The film was fascinating and focused on the Kahanist settlers and their supporters, and attempted to outline that they wish to undermine the secular democratic state of Israel and to replace it with a Jewish religious state that would take very aggressive steps against the Palestinians.
The film covered the story line of the “Jewish Underground” and the story of the Bat Ayin settlement group that attempted to bomb an Arab girls’ school. Honestly, those guys who were involved came off as rather stupid and blinded by faith. Their leaders, however, did not come off as stupid at all. Quite the contrary.
The film also suggests, particularly in brief interviews with senior members of the intelligence community, that there is grave concern that this underground still exists and will attempt to perpetrate a significant action, with the specific purpose of fomenting a war and undermining any prospective moves toward peace.
In a very telling moment in the film, Setton is interviewing Shlomi, one of the terrorists who wanted to blow up the school. He asks him, “You’re just like Hamasâ€¦It’s just like they do.” Shlomi waivers for a moment and you can see the gears inside his head churning before he answers truthfully, “Yes. Just like them.”
In an interview with Setton about the film, he is asked about the strategy of these zealots – he repeatedly comments that these are the fringe settlers and represent only thousands of people and not a significant portion of the population. He answers,
I’ll tell you what they told me. They told me that they don’t think that the IDF, the army, can defend them. They don’t think that the army is doing a good job. They think the army is soft on the Palestinians. When a suicide bomber strikes, they don’t think that the army should target the people who sent the suicide bomber. Because that’s Israel’s policy: to go after the cell, go after the leaders that sent the terrorist, bring them to justice or kill them. They say, “No. The assassin comes from the village next door. You go after the village. They kill our children, we kill theirs. They blow up our buses, we blow up a school.” This is their strategic thinking. In the long run, they believe that this is the way that they’re going to bring the conflict to a halt.
I have to admit that what they were saying seemed compelling at first because it posits a solution where you fight Palestinian terror with such brutal violence that they are forced to retreat or give up. It seems like an easy solution, and who doesn’t want revenge after innocent people are blown up in a bus or a restaurant? But then you realize what they’re advocating is far more wide-ranging, it’s terrorism against innocent civilians, and it’s the destruction of the democratic, Western state of Israel, to be replaced with an Iranian-like Jewish theocracy that will brutalize the Palestinians with the express purpose of removing them from the land.
The PBS website includes a number of articles and points of discussion about the settlers in general, the settlements and the zealots. It also contains an interesting and informative chronology of the development of the settlements.
More from the Dan Setton interview – note, dear Jewlicious readers, that I bring you only gems:
Question: If we look forward a couple of years, if Sharon’s disengagement proceeds and there are negotiations about the route of the Wall that runs through the West Bank â€” aren’t most of the people in the film going to find themselves on the other side of the Wall? How will this play out?
Setton response: I’ve heard so many ideas. One idea that I heard which is funny, I think it’s funny, they want to create a new state called the state of Judea, which would be completely detached from the state of Israel, hoping that one day they will prove to be right. And then Israel is going to join the state of Judea to form greater Israel. And the state of Judea means that they stay there, they have their own army or militias, and they fight the Arabs with their ways.
I’ve even heard settlers say that if the army was not thereâ€¦ that the army just gets in the way. In fact, it’s the army that is protecting the Arabs from them. There are all kinds of ideas. They don’t see themselves leaving, for the sake of peace, as a possibility at all. They don’t trust the Arabs. They don’t trust the Palestinians. They are there because they know that the land is theirs.
And when you have two sides that believe so firmly, when you have the Arab religious man or people who say that they’re willing to die for that land, and you have the Jews that say that they are willing to die for that land, it’s a forever battle. None of them will give up.
One of the most intriguing arguments that I heard was from a guy there. He asked me, “Why are you willing to compromise? Why are you willing to give them land?” And I said, “For peace. I believe in peace. I believe in coexistence.” And he says, “No. You are putting yourself in a place that proves that the land is not yours.” I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “There was a King Solomon. And there’s the famous trial of the baby. You know, two women were fighting over a baby, and the king ordered a sword to be brought out. And one of the mothers said, `Yes, cut him, split him in two.’ And the other woman said, ‘No, you cannot split him.’ It’s hers. If you’re willing to split your country, it’s not yours.”
Update: the Washington Post’s site has published an online discussion with the show’s executive producer, Zvi Dor-Ner.