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July 25, 2005 - Vol. 6, Issue 50

Second Thoughts: A survey released last week by Tel Aviv University's Herzog Institute revealed that 57% of Israelis believes the Gaza settlements should never have been created, while 52% said the Gaza settlements have worsened Israel's security.

Second Thoughts: A survey released last week by Tel Aviv University's Herzog Institute revealed that 57% of Israelis believes the Gaza settlements should never have been created, while 52% said the Gaza settlements have worsened Israel's security. Meanwhile, a Haifa University poll of 1,000 settlers released today found that over 40% of settlers believe Israel should evacuate isolated Jewish enclaves in order to maintain larger settlement blocs, and 51% of settlers say that radical right-wing activists harm the nature of the settlements. On the other hand, 12% of settlers think that "Jewish underground" movements that oppose disengagement are legitimate, and 3% expressed interest in joining an independent military organization to fight the withdrawal. In addition, 47% said that when a specific state law contradicts Jewish belief, one does not have to obey it. Finally, Friday's Dahaf/Yedioth Ahronoth survey found that support for disengagement stands at 58% among Israeli adults. (Globes, 7/24/05; Ynetnews.com, 7/25/05; & Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/22/05)

Israel Gets The Blues: Last week, the alliance of progressive Israeli organizations called the Majority Coalition launched a campaign to spread the color blue-the pro-disengagement hue-across Israel. Supporters of the evacuation plan deployed to some 200 road junctions nationwide to hand out blue and white ribbons. Majority Coalition Chair Gavri Bargil, who heads the Kibbutz Movement and is a former director-general of Peace Now, said that the campaign's aim was to "make certain the street does not remain [anti-disengagement] orange. We only started to hand out the blue ribbons three weeks ago. Despite this, we have already handed out 800,000 ribbons. Our main problem is the lack of funds, as the demand for blue ribbons surpasses our financial capabilities." In addition to Labor Party activists, the volunteers included members of Peace Now, Yahad-Meretz, the Shomer Hazair, and the Kibbutz Ha'arzi movements. (Jerusalem Post, 7/20/05)

Willie Nelson Would Be Proud: Youths from kibbutzim around Israel will help dismantle and relocate Gush Katif greenhouses. The Kibbutz Movement is currently recruiting youths who have been discharged from army service to help clear out the greenhouses and transfer the structures to the evacuees' new communities. The work will be done on a voluntary basis, with the state covering the transportation costs. "This is a national task for which we are doing our bit," said a statement from the Kibbutz Movement. A kibbutz official said, "On one hand, as supporters of the disengagement plan, we are at odds with [the settlers]; on the other hand, as farmers and settlers of the land, we understand what they are going through." The relocation of all of the Gush Katif greenhouses to Ashkelon and the western Negev will cost NIS 360 million. (Ha'aretz, 7/19 & 22/05)

Invitations Are At The Printer: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the French newspaper Le Figaro that some of his objectives include expanding the West Bank settlement of Ariel, creating a contiguous territorial connection between that settlement and the Green Line, constructing new homes in the settlement of Maaleh Adumim, and avoiding any negotiations over dividing Jerusalem. The timing of Sharon's remarks was interesting, coming just as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was visiting Israel to deliver the message that Israel and the Palestinians need to return to the Road Map after disengagement is complete. The Road Map calls for a freeze on all settlement activity and envisions negotiations over issues such as Jerusalem. The Israeli press also reported that Rice raised the idea of convening a conference to help Israel forge better ties with the Arab world after disengagement. [Editor's Note: Maybe it could be held in Ariel.] (Ynetnews.com, 7/22/05 & Jerusalem Post, 7/21/05)

Meet The Murabitun: Israeli officials believe that fighting between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas will continue, with the Palestinian security forces in Gaza confronting the Murabitun, a Hamas army of thousands of armed men who are supposed to take over Gaza when the order comes. Last week they had their first real baptism of fire, during which they assaulted with fire all the Palestinian security services. For close to two years, this armed militia has prepared for D-Day. The Hamas operatives are better armed than the PA forces, thanks to the organization's smuggling tunnels and their higher level of military training. During one episode last week, a Murabitun roadblock stopped a car of the Preventive Security Service and demanded that all of its passengers identify themselves. "We are in power, not you," said the security operatives. In response, Hamas men opened fire and wounded the security personnel. The Murabitun began as an organization called the Popular Army, under the command of Ahmed Jaabari, a leader of the Hamas military wing. Several months ago, Hamas decided to change the name of the group, since the word "army" was considered a challenge to the PA.

The development of the Popular Army's capabilities picked up steam about two years ago, apparently following Israel's decision to leave Gaza. Hamas leaders decided that they needed an additional force that would operate separately from the Iz a Din al-Kassam Brigades, the group's military wing. The Murabitun began carrying out public military training, placing roadblocks, and holding patrols in entire areas of Gaza. The purpose was to instill in the Palestinian consciousness that there was someone to fill the vacuum left by the PA. Israeli officials estimate that the hard core of the Murabitun numbers in the thousands. In time of need, they are joined by members of Iz a Din al-Kassam. As opposed to the Palestinian policemen, who are armed with old Kalashnikov rifles, the Hamas men are armed with shortened M-16 rifles and RPG anti-tank rocket launchers. In addition, they are equipped with explosive charges, mortars, anti-tank rockets, and Kassam rockets. (Ma'ariv, 7/21/05)

All In The Family: Trying to explain the recent spasm of intra-Palestinian violence that erupted in Gaza, Ashraf Al-Ajrami wrote in Al-Ayyam, "It is obvious that some of the Palestinian factions are interested in dragging Israel into the arena to solve the Palestinian-Palestinian conflicts. Israeli intervention might reshuffle the deck, keep the issues of the conflict afloat, and wrap them with a different cover to conceal the truth about them. The current tension between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas is not, fundamentally, about resisting the occupation or, to be more specific, about firing rockets at Israeli targets. Actually, it is a power struggle over control of the Palestinian arena. Hamas' political calculations were based on the PLC elections being held on the original date this month. Apparently, Hamas accepted the principle of calm with the goal of making political gains and wining a large number of seats in the parliament. With these gains in hand, Hamas intended subsequently either to demand a substantial role in the future government, if it decided ultimately to join the government, or, at the very least, to wield control over government policy. This would have been an important victory for Hamas, the fruits of its claimed achievement as if the Israeli disengagement plan was engendered by the fire of the armed resistance and, specifically so, by Hamas' resistance. As such, the political gains it achieved were to be the pinnacle of its achievement, in keeping with the maxim: 'partners in blood, partners in decision.' Of course, Hamas does not want to be a regular partner, but a deciding partner with veto power, at the very least. One of the more important issues [that] the future government was to deal with was the Israeli pullout and the day after, specifically in the Gaza Strip.

"Hamas will not be able to secure tangible political gains if it is unable to control and to decide matters in the Gaza Strip. When the elections were postponed for several reasons-the interests of the PLC members, Fatah's flawed preparation and so forth-Hamas was displeased, feeling that the rug had been pulled out from under its feet. Hamas could no longer be part of the PLC or the government in advance of the Israeli pullout. Hamas tried to rectify this situation with creative formulas that would allow it to achieve its goals without being obliged to become members of the PA organization in its current form-a PA to which Hamas wants to [be seen] as an alternative. That is why it suggested forming a higher national committee to oversee the pullout from the Gaza Strip. This proposal was put forward with the implied threat: 'If you don't accept our proposal, we will poke a hole in the ship.' The fastest way to create chaos and to keep things afloat is to provoke Israel and to create excuses and reasons for it to intervene forcefully with military aggression against the Palestinian people. This aggression is aimed also against both the rank and file and the leaders of Hamas and other factions, especially Islamic Jihad, which played the Israeli card to promote other objectives and ultimately produced chaos.

"It was clear that the repeated rocket fire in the last number of days was really aimed against the PA, and not Israel. It presented the PA with a serious challenge. Either it allows itself to continue to weaken until its complete elimination and the destruction of the national endeavor, or it stands firmly and works to regain its control, to enforce law and public order and to stop anything that might undermine the national interest, which, at this stage, is to promote the Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and some of the settlements in the northern West Bank and to move in the direction of liberating the occupied lands and establishing an independent state. Anyone observing the situation before the latest eruption of the internal conflict clearly saw that Israel had been placed under tremendous pressure by the Quartet and the World Bank to cooperate as much as possible with the PA so as to ensure that the pullout from the Gaza Strip should evolve into a promising political process. Israel was forced repeatedly to change its position on the Rafah crossing, the seaport, the airport, the safe passage route, and restriction on the movement of people and goods between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, on the one hand, and the Arab world, specifically Egypt and Jordan, on the other.People started talking about giant projects for the Gaza Strip. The G-8 dedicated three billion dollars to help rebuild the Palestinian economy and to promote projects that will go a long way towards solving the unemployment problem and will create an infrastructure for economic prosperity.

"Now, as a result of the political rockets, we are back at square one, the square of the occupation's destruction and aggression, as if it is the destiny of the Palestinian people to pay the price several times for anything that happens in the region. All the sacrifices and all the blood that was spilled on the soil of the Gaza Strip and West Bank was insufficient, and the Israeli pullout must come soaked in Palestinian blood and on the ruins of what we recently built.Yes, there are forces that live, feed, and thrive off of the suffering of the Palestinian people. In their view, the Palestinian people must be poor, miserable beggars who live off charity and donations. This allows them to expand their organizations, societies and centers and to enlist thousands of members and supporters. They believe that the help now being offered from abroad to this bereaved nation is the best means to build armies and to create a multiplicity of authorities. Moreover, they believe that this nation must become backward and must be repelled back to past, distant centuries so as to allow it to continue to be lured and influenced. This is exactly what Israel wants, and this will help Israel deny the rights of our people and deny the existence of [a] negotiating partner." (Al-Ayyam, 7/18/05)

Algeria '05: Commenting on the attitude of settler leaders toward the rest of Israel, Yaron London wrote, "The leaders of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza speak to the authorities as though they were the representatives of a foreign state. In their rogue state live a people that has developed its own laws and separated from the hegemonic state in its ways of life and beliefs. It has a separate education system, youth movements, its own treasury, its own heroes, its own communities, and it speaks a different language than the one spoken in the neighboring state. Israel demands that the rogue state obey the law that applies in its territory, while the latter rejects these laws and presents demands that if accepted, would require the hegemonic state to give up part of its sovereignty. As any other aggressor, the rogue state also poses as peace-loving, and therefore it declares that it will not be the first to use force. At the same time it demands permission to run wild, and threatens that if it is not permitted to use measured violence, extremists will appear who could employ lethal violence. This threat is common practice in our close surroundings and elsewhere.

"The language of the foreign state belongs to the family of Semitic languages, and its sound is reminiscent of Hebrew, but the meaning of the words in this language is different. For example, 'a forcible act aimed at obstructing the decision of the elected institutions' is, in the language of the state of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, 'non-violent protest.' 'A demand to recognize lawbreaking as a legitimate means of protest' is 'democracy.' 'Sedition' in the language of the neighboring state's residents is 'obeying the imperative of the Torah, as interpreted by rabbis who receive their salary from the hegemonic state.' 'Invasion of a closed military zone by masses of people' is 'help to our heroic brothers in Gush Katif;' 'army and police commanders' are 'brutal oppressors betraying their conscience for pay and promotion;' 'relocating people's place of residence to a small distance from their homes, with generous compensation for their inconvenience' is, in their tongue, 'transfer;' 'a nice neighborhood in the loveliest spot in the country' is 'a detention camp;' 'The Knesset' is 'a pack of corrupt politicians' and 'the government' is 'Sharon's mafia.'

"Before our eyes, the old warning of the opponents of occupation is coming true, i.e. that the settlers' state would gain strength and when put to the test would rebel against the State of Israel. This was to be expected, since the process is familiar from other countries that established colonies. The clearest example is 'French Algeria,' which tried to bring about the collapse of the republic. All the warnings against rash comparisons between what happened in France 50 years ago and what is happening in our home are shattering in the face of the sights in southern Israel. Like the colonists in Algeria, our settlers have developed interests that are opposed to the interests of the mother state. They have established an autonomous rule, they presume to be the guardians of the national interest, they accuse the central government of treason and incite the army to mutiny. Like them, the settlers say that instead of compromising with the Muslims, we should 'let the army win,' and like them, 'extremists' in the rebel camp plot to attack Muslims so that all of the national energy will be dedicated to defense against an all-out attack. The attitude towards the leader, a charismatic military man who has disappointed the settlers, is also very similar on both sides of the equation. Here an underground has not yet been apprehended that is trying to attack the state leaders, but this is a foreseeable development.

"And as in France in the mid-20th century, here too: The excited calls for national unity and national responsibility should be accompanied by a demonstration of the state's power. Weakness would be tantamount to recognition of the rogue state's right to exist-the state of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The above is not a writ of defense for Sharon. Anyone who supports a quick parting from all the occupied territories does not need his reasons to support disengagement-but anyone who desires a slow, cautious and contingent process is not receiving enough reason from him that have the power to recruit him into the camp of [Sharon's] energetic supporters. All of the press' efforts to hold an open conversation with him are warded off, leaving questions that hang in the public air with an oppressive aura. The truth should be told: The main reason for the broad support for Sharon is not anchored in deep inner conviction, but rather in the validity of the government as the government and the decision of the Knesset as the Knesset. This reason is enough to compel us all, but the assumption that a majority of the people would have supported the opposite policy if Sharon had advocated it, does not elicit admiration of democracy, a regime which is no more than a lesser evil in comparison with the other alternatives." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/21/05)

Rav Reviews: Reacting to the role that leading right-wing rabbis have played in fomenting opposition to the settlement evacuation, Anat Gov wrote, "In Hebrew, there are two meanings to the word rav [rabbi]. One is an adjective that means: Teacher, well-versed, wise, important, scholarly and learned. The other is a verb that means: Chastising, rabble-rousing, agitating, challenging, fighting, provoking, quarreling, struggling, and inciting. Which of these two is more suitable for the former chief rabbis, Rabbi Shapira and Rabbi Eliyahu, who ruled [recently] that religious soldiers should refuse to serve at Gush Katif roadblocks? These rabbis, who with blatant irresponsibility, are disintegrating the IDF and making every religious soldier appear suspect in advance of disobeying the army's orders. Throughout the years of occupation when the finest sons of the Left went to protect the settlers, years of manning roadblocks and coping with situations that contradict all the values of equality and human dignity upon which they were raised at home, there was not even a single leader on the Zionist Left who supported disobedience. And now, those who saw themselves as the spiritual leaders of the people of Israel, are revealed in time of crisis to be small, petty, and sectarian people, whose worldview is narrower than that of an ant, people who have dumped all the Jewish spiritual values into the dustbin of history and sanctify only one value: A physical, material and materialistic value, one that is almost pagan.

"And when one sees the arrogant, rioting, cursing, screaming, spitting, humiliating, debasing, tire-puncturing, tree-uprooting, rib-kicking and breaking youth, which degrades the Holocaust to the point of giving a stamp of approval to the Germans, whose acts were not an event of singular cruelty but rather an event that is happening here as well-one wonders, who educated them? Who gives them legitimacy for this bestial behavior against the security forces? Who stands by and remains silent in the face of all this violence? What will happen with this youth after disengagement? Who will supply them with the dose of thrills to which it is addicted on the day after? Whom will they be taught to hate? With whom will they be taught to fight? These rabbis and the settler rabbis, headed by Rabbi Dov Lior, who praised the Baruch Goldstein massacre, are the spiritual mentors of this youth. They taught them to see the world in black and white. The Jews are good and the Gentiles are bad. Right-wingers are patriotic and left-wingers are enemies of Israel. No moderation, no courtesy, the entire smiling and phony fa├žade that was on their face as long as the state prostrated itself on its back and groveled before them has disappeared, and suddenly the monster has emerged.Such an inflation of rabbis is almost unprecedented in the history of the Jewish people. But now, at the very time when we are in the greatest need of spiritual and moral authority, one that will behave responsibly, in order to help us get through this crisis safely, then in a place where there are so many rabbis-not a single one endeavors to be a rav, a true rabbi." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 7/19/05)