Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Shame over Settlements Is in Short Supply

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Shame over Settlements Is in Short Supply

Article excerpt

In The Drowned and the Saved, a reflection on life in a concentration camp, Italian Jew Primo Levi discussed the sense of shame survivors felt after being liberated. "When all was over," Levi wrote, "the awareness emerged that we had not done anything, or not enough, against the system into which we had been absorbed." Certainly, others, namely the Nazis and their collaborators, bore infinitely more responsibility for the horrors that transpired than those imprisoned did. Acknowledging this, Levi still spoke of "having failed in terms of human solidarity" with fellow inmates. Regret haunted him years after his release.

Of course, there was nothing that those who emerged from the hell of the concentration camps could do afterward to help their former companions who had been systematically murdered. Shame after the fact is unproductive and sometimes dangerous. Guilty feelings drove some Holocaust survivors to suicide. Guilt over the United States not having done more and acted sooner to end the Holocaust in part led President Truman to support the creation of Israel in 1948, during which time about 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes to escape invading or approaching Jewish colonists.

On the other hand, shame that arises during an act of wrongdoing can be beneficial if it leads to action to stop that wrongdoing. Unfortunately, shame seems to be in short supply these days. Witness the recent announcement by the government of Israel that it will add 6,000 homes in Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank in violation of the U.S.-backed Road Map. More than half of the 6,000 new homes will be built in the E-1 corridor, linking the contested holy city of Jerusalem to the massive West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim and solidifying Israeli control over Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Even as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas complies with U.S. and Israeli expectations under the Road Map and the latest round of peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet violate the climate of trust that must be nurtured if real peace and justice are to flourish.

A seemingly encouraging sign is Israel's plan to disband settlements and redeploy soldiers stationed in the Gaza Strip. However, leaders of the Yesha Settlers Council say they intend to resist efforts to disband 21 illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land there. …

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