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October 11, 2004, Vol. 6 Issue 12

Disengagement Support Rises: In Friday's Yedioth Ahronoth survey of Israeli public opinion, 65% of respondents said they support disengagement, up from 58% in a poll from September 14th, while only 25% said they do not support it, down from 27%. A huge majority (70%) said that disengagement from Gaza is only the beginning, after which will come the evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria. Only 21% did not hold this view. 58% said that disengagement will improve ...

Disengagement Support Rises: In Friday's Yedioth Ahronoth survey of Israeli public opinion, 65% of respondents said they support disengagement, up from 58% in a poll from September 14th, while only 25% said they do not support it, down from 27%. A huge majority (70%) said that disengagement from Gaza is only the beginning, after which will come the evacuation of settlements in Judea and Samaria. Only 21% did not hold this view. 58% said that disengagement will improve Israel's security, 2% think the move will not change security, and 28% believe it will weaken security. At the same time, 27% said that the current operation in Gaza was necessary to carry out, and 39% thought the operation was not only needed, but should be larger. Just 4% thought it was necessary but should be smaller, and 17% said it should not be carried out. 41% said they fear a civil war if disengagement goes forward, but 58% said they do not. Only 38% think that disengagement will bring an end to the Intifada, while 17% think it will harm the chances for ending the armed struggle and 39% believe it will have no effect. Regarding the possibility that disengagement will aid in the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians and the attainment of a peace agreement, only a minority of 38% believes that, compared with a majority of 57%, disengagement will not affect, or could even harm, the chances of arriving at a peace accord. Looking at the poll, Sima Kadmon commented, "These answers can explain the bloody battle being planned by those who oppose the plan. It is clear to everyone that a withdrawal from Gaza means an end to the occupation, and from the moment that a government headed by Sharon removes settlements, there will no longer be legitimacy for our staying in Judea and Samaria. That is why this war can also be seen as the last gasp of the belief in the entire Land of Israel." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 10/8/04)

Who Do That Voodoo?: A group of right-wing Jewish activists reenacted a religious ritual from the First Temple period at the Shiloah Spring in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan last week, with the goal of removing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from power and instituting a Jewish monarchy. With shofar blasts in the background, the group, led by Professor Hillel Weiss (a well-known Temple Mount activist) and Rabbi Yosef Dayan (who recently threatened to instigate a death curse against Sharon) conducted the nisuah hamayim ritual, which they said, "will begin the process of removing the secular Israeli government." "This ceremony will lay the foundations for instituting a Jewish king, a Jewish court, and the Third Temple," Weiss told 40 participants at the ceremony. "We will draw inspiration and strength from the ceremony as the holy priests did in Temple times, and we will ensure that the Jewish people will not be removed from their land." Standing next to the running water, said to also be used in Temple times to spiritually cleanse the high priest during the Yom Kippur services, Dayan blew the shofar while Weiss collected holy water. Weiss, who recently published a book calling for the institution of a Jewish monarchy in the State of Israel, refrained from spelling out how he intends to "remove Sharon," but did say that the "religious powers will grant us the strength to do so." Dayan, rabbi of the settlement of Psagot, wasn't so bashful. "Sharon's plan is insane and I wish for his death," the holy man said. "We want a Jewish monarchy in Israel and not a secular government with secular political parties. The decisions made by the majority are not decisions since the majority is stupid." [Note to Dayan: candor can be good, but this is no way to build a mass following.] Press reports do not indicate if any live chickens were harmed in the course of carrying out this ritual. (Jerusalem Post, 10/6/04)

A Prayer For The Tsar: No doubt feeling the competition breathing down his neck from other right-wing rabbis looking to capture market share among consumers of curses on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a senior religious Zionist rabbi, recently composed a prayer calling on God to prevent the disengagement plan. "And now we are threatened and alarmed, and there are attempts to separate us from the land promised our forefathers, so that we flee this land and give homes, full of all good things, to those who did not build them, and give vineyards and olives to those who did not plant them, all in order to help them with their evil plan to expel us from our land," the prayer says, and which the rabbi recommends be recited every day. "O Lord, do not satisfy the desires of the wicked. Do not give your land to be disgraced by cursed evildoers." The prayer asked for mercy for the residents of Gush Katif in particular, and for all of Israel: "O God, be filled with mercy for us and for all residents of the Holy Land. Look down from Heaven and behold those who study your Torah in holiness and purity, in yeshivas, in pre-army courses and in academies. Have mercy and compassion for them and for these small temples, that they do not, heaven forbid, become mosques and prayer houses.Have mercy and compassion for the residents of Gush Katif and for all of the House of Israel, that they are not exiled from their land, as you promised us through the Prophet Amos." (Ma'ariv, 10/5/04)

