Unsettled

Readers react to a West Bank settler's story.


Salon Staff
May 30, 2002 2:17AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

I wonder if, in addition to explaining to her children that there are good Arabs and bad Arabs, Marcy Spiegel Oster has also told them that there are Jews who are Zionist and Jews who are not. Or for that matter, that there are good Jews and bad Jews, not necessarily respectively.

Advertisement:

The writer can see, by her own admission, that continuing to live under such segregated circumstances is nurturing racism within her. How is that going to benefit Israel (not to mention her children)? Maybe as a transplant she can't balance the fear and the anger with the need to maintain a humanitarian and (as behooves her as a Jew) universalist perspective. Maybe native Israelis, having lived under such conditions all their lives, are better at it.

-- Amy Tillem

Oster contends that she moved to the West Bank because the "best place for our children and grandchildren would be the Jewish state." She then goes on to outline the development of her bunker mentality, and the hate that she and her children can't help but learn for the "bad Arabs." In closing, she says that "when I am asked to leave, I will leave."

Well, Ms. Spiegel Oster, I am asking you to leave. Before it is too late for your children, and for innocent Palestinian children.

-- Shannon Rhoades

Oster makes excuses about other members of her family having already "settled" in the West Bank, and says that it was so much better for her to live near them. But every Israeli who ever moved there after 1967 has only added fuel to the fire of Palestinian outrage.

Advertisement:

I have no sympathy. I'm an American Slovak/Irish Unitarian, so I don't really have no dog in this fight, except that Arab-Israeli violence has now fallen on my homeland. I'll tell you to move out of there, lady, if nobody else will.

--Lisa Majersky

I'm an European, and as a European the word "occupant" clings badly to my ears. I don't defend terrorism, but I understand the anger and desperation 35 years of occupation must create.

Advertisement:

During the first months of the Second World War in Norway the story of a heroic bus driver spread. He had been ordered to drive a troop of German soldiers, but he drove the bus into a fjord, killing both him and the soldiers.

Unfortunately the story was only a myth; however, his alleged heroism was something we Norwegians lingered on during those first humiliating months of the occupation. "Resistance": it's still a nice word.

Maybe the difference between the American and the European view is partly a result of the fact that America has never been occupied, while most of Europe has?

Advertisement:

--Ole Asbjoern Ness

For all the talk in America about Islamic extremism, how come we very rarely talk about or see what Jewish extremism is all about? Oster's account tries to hide its bloodthirstiness beneath a veneer of civility. Families living in the suburbs wanting the best for their kids? Wanting to live close to the folks? Comfortable car rides along the freeway and shoe sales? What could possibly be wrong with that?

It's deeply troubling to have to chuck this phrase out: "the banality of evil." The irony of it all is nauseating.

Advertisement:

--Eric Wojcik

You say that when you saw the Sept. 11 attacks, you "felt somewhat vindicated. Terrorism can happen anywhere, even in America."

You want to know what I thought when I found out who was behind the Sept. 11 attacks? I thought, "Israel better be really grateful for our support today. We just paid for their land with more lives today than they've lost in the past 10 years." I'm sure I would have been even more disturbed at that moment to hear of your "vindication."

In part, the Sept. 11 attacks were because of you. Because you and your relatives (and the rest of Israel) are determined to stay where you are, inflaming Palestinian rage. Because the U.S. supports you in that, thousands of us died.

Advertisement:

Don't feel "vindicated." Feel grateful that the United States continues to support you. And consider: If you had stayed in Cleveland, and thousands of other Jews had left the West Bank years ago, maybe Sept. 11 wouldn't have happened at all.

--Aaron Butler

This story made me angry. Anyone who moved to the West Bank as recently as Oster and her family did is indeed, in my opinion, an obstacle to peace. How incredibly selfish and self-serving can people be?

Not to mention short-sighted. Because I also think that anyone who moves children to the "settlement areas" is guilty of criminal endangerment.

