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Disengagement in Gaza: The unsettling end of orange?


Orange used to be a popular color in Israel, but apparel store owners say they can't sell anything orange anymore. Orange is the color of the settlers protesting against disengagement. The color was chosen because it was always the color of Gush Katif supposedly, or because it was the color of the Ukrainian peaceful revolution, or because a publicity agent liked it, or all three.

The inevitable battle between Greater Israel fanatics on the one hand and proponents of peace, sanity and pragmatism in Israeli society is all but over.

The settlers and their supporters challenged Sharon to a showdown at high noon. Dodge city was a little community called Kfar Maimon, where Israeli police and the IDF stopped thousands of settlers from entering Gush Katif in order to physically obstruct disengagement. The overwhelming majority of Israelis understands that this was not a legitimate democratic protest. A legitimate democratic protest could have been mounted in Rabin Square. When Peace Now wanted to protest the war in Lebanon, they did not try to send 500,000 people to the Litani river or Beirut in order to disrupt the operation of the IDF.

The showdown has been brewing for many, many years. The reality was always that supporters of Greater Israel at any price were always a minority in Israeli society. They usurped "Zionism" and "patriotism" and harnessed them to a project that didn't have the support of the majority of the Israeli people. Under the umbrella provided by Palestinian extremism and Arab refusal, they built settlements in places that almost nobody in Israel ever thought of as part of Israel, bending or breaking the law to fund their activities out of the taxpayers' money.

The great march of the settlers on Gaza, which the Greater Israel people hoped would prove that their cause has the support of the majority of Israelis, fizzled. The settlers tried to usurp the law. Sharon, in the person of the police, and the settlers, faced-off in the Negev. The settlers put away their guns. There could be no other outcome. In the Knesset too, a motion to postpone the disengagement was voted down by a large margin. Israel has decided: Gaza is not Israel. It is the wrong place to make a stand for Zionism and Jewish rights in our land, because it is not our land, and because we recognize that we are not the only people here with rights and claims.

The battle with the settlers is not just about real-estate. It is a battle for the content and purpose of Israeli society of life, and the future of the Zionist movement. The settlers and their supporters were intent on coopting Zionism and patriotism, and transforming it from a democratic national revival movement into a racist theocratic monstrosity that seeks to evict people from their homes in the name of "God-given rights," a Jewish Hamas. They wanted to turn Israeli society into the demonized image of Zionism that has been painted by anti-Zionists, and they haven't given up yet.

The most famous casualty of the struggle for sanity versus "Greater Israel" was Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin, murdered during a real democratic protest against violence. In retrospect it is obvious that after the conlcusion of the Oslo Declaration of Principles, Israel had no business in Gaza and no reason to invest in settlements that were bound to be removed one day and that served only to cause friction with Palestinians.

Unfortunately, internal political considerations made it impossible for Rabin to remove the settlements in Gaza. Ariel Sharon would have been the first to raise the banner of a then-powerful opposition. The end of this crazy adventure had to wait until Sharon was in power and could not oppose himself, just as peace with Egypt had to wait until Menachem Begin was in power and could no longer yell "Not one centimeter" at every proposal for peace.

It would have been much better to evacuate the settlements then, and to save the money wasted in supporting and defending these settlements, not to mention the lives that were lost, for worthier causes and for issues that really threaten national existence. Had Israel evacuated at least Gush Katif in 1994 or in the course of the Oslo negotiations, Israeli earnestness about the peace process would have gained credibility both in the world and among the Palestinians. It could have been done peacefully, with a bilateral agreement, and it could have strengthened Palestinian moderates. Now it is too late. Of course, Palestinian extremists are claiming that it is their terror that drove Israel out of Gaza. However it would be insane to pour good money after bad just to take up the juvenile dare of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The process of disengagement, and the firm rejection of settler calls for violence should have a salutary effect on Israeli self-image and on our image abroad. Propagandists have projected a racist stereotype of an Israel populated by wild-eyed religious fanatics from Brooklyn, and an IDF staffed with racist religious warmongers. A memorable bit of fiction by the notorious Jack Kelley that was passed off as news related how an Israeli settler put on his knit kippah before gunning down innocent Palestinians. That inflammatory nonsense should have been put to rest by the events of the past week, for everyone except the most dogmatic readers of axisoflogic and counterpunch. With few exceptions, the soldiers with knit kippoth, like all their comrades, obeyed their orders and kept the settlers out of Gaza. At the forefront of these soliders was a man whose whom and family are in Gush Katif. Israel proved to itself and to doubters around that world that it is an orderly and democratic society, not a rabble governed by irresponsible lunatics.

