbox.

Five cops edged the Street of the Chain carrying riot batons and shields. A few meters away, in the shadows of a covered alleyway, four more cops were doing what police do so often, which is wait. The Street of the Chain is one of the main thoroughfares of Jerusalem's Old City, a narrow, stone-paved walkway descending toward the entrance to Haram al-Sharif, a.k.a. the Temple Mount. It's lined with Palestinian-owned shops selling scarves, t-shirts, the trinkets of three faiths, and anything else that might catch a tourist's eye. On Tuesday afternoon, police reinforcements were deployed along the street, on the lawn outside Jaffa Gate, and throughout the Old City. At a checkpoint a block from the entrance to the Haram, a police commander with a very small vocabulary insisted that non-Muslims, even those with press cards, could not go any closer to the holy site. For that matter, Muslim males under the age of 50 were also barred from entering the wide plaza where Al-Aqsa Mosque and the...

Skipping the Summit for the Movies

Our Middle East correspondent skips the Netanyahu-Abbas meeting to watch Ajami, a controversial film that shows the courage needed to truly bring peace.

(The Match Factory)
Update: Ajami, the new Israeli film on tense relations between Palestinians and Jews in Jaffa, won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar -- the Ophir Prize -- for best film at a Haifa ceremony on Saturday night. Ajami's Jewish and Palestinian creators, Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti, also won the prizes for best director, best screenplay and best editing. The film -- in which most of the dialogue is in Arabic -- now becomes Israel's candidate for best foreign film in next year's Academy Awards. The advance publicity accurately predicted that this week's U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian summit would fall short of great historical drama. Despite Barack Obama's efforts, his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas would not be the denouement of successful diplomacy. Emotionally as well as physically, the get-together in New York on Tuesday would be half a world away from the unsolved conflict. Following updates on news sites would be an exercise in escapism, I concluded. Instead, to stay...