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Some notes about the Disengagement

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Some notes about the Disengagement

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It's been a weird week here in Israel. Prime Minister Sharon's "Disengagement" deadline has finally arrived, on the tail of the Jewish 3 weeks of mourning culminating in the 9th of Ab fast commemorating the destruction of both Temples. The deadline was the next day after that.

Why am I bringing up the religious significance of the timeline? I'm an atheist, but the settlers there, for the most part, are orthodox jews. Also, because of the Jewish fast, there were pragrammes in the History Channel and the Science and Culture channel, about the Roman occupation, about Masada, and stuff like that. This gave a lot of historical context to the whole event.

The settlers have been doing everything possible to prevent the disengagement from going through. Mostly legitimate protest and political maneouvres, but some non-legitimate actions, such as spilling oil and booby-trapping high roads. That was life-endangering.

What bothered me personally was the slogan they chose - "A Jew does not deport a Jew". They don't even realize the bigotry of this slogan. It highlights the real difference in the sets of values between the doves and the hawks in this land (also known as the left and the right, but I think the ornithological references are the more accurate). To me it could be "a human does not deport a human". But their slogan implies that it is perfectly OK for Jews to deport non-Jews, namely Palestinians. That non-Jews can have no claim on land, no equal rights.

Another point that bothered me even more, for some of these people, was the use of Holocaust references to describe PM Sharon and our military and police forces. My LJ friends know I'm rather sensitive about the Holocaust. I have no love lost for PM Sharon. I think that he is a corrupt, brutal person, and that he who was named guilty for the Sabra and Shatila atrocities and pronounced unfit to be Israel's minister of Defense, should not have been nominated for Prime Minister after that. Many of the Settlements are his personal fault. He held the belief that somehow, settling occupied territories will force the issue when the time comes to divide the land between us and the Palestinians. He also claimed that settlements make for better security, though I can't for the life of me see how a civilian settlement helps. I mean, suppose you say that this or that locus in the territories is important to hold so as to prevent terrorists from freely advancing toward the border. Then it makes sense to me that you'd put a garrison of military men to hold that position. If you put a civilian settlement there, you'd only need to expend more resources on defending the settlement as well as preventing the movements of the enemey. Of course I've only been to officer's training course, what do I know.

The point of all this was to say that I like Sharon not at all, but the idea of comparing him to Hitler or our military to the SS gives me real nausea. There was this over-emotional settler girl who was given a column in one of the leading web-news sites. She said something like "You, the soldiers, you'll never be able to go to the Yad Vashem museum again (that's the Israeli Holocaust museum) because the eyes of the children looking out from the pictures will be our eyes". Never mind the pathos, but excuse me? All the soldiers are doing to you is move you from your home to some other place in your own land. They do not beat you up. They do not strip you. They do not separate the man from the women and children. They do not send the men to forced labor. They do not send anybody to their death. There is no genocide nor even any bodily harm. How on Earth can you make that insane comparison? How is it that you have learned so much about the Holocaust but have internalized none of it?

And there was this other family that was evacuated the day before yesterday. They decided to go out in the style of a very famous holocaust picture. He gave his children actual "Jude" patches and they came out of the house with their hands up and crying. Hands up? The soldiers there were completely without weapons. Not even wooden trencheons. It was done entirely for the sake of propaganda, and abominably so. He should be ashamed of himself.

The disengagement process highlighted the power of religion for extremity. People move from sane to stupid, and from stupid to blind, and from blind to fanatic, when they are under the influence of the Opium For The Masses. Some of the settlers were non-religious. Simple people who were lured into the settlements by all the benefits the Israeli governments gave them since 1967 (both left and right wing governments at that). These were packed and gone, most of them before the operation even started, and some of them helped by soldiers on the first two days of the operation, before the forceful evacuation started. When that started, the non-religious settlers were long gone into their temporary abodes, having properly registered themselves with the evacuation authorities. It was not nice. They had to leave their homes, their schools, their gardens - but they did so, and they will continue their life.

The religious believed, and this belief was strengthened by their rabbies, that God will prevent the "atrocity" from happening. They were sure that somehow, something will happen to stop it. They were also assured that they will succeed in subverting the military when they come to take them. That the military will join forces with them, and change the course of history. Nothing like that happened. In the whole campaign I've heard of only one soldier who was subverted, and he was taken away by his peers and will face discipline. But the brainwash on the religious settlers' side was so deep, that a 9 years old kid said to the soldier who came to evacuate his family "But the majority of the soldiers defy their orders!" and when the soldier tried to explain that this was not really true, the kid insisted "At least half of them do!".