Despite announced plans for a further march next week, it seems that the crucial battle is just about won, but that does not mean that the struggle with supporters of Greater Israel is over. If there is to be peace, Israel will need to give up most of the West Bank - historical Judea and Samaria. The settlers and their supporters will certainly be back, in strength, when the time comes. No doubt there will be many more Israelis willing to rally to settlements in "Judea" and "Samaria" which are well anchored in Jewish tradition as part of "the land." They will be reinforced by the bitter sacrifice that they made in giving up the settlements of Gaza. Very probably, their cause will be helped by Palestinian extremists who will provide the justification for maintaining the occupation so as not to "reward terror." However, Israel can't keep shooting itself in the foot in order to avoid "rewarding terror."

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000365.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 7 comments

orange was also the official color of "balad" party
and of... "new profile", feminist movement for the de-militarization
of israeli society.

Posted by native @ 07/21/2005 07:13 PM CST

A good analysis, nicely phrased, that speaks about good news, makes its reading a feast. Let me enjoy again the sweet sound of the core : "Israel proved to itself, and to doubters around that world, that it is an orderly and democratic society, not a rabble governed by irresponsible lunatics."

Posted by Aleph @ 07/21/2005 08:14 PM CST

You write: "Unfortunately, internal political considerations made it impossible for Rabin to remove the settlements in Gaza."

In fact, to remove settlements was not a priority of Rabin. Otherwise, he would have terminated the one in Hebron after the slaughter at the Tomb of teh Patriarch.

Instead, the victims were punished by several months of curfew.


Posted by Paul @ 07/21/2005 08:15 PM CST

Paul wrote:
"In fact, to remove settlements was not a priority of Rabin. Otherwise, he would have terminated the one in Hebron "
There is no doubt that if he had tried to remove that settlement, Rabin would have had a very brief political career. Hebron and Jerusalem and like mom's apple pie in this neck of the woods.

Hebron is both a national and religious symbol - the burial place of the patriarchs. The Hebron settlement is on Jewish land. Hebron was also the home of a Jewish community that lived there for about 400 years until it was ethnically cleansed. In justice, there is no way to deny the right of those people to be there. The fact that they are fanatics and make trouble with their Arab neighbors is beside the point. Politically it was impossible for Rabin to give up Hebron because of the stink that would be put up by the right. Even Bibi could not withdraw from Hebron. Not even Sharon can do that. Maybe it would require Kahana, but he is dead.

Many in Israel assumed that Rabin would evacuate Gush Katif as part of the FRDs. Peres and Nethanyahu did not have the national prestige to do it. It was assumed also that Israel would be able to keep the northern settlements in Gaza.

Aleph wrote:
"Let me enjoy again the sweet sound of the core : "Israel proved to itself, and to doubters around that world, that it is an orderly and democratic society, not a rabble governed by irresponsible lunatics."
Thanks for the compliments above. I tremble lest I be proven wrong next week. I always believed that this orderly process is what had to happen based on past history and what I hope is my understanding of Israeli society. However, nobody can control the actions of a single lunatic, as Yigal Amir and Goldstein proved. What is important is what happens after such events - if they create chaos or if the system takes over as it does in civilized countries.



Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 07/22/2005 04:07 AM CST

Photos from the orange protest against gaza pullout are on www.pbase.com/yalop/gaza (choose "all" to see more photos)

Posted by yaldor @ 07/22/2005 08:19 AM CST

Aleph wrote:
"Israel proved to itself, and to doubters around that world, that it is an orderly and democratic society, not a rabble governed by irresponsible lunatics."
Maybe all they proved was that it is a society governed by secret police, with orders directly from the top, to break ribs in order to silence the opposition. Maybe the opposition had something to say that's worth listening to.

Posted by rg @ 07/28/2005 02:03 PM CST

The inevitable battle between Greater Israel fanatics on the one hand and proponents of peace, sanity and pragmatism in Israeli society is all but over.

Gosh, I thought the issues where what is best for Israel's survival and what puts Israel in more danger. Maybe something about a democratic decision by the entire society. So people who would want Israel to get some agreement before a withdrawal are not sane or pragmatic or for peace? Sounds like a pretty judgmental, biased and PLO style perspective to me.

Posted by Lou @ 08/05/2005 10:58 PM CST

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