Advertisement:

Mind you -- I am enormously sympathetic to the Israeli cause and position. I believe there is no more compelling story in human history than the story of how Israel came to be and what it's been forced to undergo since its creation.

But I'll be glad when it returns to the moral high ground and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

--Lynn Evans

I read this story with a sense of utter disbelief.

Advertisement:

Oster writes: "Many of the people who live here do not appear to have come for ideological reasons, but rather for a better quality of life."

Really? When settlers are most likely to be targeted for violence and vengeance? When even other Israelis consider their presence destabilizing? When even some men and women of the IDF refuse to risk their lives to protect these people who are illegally occupying someone else's land?

The author also claims that the main reason most people moved to the settlement was the same reason people move to the suburbs in the United States: the "air is fresh," the children can play "unsupervised," and the tax breaks are great. This is just plain wrong. If that was the main reason to come in the first place, who in their right mind would continue to stay if their neighbors are being blown up and they need bulletproof vests to go buy groceries?

--Ahmad Mahdi

Advertisement:

So, Ms. Oster and her husband made the decision to move to the West Bank because of its many parks, good schools, and suburban amenities? Sure, the land had to be captured (she admits), but the Palestinians make damn fine gardeners, and they compliment her on her babies! She tries to teach her babies that not all Arabs are "bad Arabs," even though the Palestinian ones can't be trusted and must be segregated because they are too weak minded to resist the coercion of outside agitators. As far as peace, well, she ain't for it until the menfolk -- er, "old warhorses" -- are all for it also. In the meantime, all she wants is some peace and quiet out there in the West Bank.

Frankly, Scarlett, I still don't give a damn.

--Duncan Murrell

I commend Salon for once again offering its readers material that presents a wide range of viewpoints, not only the Amer-centric, diluted sound bites one comes to expect from mainstream media.

Whether or not I agree with Ms. Oster's viewpoint is irrelevant. What is invaluable to me as a reader is the access her story gives me into a perspective of someone living in a culture/situation so outside my own.

Thank you, Salon, for supporting articles like these! If only such diversity in content were more prevalent in other media venues!

--M. Gerein

Oster's reportage from her town in Israel was not only a good read -- she's a clear, dynamic, lucid writer -- but a crystalline example of how to debunk myths and nonsense about the multivariate people who live outside the Green Line. Far from being a bugaboo or firebrand, she is thoughtful, generous of spirit, and questioning as to how best to be inclusive and decent when circumstances around her conspire to create disarray and clamor.

--Marion Dreyfus

I, too, am sick of hearing about how Israel should stand back in the face of the constant threat of random daily violence. When Israel attacks Palestinians, they are targeting specific instigators of violence. When Palestinians attack Israel, they are targeting babies, grandmothers, teenagers, tourists, any random individual who's had the gall to attempt to lead a normal, peaceful civilian life. When the United States suffered one day of (albeit enormous) terror, we leveled an entire country; Israelis live in constant terror, with the realistic fear of death literally around any door, and we scold them for seeking out those responsible.

As a peace-loving believer in freedom, I am eternally grateful to Marcy Spiegel Oster, her family, and all the others who have the courage not to give in to manipulation, whether through terror or political coercion.

--Francine Uriarte

I really enjoyed Oster's story about a settler's life in the West Bank. One can tell she is a kind and likable woman, that she cares for humanity in general and tries her hardest to come to terms with the conflict in the occupied territories.

I am glad her community is so tightly knit, that she feels as if she is finally "home." I am sorry that she can name so many from that community who have died during this conflict. I just wonder if she turns any of this sympathy toward the Palestinians?

She speaks of the tragedy within her own settlement ... does she consider the suffering of the Palestinians around her?

I hope so much for peace in the region, and it is obvious that compromises on both sides must be made. The suicide bombings must stop. There is not one justification for it, even as Israel kills Palestinian civilians. But, I hope Marcy Spiegel Oster considers what drives a people to these desperate and violent measures and perhaps recognizes these reasons as wrong but understandable.

--Leslie Nicholson


Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff



Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •