Israeli army begins preparations for largest noncombat operation ever

August 10, 2005

* The first country in modern history to give up land it acquired in a defensive war.

* Western commentators who speak of a two-state “solution” adopt a misnomer. Without an entire regime and goal change on the part of the Palestinian Authority and armed groups, at best a two-state arrangement might be achieved.

* Not much sign of good neighborly relations: More than thirty synagogues in Gaza to be blown up and bodies of all dead Jews to be removed by Israel, rather than let the Palestinians defile them.

 

This is part of a three part series on the upcoming Israeli disengagement from Gaza. This dispatch contains items on the Israeli debate; the other two dispatches concern Palestinian preparations, and the media coverage of the withdrawal. There have now been 9 dispatches already in August. There will be no or very few dispatches for the rest of the month.

-- Tom Gross

 

CONTENTS

1. Palestinian terror hits 18 month high; threats from Arab countries remain
2. Israeli army begins preparations for largest noncombat operation ever
3. 13-year-old Israeli girls in jail
4. “Why Sharon’s critics are clueless on Gaza” (The Times of London, August 9, 2005)
5. “Netanyahu’s Resignation Letter” (August 7, 2005)
6. “Nazi reminders in Gaza? ” (By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, July 31, 2005)
7. “No, we are not behaving like Nazis” (Isaac Herzog, The Guardian, August 2, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

GAZA WITHDRAWAL

When Israel carries out the disengagement initiative, handing over Gaza and a small part of the West Bank it will become the first country in modern history to relinquish land it acquired in a defensive war to an enemy before that enemy made peace with it.

Approximately 9,000 Jewish Israelis, including 1,700 Israeli families currently living in the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank were handed eviction notices this week. The letter read, “We carry out this mission with... deep understanding for your pain... But as the army of a law-abiding democratic country, we will carry out this mission in full.”

It is expected that 45,000 Israeli soldiers and policemen will implement the plan. The overall approximate cost of disengagement is $1.7 billion dollars.

This is also the first time Israel is handing over land unilaterally without an accompanying peace deal. It is hoped that disengagement will improve the life of Palestinians, leading to an end in the daily genocidal incitement towards Israel and a drop in attempted violence.

HIGH-TECH BARRIER AROUND GAZA AFTER WITHDRAWAL

Following the withdrawal Israel will install a high tech barrier surrounding Gaza that it is hoped will be impenetrable by terrorists seeking to kill Israelis. The barrier will include fences, electronic sensors, video and night vision cameras; it will cost $220 million and will be completed by mid-2006.

PALESTINIAN TERROR HITS 18 MONTH HIGH, THREATS FROM ARAB COUNTRIES REMAIN

Twenty-one Israelis were killed and 238 wounded by Palestinian terrorists in the first seven months of 2005. During six of these months the Palestinian Authority and terror organizations such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas had declared a truce. July 2005 was the worst month in the last 18 months with 436 incidents, which includes the many rocket attacks and attempted suicide bombings prevented by the Israeli army. Almost half those attacks were carried out by “militants” belonging to the Al-Aqsa brigade of Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority.

It was announced at an Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) two weeks ago that Arab countries that surround Israel have 1,000 missiles that can fire 500 tons of explosives at any point in Israel. However, currently Israel is even more concerned about the possibility that Iran will develop nuclear weapons that will be capable of wiping out Israel’s main population centers in an instant.

ISRAELI ARMY BEGINS PREPARATIONS FOR LARGEST NONCOMBAT OPERATION EVER

When the Gaza evacuation begins, each home will be evacuated by a 17-member team made up of soldiers and police. Each resident who refuses to go will be carried off by a quartet of soldiers and police. Police have devised a real time computer program to track which houses have been emptied.

30 SYNAGOGUES TO BE DESTROYED

The army intends to blow up more than thirty synagogues and six religious schools in Gaza after the withdrawal. It doesn’t bode well for peace that Israel doesn’t think the Palestinian Authority will or can stop Islamic militants defiling and destroying empty synagogues and the graves of dead Israelis (some already murdered by Palestinian terrorists) after the withdrawal.