Go Directly to Jail: Hebron police detained a right-wing activist on suspicion of racial incitement and sedition for selling a Monopoly-like board game that encourages players to oppose the disengagement plan. The game includes playing cards that, among other things, award players 100 points for having a paratrooper brother who refuses an order to evacuate and additional points if players pour sugar into the gasoline tank of a tractor used for evacuating settlements. Another card, however, can cost players points if Arabs live in their communities. In the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba, police arrested a man who had suspected bomb producing materials and several weapons in his settlement home. The owner couldn't explain how he came to be in possession of the materials. The arrested man works as a kindergarten security guard. Police found 500 grams of explosive block, delay coils, and anti-tank and shock grenades at his house. A bomb-preparing manual, which the man downloaded from the internet, was also found during the raid. The man claimed he was stocking up arms and explosives for self-defense "ahead of the next war." Finally, police got around to hauling in Women in Green leader Nadia Matar for interrogation regarding suspicions that she had insulted a public official, a charge that could draw up to six months in prison. Matar had written a public letter to Disengagement Authority director Yonatan Bassi, calling him a "far more terrible version" of the Judenrat. Going into the police station, Matar told a small crowd of supporters, "Bassi and Prime Minsiter Ariel Sharon are a far worse version of the Judenrat, because in their case no one is forcing them to do what they are doing, and they are serving as the operational arm of the Hamas-Nazi enemy," comments that could get her some quality time with Martha Stewart more easily than a Get Out of Jail Free card. (Ha'aretz, 10/4 & 6/04 & Jerusalem Post, 10/5/04)

On the Borders of Meshuga, Part I: Many Israelis wonder how the settlers see the near and more distant future of the state, when the former Arab minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea has already reached numerical equality with the former Jewish majority. What regime and what kind of life will there be in Israel when Jews living there and in the occupied territories become a steadily diminishing minority. The truth is that the settlers and their supporters are not worried for two reasons. First, they know that divine salvation comes in the twinkling of the eye, and the miracle is a permanent factor in determining the vector of Jewish destiny. Rabbi Azriel Ariel, a disciple of Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu (who is in turn one of the spiritual mentors of the supporters of the National Religious Party and the settlers), writes that, "Any attempt to be a so-called 'realist' is totally unrealistic." In the past few days, Rabbi Zalman Melamed, chairman of the Committee of Rabbis in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, wrote, "By the power of these commandments (connected with Sukkot) we have beaten off all those who rose up to destroy us." As it is written: We have built a kosher sukkah, we have waved kosher lulavim-and we drove back those who would destroy us. For example, in the fall of 1942, thanks to our prayers and the promises of Rabbi Herzog, the allied armies were miraculously victorious over the Nazis (may their names be wiped out) at the battle of El-Alemein, as Rabbi Yair Shachor wrote on a website. In a similar vein, Rabbi Yigal Kamintsky from Gush Katif writes, "We see that hundreds and even thousands of mortar bombs fall on the settlements, and with God's help hardly anybody is hurt. We are witnessing miracles." And as for the future, as Rabbi Melamed puts it, "By shaking the lulav, we have driven away the evil spirits, and we shall be safe in the shade of the sukkah." (Ma'ariv, 10/6/04)

On the Borders of Meshuga, Part II: The second reason that the settlers are not worried about the demographic threat to Israel is that they are looking beyond the western Land of Israel. The basis for the settlers' vision consists of mega-occupation: expansion of the Kingdom of Israel to the borders promised in the covenant with Abraham. The Committee of Rabbis in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza writes, "Everyone who has faith in his heart.will not countenance betrayal of the divine promise written in our Torah in which the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people." Professor Hillel Weiss, mentioned in an earlier story, wrote, "The purpose of the armed struggle is to establish a Jewish state in all the territory that will be captured, from the River Euphrates to the Egyptian river." The flag of redemption of the land that was promised to Abraham is not flown in public, but nobody has thrown it away. Rabbi Haim Steinitz, writing in the name of the rabbis of the Beit El settlement, says, "In general, the Euphrates and the Nile are the main points of reference, as well as the Mediterranean and the Red Sea." So much for the western border. The eastern border, in their eyes, is the River Euphrates, although there are some different interpretations. While most commentators maintain that the Kingdom of Israel should rest on the upper Syrian stretch of the Euphrates, some take a broader view, noting that some earlier commentators saw the border running down to the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Another rabbi calls for the military conquest of all Arab countries. But even that is not all. Rabbi Zelman Melamed wrote, "It is not impossible that the Jewish people will have the ability to threaten and put pressure on the entire world to accept our way. But even if we acquire the power to seize control of the world, that is not the way to realize the vision of complete redemption." However, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg is more determined. He knows that in the near future the Land of Israel is about to expand. He writes, "It is our duty to force all mankind to accept the seven Noahide laws, and if not-they will be killed." (Ma'ariv, 10/6/04)

Fire up the Calculators: Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that the U.S. is considering taking part in financing the disengagement plan. Netanyahu said that Israel and the U.S. will apparently discuss the issue after the American elections. "Both these issues, the fabric of life along the fence, as well as funding certain aspects of the disengagement, are not issues that will be raised at this time, but may definitely be raised later on," he told Israel Army Radio. Netanyahu made his comments after meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, at which time he did not submit an official request for help. (Israel Army Radio & Ynet, 10/5/04)

Illegal Outpost Comes of Age: Last week, settlers unveiled the prototype of what an illegal outpost can look like given enough government financial support and non-interference. Benzi Lieberman, head of the Settlers Council, told an audience at the illegal outpost of Bruchin that the site started "with just a sukkah.It is all just a matter of process and time." Indeed, the once primitive outpost now boasts spacious cookie-cutter houses replete with wrought iron fences and fledgling gardens that line the site's two streets, perched in the hills near the settlement of Ariel. The new homes stand in the place where six young couples decided to place windowless shipping containers that would serve as homes back in October 1999. The outpost now has some 60 families and 200 settlers. Bruchin is marked as illegal on the Defense Ministry lists, but since it was established before March 2001, it is not slated for evacuation. Amishay Shav-Tal, one of the founders of the outpost, pointed out that despite the illegal status of the site, "The road [to the outpost] was constructed by the Public Works Authority. We get our water from Mekorot [the state water company]. Our electricity is from Israel Electric, and our phone lines from Bezeq. Each building you see was approved and built by the Infrastructure Ministry." A military source noted that the settlers of Bruchin, like other settlers, exploited a loophole in the military law which states that until a settlement is dismantled, the IDF must support the settlers' basic needs, including water and electricity. Bruchin's permanent houses are known as "growth homes." They are made affordable by sealing off certain sections. For $120,000, one can buy the first floor of a house and slowly buy-and thereby unseal-the rooms on the second floor. The scheme reduces both the price of the house and taxes paid for it, while giving settlers the future option of growth with minimal "renovation costs." What makes Bruchin particularly agonizing for the IDF and Defense Ministry, said a military source, is that it is comprised of "quality people." Shav-Tal claims that about 40% of the outpost's 60 men are officers in the reserves, at least seven residents are career officers, and "almost everyone there served in a combat unit during his army service." About 30 Peace Now activists went to Bruchin to protest the opening of its new housing. "This inauguration ceremony sets an example for every hilltop settler that in the end the illegal outposts he builds will inevitably become a full-blown settlement. It's just an issue of bad policy combined with time," said Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer. (Jerusalem Post, 10/4/04)