The thing about the rabbies telling the settlers that "everything will be alright" reminded me of the Holocaust, too. There were rabbies there who said that god will not allow anything to happen to his children, and that they should stay put. Some of them were even bad enough to say so, and then take themselves away and flee... But that's beside the point. The think is that the religious structure, in which the rabbi is your leader and you listen to him in everything, can lead you to real trouble. Now these families were taken away from their homes, leaving a lot of their possessions behind, which means not only losing a lot of money on furniture and stuff, but also saying goodbye to memories, pictures, and so on. This particular evil was spared from the seculars.

Now, back to the issue of Masada and the Romans. Yesterday, two groups of fanatics took refuge in synagogues in the settlements. The one group in Neveh Dekalim, boys in one Synagogue and girls in another. The other group in Kfar Darom, where I think there was a mixed group, but I'm not sure. The local community leaders in Neveh Dekalim managed to come to terms with both the fanatics and the military, and they were evacuated with passive protest and no violence. Merely by sitting down and holding to one another. I can't say that it was respectable, but it was the least of the evils. In Kfar Darom, the community leaders did nothing to cool down the issue, and the result was seen all over the world news yesterday - people spilling oil, water, and acid on policemen, 40 injured, people being evacuated in cages, and eventually, of course, everybody being taken away.

And this reminded me of Masada. I saw a movie about it in the History channel, as I said. And one note there that caught my ear was that the fanatics in Masada had no chance to begin with, because they were enthusiastic amateurs, and the Romans were a professional military force that had a lot of siege experience. And the same thing can be said for the police force that broke in there. It was the special unit that deals with mass events, and they knew their stuff. Despite the difficulties, they completed their task. The fanatics had no chance at all. But to the religious (and actually, in this case, any fanaticism will do, not just religion), the belief that enough enthusiasm will ensure success is really overwhelming. The David And Goliath myth, all those stories and movies about "united we will stand against the whole world" really impress them. It's sad, really.

By the way, most of the fanatics in both synagogues were not local settlers, but mere hormone-crazed juveniles who came from the outside to "get some action". Nominally, to "help the settlers agains the military". In fact they merely harmed their cause by causing many people to really lose patience with the whole thing. I'd say mr. Sharon was not as popular as he is today since before the last elections. If there was an election today he'd probably grab a true majority... [shudder].

In a few days the whole thing will be over. But it's an interesting lesson in history while it is being made. Now all that is left to see is how it will affect local politics, the relationship with the Palestinians and the security of the Israeli people.

One thing that has come to the surface is that Jews are certainly capable of becoming terrorists, of the exact same kind we always blamed Islam for. Just grabbing a weapon and killing innocents. Today a fanatic almost caused a catastrophy when he ignited a gas pipe. The firefighters caught it in time, thank goodness.

The settlers are really amazed that people think differently than they do. They can't grasp why this came upon them, or how their brothers can think that they are anything other than pioneers who are doing great work for the sake of the Jewish people. The problem, as one eminent member of the National Religious community also admitted (the settlers are basically considered part of that community), is segragation. The religious have gone through a long process of separating themselves from the seculars. Of separating themselves from the liberal town-dwellers. I see that phenomenoun all over the world - the Bible Belt, Iran, you name it. They try to keep purity of thought, to keep their children away from being influenced by immoral views and modern temptations. The result is that all the views they here are their own. They strengthen one another in their world view, bring up straw-man arguments in the name of the opposition, but barely ever talk to the real opposition.

It's the old city-liberalism versus country-moralism, you could say. People in the city are exposed to all sorts of behaviours, cultures and views, and that mellows down most extreme views. But when you segregate yourself, you stagnate. You become disconnected from the realities, and then you can't fathom why people could even begin to think differently. You don't realize the possibility of existence of other value systems.

The sad thing about all this is, that the religious community could probably have influenced us and mellowed us in their direction as well, if they didn't segregate themselves. There are things I'd really like to see influence secular society - acting on values first, personal interest second, for example. Putting less stress on external appearance and more on a person's personality and views. Charity and community values. Perhaps some of this would have rubbed on "us" as much as our liberalism and humanism would have rubbed on "them".
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