SUPPORT FOR DISENGAGEMENT BELOW 50 PER CENT AMONG ISRAELI PUBLIC

A poll carried out by the Herzog Institute for Media, Society and Politics at Tel Aviv University showed only 48 percent of the Israeli public support the unilateral plan. Since 75 per cent of those polled believe the evacuation will be implemented the results suggest most Israelis are still unsure over Ariel Sharon’s plan, and only support the plan since they believe there to be little alternative.

This situation is not similar to France’s withdrawals from Algeria, as some in the West like to suggest. Jews have had strong historic connections to Gaza for the last 3000 years and have been living in Gaza for much of that time. There were Jewish communities in Gaza a millennium before Islam was even founded.

13-YEAR-OLD GIRLS IN JAIL

The strength of feeling against disengagement among large sections of the population has been visible throughout Israel. For example, three girls between the ages of 13 and 16 have been incarcerated since June 29, after being arrested whilst participating in an anti-withdrawal demonstration aimed at blocking highway traffic. The Israeli courts have ruled these girls are “a danger to society because of their ideological motivation”. This is one of the first known instances of 13-year-old girls being taken to jail for political reasons in a liberal democracy. It doesn’t bode well for domestic harmony when the Israeli government, whether or not its unilateral withdrawal plan is the best thing for Israel and for peace, resorts to such drastic action.

Tensions are extremely high in Israel at present with the palpable fear of “Jew against Jew” violence. In early July all Israeli government ministers were fitted with flak jackets.

NETANYAHU RESIGNS OVER GAZA WITHDRAWAL

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli finance Minister, resigned from his post on Sunday in protest against the withdrawal. Included in this dispatch is his resignation letter, and an article from the Times of London backing Sharon and his withdrawal plan.

I also include two articles that deal with the withdrawal, in the context of what some have described as “Nazi reminders” that have hung over the debate over the forced eviction of Jews from their homes. (As Jeff Jacoby writes below, “there is no getting around the fact that Israel is about to become the first modern, Western nation in more than 60 years to forcibly uproot a whole population men, women, children, babies solely because they are Jews.”)

I attach four articles or items with summaries first. Some of these argue for the withdrawal, some against.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

WHY SHARON’S CRITICS ARE CLUELESS ON GAZA

“Why Sharon’s critics are clueless on Gaza” (By Oliver Kamm, The Times of London, August 9, 2005)

... Mr Sharon is typically characterised outside Israel as an obdurate warmonger. When he became Prime Minister in 2001 The Guardian headline ran “Israel gives up on peace with Sharon victory”. Sir Gerald Kaufman, the senior Labour MP, in 2002 condemned Mr Sharon as a “right-wing thug” whose policies were “not only unacceptable in humanitarian terms, but ... also seriously unsuccessful in dealing with the terrorism”. Last year Tony Baldry, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Select Committee on International Development, declared: “The construction of a security barrier higher than the Berlin Wall may bring the mirage of immediate security to Israelis, but the level of despair felt by Palestinians at being denied an ordinary life can only increase the supply of suicide bombers.”

Myths die hard. Increased security for Israeli civilians is not a mirage at all; Mr Sharon’s policies have been unambiguously successful in curbing terrorism. With the construction of a security barrier (not a “wall”, as anti-Israel campaigners habitually term it, but for most of its length a chain-linked wire fence that could be taken down within an afternoon) and the assassination of successive leaders of Hamas, the number of successful terrorist attacks within Israel fell by more than 75 per cent between 2002 and 2004. The breathing space that these policies have allowed Israelis has encouraged serious thinking about territorial compromise and the outlines of an eventual settlement with the Palestinians...

Mr Sharon, meanwhile, has taken the Right an important stage on from merely accepting the need for negotiations with the Palestinians, and has acknowledged that what he explicitly terms the “occupation of the West Bank” is untenable for Israel and for the Palestinians. His security measures have reinforced a consensus among Israelis for a strategy of defensive deterrence, withdrawal from settlements in Gaza, and direct negotiations for a Palestinian state. The prerequisites for a final settlement include Israelis’ confidence in the ability of the Palestinian leadership to crack down on terrorism and to make their administration of Gaza a success. Israel will feel secure enough to withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries only when it no longer believes they are continuously threatened. On any realistic assessment, this will take time.