Politics by Death, Part I: Commenting on the situation in Gaza in the midst of Operation "Days of Repentance," B. Michael wrote, "As of right now, nearly 70 people have died. Even the IDF confirms that close to 20 of them were innocent civilians. And if the army admits to 20, there is almost no doubt that their number reaches 30. After all, in the army's opinion, it is enough to declare that a dead Palestinian was 'armed,' and his blood is already forfeit. Only questions about the circumstance of his death are forbidden. And we've already seen 'armed' children, and 'armed' horses, and 'armed' old ladies, and most recently medics who are 'armed' with a stretcher. Without noticing, the old and innocent days in which we could mock the announcements on the 'Voice of Cairo' and believe without reservation the statements issued by IDF spokespeople, both the professionals and the volunteers, are gone, probably forever. Our bitter and accumulative experience teaches us that every IDF statement ought to be treated with an ever-growing degree of suspicion and skepticism. Too many times has the army been caught lying, conniving, tricking and making undignified efforts to prettify ugly scenes and to legitimize the illegitimate. One of the more famous statements made by Henry Kissinger about Israel was that it had no foreign policy, only domestic policy. Every action it takes and every statement made is geared solely for its own ears and its own eyes. The bloody 'Days of Repentance' (how apt and laundered that name is.even though 'days of red' would nevertheless have been even more apt) prove that Kissinger was being gracious with us. Not only has the Foreign Ministry been seized by domestic needs, but so have the Defense Ministry and the chief of staff's office. It has been a long time since the army was sent to carry out an operation that was so clearly enslaved to the domestic needs of the prime minister. Even those who are involved in the pounding are scarcely able to find any real point or purpose to it. Only Lt. Gen. Yaalon, who has already defeated the Palestinians so very many times in the past, offers us lofty promises in his authoritative voice. All the others, who have learned from experience, stick to the vapid and accepted clich├ęs: 'We will exact a price from them,' 'They will pay for the spilt blood,' 'Until they say "uncle."' And of course, the most popular oxymoron: 'The operation will allow a withdrawal from Gaza that is not under fire,' (which means, in human language, 'I'm setting the forest on fire so it doesn't burn down'). (Yedioth Ahronoth, 10/5/04)

Politics by Death, Part II: B. Michael continued, "This time there is no one, not even one, who has suggested that this bloodbath will have any remotely positive result. This time there is not an intelligent soul who does not know fully well that all of this awful death was sown only to meet domestic needs. It was sown to meet the needs of Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal, who asked so nicely to 'erase Beit Hanoun.' We can only hope that he makes do with Jabalya, or with 100 Palestinian bodies, so that he can cope more easily and be in a better mood when he has to face the next barrages of Kassam rocket fire. Because, after all, if Arab children are dying too, then everything looks nicer. It was sown to meet the needs of the NRP, which remarked so very politely to the prime minister that he wasn't killing enough Palestinians because of his darling disengagement. It was sown to meet the needs of public opinion, so the public might rejoice in a festival of bloody revenge. It was sown to meet the needs of the residents of Sderot, lest their justified anger come to be focused, heaven forbid, in the right direction, and so as to deepen their love for the thug who rules. It was sown to meet the coalition's needs, lest it die prematurely. It was sown to meet the Likud's needs, so that it might have a little blood-dripping satisfaction and not pester its leader too much. There was just one thing that this operation was not geared to accomplish: to bring nearer the end of the mutual massacre." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 10/5/04)

Politics by Death, Part III: B. Michael concluded, "For those who nevertheless insist on finding a glimmer of light in all this darkness, I can console them with just one thing: these 'Days of Repentance' mark less the advent of Yom Kippur [which traditionally is preceded by 'days of repentance'] and more the end of Purim [when Jews traditionally dress up in costumes]. Another piece of the mask that the prime minister put over his face is slowly falling off. The real Sharon keeps popping up from behind his peace-maker costume. And all of those people who babble, either hopefully or worriedly, about disengagement that is nigh upon us are invited to listen closely to the sounds of the last number of days and to understand-once again-who it is that they are dealing with. Sharon (like Barak) may utter enough platitudes about his desire for peace to retain his hold on office, but he won't withdraw from even a single millimeter of occupied land. If only so as not to curb, heaven forbid, his right to dive from time to time into the depths of his most favorite pastime: to wave his club and to strike. And if the residents of Sderot, after the joy of revenge subsides and the promises that were made to them fade away, want to know, despite everything, how to end the barrages of rockets, they ought to take the trouble to go ask the residents of Kiryat Shmona. Because that is the only way it will work. With a withdrawal. And until Israel finds itself a courageous leader who understands that the time has come to leave all of the territories, either with the settlers or without them, the residents of Sderot will have to make do with periodic retaliatory performances and empty promises about reduced municipal taxes." (Yedioth Ahronoth, 10/5/04)

