From Messianism to Real Estate (American Jews & Jewish Settlements in the West Bank)


Too long a tale to tell here, the origins of the Jewish settlement project in the occupied West Bank after the 1967 Six Day War was an indigenous phenomenon ideologically rooted in the Israeli religious right and the messianic imagination. Today it is a group of diaspora Jews, conservative American Jews safeguarding the project. The so-called Trump Plan was designed by Jared Kushner, David Friedman, and Jason Greenblatt. From the same social milieu, they are the ones giving the Jewish state the green light to go further down the garden path of annexation and apartheid.

The “liberal” position belongs to Kushner, pushing for a “peace plan” that includes the annexation of 30% of West Bank territories while leaving the remaining lands split into bantusatan-enclaves. In the “center,” as it were, is Ambassador Friedman who supports the immediate annexation of that 30% without the fig-leaf of a “peace plan.” In Israel a third segment of the religious right representing most of the Jewish settlement leadership cadre rejects the Trump Plan tout court because, for them, all the land belongs to Israel, in practice and in principle. (The rejection of Palestinian national rights to West Bank lands is expressed here by Greenblatt.)

Another chapter in the unfolding catastrophe that is the milling of politics and religion, what historians looking backing  at this charade will see is how the President of the United States, a real-estate huckster from New York City, hand-delivered the State of Israel and the question of Palestine to close family and business associates, to wealthy Orthodox Jews in America promoting the narrow interest of Religious Zionism and Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Maybe the plan will collapse in on itself before it causes any more harm and serious damage. For a variety of reasons, the majority of the public in Israel are opposed to the Trump Plan, and couldn’t care a less about it. In the meantime, there is no way to look beyond the religious interest and the political unseriousness of the main American actors working behind the scene.

The old idea by Spinoza in the Theological-Political Treatise is that the state should serve the common good, and that religion should be a “moral institution” serving and supporting the state, not vice-versa. Yossi Klein Halevi suggests here that Trump is being played as a useful idiot.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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