That is why Gaza is important. Mr Sharon knows that Israeli security is ill-served by the diversion of effort to protect 8,000 Jewish settlers among 1.3 million Palestinians. To the settlers’ anguish, he is evicting them as part of a wider plan to create the conditions for dialogue. The wisest course for politicians outside the region is to cease attacking Mr Sharon for not being able to create peace by fiat. The cause of confidence-building and direct negotiations has never wanted for meddlesome outsiders; it should be given a chance to flourish unaided.

 

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU’S RESIGNATION LETTER

“Netanyahu’s Resignation Letter” (Unofficial translation from Hebrew, August 7, 2005)

Mr. Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister Jerusalem

Sir;

From the first conversation when you presented your plan to me, I told you that I oppose unilateral withdrawal without anything in return, that in my estimation will strengthen the forces of terror...

To my disappointment, the Government ignores reality. As I warned, the Hamas is strengthening, the terror continues, the firing of rockets and mortars on our communities has not ended, and terror elements proclaim that they will move the rockets that drove us out of the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria, and from there will operate them until “the complete liberation of Palestine.”

I do not know when the terror will break out in full force. It is possible that it will take a month or two or a year or two. It is possible that the terror will first break out in Judea and Samaria. I hope that it won’t break out at all. But just as I warned in 1993 that the Oslo Agreement will bring attacks from Judea and Samaria and rockets from Gaza, so I unfortunately am convinced today that the current move will bring in the course of time to an increase in terror rather than a decrease. As you know full well, security officials also confirm that in the wake of the unilateral withdrawal they expect an increase in terror in the mid-run.

In summary: it is becoming increasingly clear that the unilateral withdrawal under fire doesn’t give us anything. The opposite; it endanger the security of Israel, divide the Nation, and sets the principle of withdrawal to the ’67 lines that are no defendable...

After the terror attacks in New York, Washington, London and Sinai, the world begins to understand that it is necessary to fight terror and not make compromises. The international community understands more and more that it is impossible to fight terror by running away from it, because the accumulating experience shows that the terror only strengthens and pursues us. And yet Israel, which showed the world the way to fight terror, now, goes in the completely opposite direction...

Today we reached the moment of truth. There is a way to reach peace and security. Unilateral withdrawal under fire without compensation is not the way. I am not prepared to be a partner to a step that ignores reality and blindly advances the establishment of an Islamic terror base that will threaten the State. I am not prepared to be a partner to an irresponsible move that endanger the security of Israel, divides the Nation, sets the principle of withdrawal to the ’67 lines, and in the future even endangers the unity of Jerusalem.

Therefore I advise today of my resignation from the Government.

Best regards,
Binyamin Netanyahu

 

NAZI REMINDERS IN GAZA?

“Nazi reminders in Gaza? ” (By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, July 31, 2005)

... Let’s be clear: You don’t have to support disengagement to agree that the Nazi-talk is grotesque. The Israeli army is not the Gestapo. The peaceful Jewish residents who will be forced from the homes and land they love are not being sent to gas chambers. Sharon’s plan may be delusional -- instead of enabling Israelis to “disengage” from Palestinian violence, it will bring them more of it, and in deadlier forms -- but it isn’t the Final Solution.

And yet...

And yet there is no getting around the fact that Israel is about to become the first modern, Western nation in more than 60 years to forcibly uproot a whole population -- men, women, children, babies -- solely because they are Jews. There is no getting around the fact that the forthcoming expulsions are rooted in the belief that any future Palestinian state must be Judenrein -- emptied of its Jews. And while it goes without saying that Sharon and every member of his government abominate the Nazis and all they stood for, there is no getting around the fact that disengagement is meant to appease an enemy that has always regarded the genocidal hatred of Jews in a very different light...

... Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza changes nothing, the senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahard said recently. He told an Italian newspaper that Israel’s existence would be unacceptable even if it were to retreat to the armistice lines of 1949. “In the end, Palestine... must become Muslim,” he insisted. “And in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the Earth.”

The abandonment of Gaza and northern Samaria plays directly into the hands of the haters. The sight of Jewish troops expelling Jewish families from their homes and schools will do nothing to promote Arab-Israeli peace. It will reinforce instead the notion that any Jewish presence is intolerable on land the Arabs claim for themselves. And if that is an argument against Jewish life in Gaza, it is also an argument against Jewish life in Israel.

