On June 3, a day before President Obama arrived in Cairo, I met Israeli author David Grossman at a café in central Jerusalem. A small, soft-spoken man with a shock of sandy brown hair, Grossman shook with rage when he mentioned the settlers—“They have enslaved the future of Israel”—and insisted that Israel could not negotiate a solution to its conflict with the Palestinians without outside pressure from Obama. As for what form of leverage Obama should employ, Grossman said only that he hoped that any clash between Washington and Israel would “be settled between friends.”
“A clash with a strong and popular president is not possible for Israel. Israel can never, ever subjugate an American president.”
Few Israeli literary figures have critiqued the country’s conflict with the Palestinians as commandingly as Grossman. In 1987, he published a series of searing but uniquely introspective reports from the West Bank that chronicled the mounting rage of Palestinians suffering under a deepening occupation. His dispatches infuriated many Israelis, however, when they were compiled into a book and translated into English as The Yellow Wind. Grossman became an internationally bestselling author, and when the first intifada exploded immediately after the book’s publication, he appeared prophetic.
By the time Israel launched its second war on Lebanon, in 2006, Grossman was perhaps the most prominent of the Israeli peace camp’s intellectual vanguard. Although he initially supported the war, as Lebanese casualties mounted by the hundreds and Israelis hunkered down in bomb shelters, Grossman and fellow left-leaning literary lions A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz called a press conference to demand that Israel agree to a cease-fire.
Two days later, the fighting claimed the life of Grossman’s son, Uri, a 20-year-old staff sergeant. Grossman had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. He responded to personal tragedy with a speech delivered soon after—and reprinted in his essay collection Writing in the Dark—calling on Israel’s political establishment to stop relying on warfare in place of negotiation.
I spoke to Randall Terry the morning after George Tiller's assassination. He told me to blame Moses for the murder, not O'Reilly.
George Tiller was one of only a handful of doctors in the United States who performed late-term abortions. For years, he was demonized by right-wing politicians, antiabortion zealots, and radio jocks—Bill O’Reilly accused him of “Nazi stuff,” he was shot in both arms in 1993 by an attempted assassin, and his clinic was once bombed. On Sunday, he was murdered while serving as an usher at church. The suspected killer, Scott Roeder, was an apparent associate of Operation Rescue, a radical antiabortion outfit that inspired attacks on several abortion doctors during the 1990s. Speaking with The Daily Beast less than 24 hours after Tiller’s murder, Randall Terry, one of Tiller’s most strident antagonists, stopped short of endorsing Tiller’s murder, he also blamed the victim—literally—while also proclaiming: “I am happy for the babies who will not die at his hands.”
“It’s clear that George Tiller did reap what he sowed,” Terry told me. “Our duty in this movement and in this time is to not fear and not flinch and not retreat a single inch. The pro-abortion community and the Obama administration are going to try to browbeat the pro-life movement into surrendering our most effective images so we must remain aggressive.”
During the 1990s, Terry organized blockades outside women’s health clinics across the country. These demonstrations often turned violent, and some of Terry’s closest cadres resorted to domestic terrorism. In 1998, while cooking dinner for his wife and four children, Barnett Slepian—a doctor who performed abortions and whose home had been the site of protests by Terry and his followers—was shot to death through his kitchen window by James Kopp, a former volunteer at Operation Rescue’s Binghamton, N.Y., office. With Tiller’s death at the suspected hands of another Operation Rescue cadre, Terry has revised a familiar public-relations tactic: denying all responsibility while highlighting the doctor’s supposed evildoing.
While condemning Tiller as “every bit as evil as Nazi war criminals,” Terry declared, “I take no responsibility whatsoever [for Tiller’s murder]. We are absolutely committed to nonviolence and peaceful action. We’ve been peacefully protesting against this holocaust for years and the reason something like this sticks out is because we’re such a peaceful movement.”
JERUSALEM–The Israeli government has repeatedly announced plans to forge ahead with plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank in direct opposition to President Barack Obama’s demand for an absolute settlement freeze. On May 27, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leveled strong criticism at Israeli policy, telling reporters that President Barack Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev responded by declaring that “normal life” in the settlements would continue, using a phrase that is code for continued construction.
With neither side exhibiting willingness to back down, the stage is set for a contentious clash between Israel and the U.S. over settlement policy. At the center of the maelstrom is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the hawkish Likud Party, who has highlighted his unique understanding of the United States – he is Yale educated and speaks flawless English. Supporters of the settlement movement are an integral part of his governing coalition. How Netanyahu navigates between his far-right constituency and increasingly insistent demands from Obama will not only determine the fate of his government, but also the fate of Israel’s “special relationship” with Washington.
A gathering of the settlement movement’s leading figures in Jerusalem on May 22, documented in this exclusive Mondoweiss report, revealed the unprecedented influence of the settlers on Israeli policy. The event, a ceremony for the presentation of the Moskowitz Foundation Prize for Zionism, was organized and bankrolled by one of Netanyahu’s closest confidants and backers, the American casino tycoon Irving Moskowitz. For over a decade, Moskowitz has funneled millions in profits from his California-based Hawaiian Gardens casino, where he has been sued for exploiting undocumented workers, into settlement construction projects in the West Bank, including Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. He has also funded several neoconservative think tanks including a research center named after Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, who was killed while leading the Entebbe rescue raid in 1976. Moskowitz and Netanyahu have remained close since he established the center.