One Face, One Name: Israeli soldiers killed a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in southern Gaza last week. Israeli military sources admitted that the killing of Iman Alhamas was a mistake. The girl was shot dead on her way to school, accompanied by two classmates. She was wearing her school uniform and carrying her book bag, which military sources said was suspected of containing explosives. Medical sources in Gaza said the girl was hit by 20 bullets. After Israeli troops fired a warning shot, the girl dropped her bag and tried to run away. The troops then shot her dead. She was about 400 meters from the school. The troops did not find any explosives or weapons in her schoolbag. The IDF had trouble explaining why no fewer than twenty shots were removed from the body of the young girl. But soldiers on the scene know why: the company commander executed a "confirmation of the kill" by emptying a magazine into Iman's body at point-blank range. After the girl had fallen to a single bullet, "the company commander went out with his command staff," said one of the soldiers. "He charged toward her by himself. He shot two bullets at her, went back to the command staff, and then gave her a burst of automatic fire. That was how the incident ended. There is no logical reason for what he did-not for shooting the two bullets at her and certainly not the burst afterwards. This is the most sickening thing I have ever seen during my army service. It was desecration of a body. That is not what we are taught to do in the army." Another soldier said, "The company commander stopped the troops and went toward her only with his radio operator. He also stopped the radio operator and approached to within point-blank range of the girl. He shot two bullets at her, went back to the radio operator, and then went back to the girl and emptied everything he had left in his magazine at her with automatic fire. I saw it with my own eyes." Her body was left on the ground for nearly two hours before the IDF let Palestinian medical teams approach her. Military sources said the distance between the girl and soldiers was so great that even if she had carried explosives she in no way endangered their safety. Battalion soldiers said they don't want the incident to be covered up. "They're trying to hush it up," they said, "but we want a serious investigation." (Ha'aretz, 10/6/04 & Yedioth Ahronoth, 10/8/04)

Laboring to Cope, Part I: The Palestinians are claiming that there is no local substitute for jobs in Israel. The Palestinian labor market is incapable of absorbing an estimated 310,000 unemployed, constituting 34.3% of the Palestinian labor force. Palestinian sources say that 35 years of Israeli control have made the Palestinian labor market dependent on Israel "as a result of deliberate policy," and this reality cannot be changed in a few years. "The labor markets should be gradually separated," said Palestinian Authority (PA) Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib. "In the long term, such large-scale employment of workers in Israel is also against Palestinian interests because of the salary gaps, which put upward pressure on local wages." Khatib added that the halt in Palestinian employment in Israel was a major factor in the PA's severe unemployment crisis, but that restrictions on movement and closures imposed by Israel were also an important factor. Khatib said that Israel's policies had prevented any development and job creation in the territories themselves. He complained, "The economy remains closed, without any possibility of exporting goods or personnel. The market is small and divided, and local employment is therefore not increasing, while natural population increase continues." 120,000 legal and illegal Palestinian workers were employed in Israel before the Intifada. Khatib estimates that, up until six months ago, 25,000-30,000 still worked in Israel. In recent months, however, the closure of the Erez industrial zone and the halt in the employment of workers from Gaza in Israel have reduced this number to a few thousand workers from the West Bank, who are either illegal or working at season jobs in agriculture. "In the current situation, there is no chance of creating alternative employment. Internal employment has reached a ceiling," say Palestinian Center for Private Sector Development director Prof. Dr. Hisham Awartani. "The public sector is already inflated beyond what is needed, and can only be cut, not expanded." (Globes, 10/5/04)

Laboring to Cope, Part II: Dr. Hisham Awartani agrees that the previous mployment situation cannot be restored. But he believes that agreement can be reached on employment of a reduced and realistic number of Palestinian workers in Israel. "Both sides have an interest in solving the problem," he said. "Workers can be allowed to leave under certain restrictions, such as age, mostly in the northern and southern West Bank. The Palestinian security agencies should play an active role in this. As experience is accumulated, lessons can be learned, and employment can be expanded." Gaza Workers Association chairman Rassam Albiari added that employing Palestinians was better for the Israeli economy than importing foreign workers. "In contrast to foreign workers, Palestinian workers return home every day, don't reside in Israel, speak Hebrew well, get paid in shekels, and don't export foreign currency," he said. According to Albiari, another solution for Palestinian employment in Gaza after disengagement could be the creation of joint Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones along the borders of the Gaza Strip, in the same format as the qualifying industrial zones with Jordan. (Globes, 10/5/04)