July 22, 2005

More About the Disengagement

I thought that some of these articles were interesting. You can see Biur Chametz' theory about why Sharon is acting as he is over here.

Zev wrote about his experiences on a march from Jerusalem to Kfar Maimon and Gush Katif, including some nice pictures. That is available here.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis has another take on this that I found to be quite interesting, enough that I wanted to include an excerpt for you. The full story can be found here. I found it to be very powerful.

"The future is now, I told myself as I watched the news (much more than I should have) throughout the week. There would come a time, we all knew, when the question of whether Israel would be democratic or Jewish would ultimately be put to the test. But that test, I'd thought, would come from Israel's Arabs. They're about 20% of the population now, just as
they were in 1949 at the end of the War of Independence. But we've had massive waves of immigration since then. More than 700,000 Jews evicted from Arab countries at first, followed by the Ethiopians, a million Russians, and many more. And still, Israeli Arabs have kept pace, not primarily through immigration, but rather, just with birthrates much higher than ours.

So now that mass immigration to Israel is over (there's only one numerically significant Jewish Diaspora community left, and it's not going to come in any meaningful numbers), what will stop Israel's Arabs, who are justifiably not terribly committed Zionists, from becoming 25% and then 30% and then 35% of the population? And as that number grows, what will we do when they have powerful political sway? Do we honor the democracy of the country, even if that means eroding the Jewish content of the State? Or do we protect the Jewish character of Israel, and
somehow curtail the democracy? Not a simple scenario, but not an avoidable one, either. One that will, without question, eventually force us to decide which of the two matters most to us. And one that in so doing, will force us to decide what kind of country this will be.

The only good news was, we thought, that we had a few years before we'd have to face that problem. (This is a country quite expert at dealing with the urgent at the expense of the important.) But we were wrong. Because the issue came to a hear this week. Not because of the Arabs, but because of the Jews. This was the week when two of the most prominent rabbis in Israel ordered their students to refuse orders related to the disengagement. When soldiers were interviewed and responded that yes, they take their orders seriously, but what can they
do when their rabbis tells them that Torah commands otherwise? When, in retaliation, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said he would dismantle hesder yeshiva programs where the rabbis taught their students to refuse orders.

This was the week, in short, when the secular government and its army (in which many religious Jews continued to serve) aligned against the almost monolithically religious bloc, each declaring that it would not back down, each declaring that the other was a threat to the State of
Israel. It was the week of rabbis versus commanders, the week (or so it seemed to many secular observers) of those loyal to the State versus those loyal to God. It was, in short, the week that Israel's democracy began to die.

But, it will be said, democracy won, no? After three sweltering days, without bathrooms or enough water for 50,000 people camped out in the desert in Kfar Maimon, a town left utterly in tatters by the siege which took place in its midst, the orange wearing protesters gave up, didn't
they? They went home, and lost. Didn't democracy win?

No, I don't think democracy won. Democracy didn't win because the cat is out of the bag. Leaders of this society openly flaunt the government's rule, and no one seems surprised. The heroes of the two communities are now radically different. This was the week when loyal
Zionists declared as heroes those soldiers who abandoned their units.

Democracy didn't win because in a functioning democracy, it shouldn't require 20,000 troops and police to stop people from entering an area that the army has declared closed. In a functioning democracy, people might protest. March. Hold signs. Even block roads. But openly
declare that they will enter areas the army says are forbidden? Siphon away forces that are critically needed in the war on terror? And encourage their children to literally change sides, leaving their units and joining the protesters?

No, democracy didn't win. Because they'll be back. Sooner or later, and maybe during the disengagement, they'll likely amass again, and in addition to everything else the army has to do, it will have to assign 20,000 troops to stop the masses. And democracy didn't win, because the
country simply got lucky that the protesters gave up. What if they hadn't? What if they had tried to push by the fence, and beyond the human chain? Dare we imagine what heat, exhaustion, dehydration and passions can do in the desert with 50,000 people in a tiny area?

And no, democracy didn't win, because the government was no better. There is something unsettling about so many troops stopping civilians, even if it was said to be necessary. Why do these photos of thousands of soldiers blocking a protest remind me more of Tiananmen Square than of Israel? And by virtue of what authority did Ariel Sharon (or whoever it was) stop the buses that were to bring the protesters to congregate? Is it now illegal to hire a bus to take people to a protest? These buses weren't stopped near Gaza. They weren't stopped near a border. They were stopped all over the country, smack in the middle of internationally-recognized sovereign Israel. Now it's illegal to drive the bus if the government doesn't like the purpose? By virtue of what right did soldiers and police stop the buses, and confiscate the driver's licenses of the drivers, who had broken no laws?

Was this the week in which we learned that at the end of the day, neither side takes democracy or the rule of law terribly seriously? And if that's the case, what's going to happen as the disengagement grows closer? And worse, what's going to happen when the next disengagement begins to unfold? "What?", it will be said. "The "next" disengagement?! How?" After all, Ariel Sharon has said it explicitly -- "No more disengagements."

Right. And Bill Clinton didn't "have relations with that woman." That, too, was technically true. But it all depends on how you define "relations" and "disengagements." It'll be different. It'll be the wall. The fence. The barrier. Call it what you will, but it's clear that like it or not, that's going to be the new border on the east. Maybe sooner. Maybe later. But that's what's planned. And when everyone else wakes up and smells the roses, and realizes that we're going to move not just 6,000 people from Gaza, but hundreds of thousands (including many far more radicalized than those who live in Gaza) from the West Bank. What then? Who's going to do what then? Will it stop at three heat-soaked parched days in the desert? Or will we see the unspeakable?

It was the kind of week that makes you wonder just what's been going on here. Is nuance, in the belief that law and democracy are the only hopes this place has, really that far gone? "

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