By Ari Shavit
Reprinted with permission from Haaretz ©
January 27, 2005
The other people are in turmoil. The other people, who in the eyes of some of us are not even people, feel we are attacking them. The other people, who in our eyes are dastardly, feel we are going to trample over them. And throughout Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District, settlers feel that a foolish Israeli majority, full of hubris and lacking any sensitivity, are going to lynch them. Throughout the realm of knitted-kippa religious Zionism is a feeling that a brutal, heartless herd of secular elephants are going to trample them under as the herd gallops to the abyss. People whose faith is not our faith feel that we are going to destroy their homes. People whose values are not our values feel we are going to bring down their world on their heads. They are desperate, angry and up against the wall.
At the beginning of the week we heard from Benzi Lieberman, chairman of the Yesha Council. At the end of the week we'll hear from the moderate rabbi from Gush Etzion, Yoel Bin Nun. Neither Lieberman nor Nun are lunatics. Both are supposed to be the natural interlocutors for the mainstream Israeli. However, both Lieberman and Bin Nun have harsh things to say. Both feel betrayed. Both feel the Israeli left has abandoned them. Both feel that the Israeli democrats have let them down. Both feel that the way the disengagement process is going undermines the very foundations of Israeli society, undermines its sense of social solidarity and cohesion, plays into the hands of the extremists, fans the flames for the fanatics, and could lead the Third Commonwealth to the disaster of civil war.
True, the moderates among the settlers have good reason to try to intimidate the supporters of disengagement. The decent among the settlers are now searching for the last-minute rabbit to pull out of the hat to prevent a final decision for partition. Therefore, one must take their words with caution and suspicion. But nonetheless, it is a duty to listen to them. Not to agree, not to accept, but to listen.
This summer, Israel is going to do the most ruthless thing it has ever done to its citizens. Israel is going to do something that even General de Gaulle did not do in Algeria in the early 1960s. It is going to send its soldiers into the homes of citizens to pull them out. And to destroy all that they built, all they planted, all they believed.
This brutal act is necessary. The settlements in Gaza were a historic mistake. That mistake threatens our very existence here. If Israel wants to survive, if it wants to continue to exist as a Jewish-democratic state, it must correct that error. It must evacuate all of Gaza. Completely. Down to the last house.
Moreover, since the current conditions don't allow leaving the residents of the settlements under the protection of the Palestinians, there is no choice but to withdraw them along with the military forces. And since a substantial proportion of the settlers ideologically oppose this necessary move, there is no choice but to impose it upon them. It is impossible to leave the freedom of choice to individuals. It is necessary to coerce those individuals to accept the will of the Israeli majority and the will of Israeli sovereignty. It is necessary to go from house to house and empty each one of its inhabitants.
However, that difficult deed must be done properly, correctly. Not with glee, not with indifference, not as a matter of fact. That horrifying deed must be done with awe and trembling; with weeping hearts and bowed heads; without treating the uprooted high handedly; without treating them badly and without crushing them; understanding that the tragedy of Gush Katif is an all-Israeli tragedy.
The question now is not a matter of the essence. It is a matter of the process. Even many of the settler leaders understand they lost the campaign. They understand they cannot save Netzer Hazani and Ganei Tal. They understand the process is too strong, and it has passed the point of no return. But what they are asking for is a clean, decent, clear, legitimate process with a genuine democratic validity and Jewish meaning, that renews Zionism and does not destroy Zionism, forges alliances and does not break alliances.
And they are right about that. One does not need to accept their ideological positions. One does not need to be deterred by the remnants of their political power. But one must listen to their calls of distress. Even with their knitted kippot and other beliefs, Lieberman and Bin Nun are our brethren. And so is each and every resident of Gush Katif whom we will have to uproot with broken hearts from their homes in the coming summer.