Prof. Gideon Aran: The Israeli Settlements in the Territories Part 2

Now to the third relevant element in my previous work.  Almost twenty years ago I submitted a Ph.D. dissertation, based on three years of intensive participant observation of the original settlers’ spiritual and political leadership and ultra-activists.

 Prof. Gideon Aran

Prof. Gideon Aran

Written By Prof. Gideon Aran

These were the formative, charismatic, critical years – the mid 70s to early 80s, the Bloc of the Faithful (Gush Emunim) golden age.  The movement soon usurped the national agenda and changed the map of the region.

Like Molier’s naïve comic figure, the commoner who wanted so much to be gentleman, that did not know that he had been talking “prose” all his life; like me at that time, who did not know that I’m actually studying one of the two most important movements in the recent history of the Middle East, – the extreme Jewish national-religious.  (Obviously the other one is the Palestinian liberation movement with its radical religious offshoots).  

In preparation for this conference I re-read some sections of the more than 1000 pages of my field notes.  I randomly sampled from these pre-processed materials few anthropological historical notes that might hold implications for our topic.  Let me emphatically remind you that I am referring only to the hard-core of the Jewish settlers’ body – the radical True Believers.  Of the 220,000 settlers only 60 – 70,000 are threatened with evacuation and still I focus my attention on 2,000 – 5,000 of them, just 0.1 percent of the Israeli Jewish population.

I would like to submit that this element, while tiny, is nonetheless distinct and significant, actually critical.  This nucleus, though by no means sufficient, is yet a necessary condition for the settlement project.   Arguably, this particular hard core is by far the most decisive – and problematic – factor which we should focus on when dealing with the issue of dismantling the settlements.

Gideon Aran’s  field of expertise is the social scientific study of religion, and extremism, militancy and violence.

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