 

NO, WE ARE NOT BEHAVING LIKE NAZIS

“No, we are not behaving like Nazis” (By Isaac Herzog, The Guardian, August 2, 2005) (Herzog is an Israeli cabinet minister, from the Labor party.)

The coming days, weeks and months are going to be difficult for everyone in Israel and the Gaza Strip, but for the first time in decades there is genuine hope that this is the beginning of a process that can lead to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians...

Seen from the UK, the evacuation of 8,000 Jews from their homes may seem simple, straightforward even. But this disengagement will not be easy. Imagine the difficulty and controversy involved in relocating an entire town the size of Hartlepool or Maidstone, against the will of many residents, and you can begin to understand the complexity of the task ahead of us.

Yet, despite the difficulty, I believe Israeli democracy will face the challenge and be strengthened. The majority of Israelis continue to back the government as it embarks on this path because they are convinced that eventually the withdrawal will bear fruit - for Israel and the Palestinians. By withdrawing from Gaza, Israel will legally end the occupation of an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians. Israel will no longer need to set up checkpoints and roadblocks within Gaza, and evacuated settlements will provide desperately needed buildings to ease Gaza’s crowding. Most importantly, Israel will have shown that it is fully committed to a two-state solution...

... At the end of the day, we in Israel will move beyond our present disagreements. I believe that those who oppose our withdrawal from Gaza, such as my old teacher, will eventually come to see why leaving Gaza was inevitable. Should we succeed in carrying out the withdrawal smoothly, peacefully and quickly, and if the Palestinians can control their own opposition forces and make democracy prevail, hope will be restored for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel would much prefer to be the first democracy in the Middle East rather than the only one.

 



FULL ARTICLES

WHY SHARON’S CRITICS ARE CLUELESS ON GAZA

Why Sharon’s critics are clueless on Gaza
By Oliver Kamm
The Times of London
August 9, 2005

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1072-1726863,00.html

The obdurate reputation of Israel’s Prime Minister is far off the mark. He is creating the conditions for peace

Towards the end of her premiership, Margaret Thatcher sent a congratulatory telegram for the 75th birthday of the Israeli statesman and polymath Abba Eban, asking rhetorically: “How can one not give Abba Eban his due?” Eban, famous for his unfashionably dovish views and dry wit, remarked: “Actually, there are quite a few people in Israel who think it’s possible.”

Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, will be thinking along similar lines after the resignation of his Finance Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in protest at Mr Sharon’s plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Mr Netanyahu worries that Israel’s removal of settlements will encourage terrorism. He declares: “I am not willing to be part of a process that ignores reality and blindly proceeds to establish a base for Islamic terror that will threaten the entire country.” While the Israeli Cabinet has approved the plan, public support for it has been slipping.

Mr Netanyahu’s concerns are not groundless, but they are misguided. The principal threat to Israel from suicide terrorism comes from the West Bank, not Gaza, while the moral and prudential arguments for an eventual Palestinian state are unassailable. The merit of Mr Sharon’s strategy is that he recognises these realities while having a shrewder assessment of how to realise them than his foreign critics generally allow for.

Mr Sharon is typically characterised outside Israel as an obdurate warmonger. When he became Prime Minister in 2001 The Guardian headline ran “Israel gives up on peace with Sharon victory”. Sir Gerald Kaufman, the senior Labour MP, in 2002 condemned Mr Sharon as a “right-wing thug” whose policies were “not only unacceptable in humanitarian terms, but also seriously unsuccessful in dealing with the terrorism”. Last year Tony Baldry, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Select Committee on International Development, declared: “The construction of a security barrier higher than the Berlin Wall may bring the mirage of immediate security to Israelis, but the level of despair felt by Palestinians at being denied an ordinary life can only increase the supply of suicide bombers.”

Myths die hard. Increased security for Israeli civilians is not a mirage at all; Mr Sharon’s policies have been unambiguously successful in curbing terrorism. With the construction of a security barrier (not a “wall”, as anti-Israel campaigners habitually term it, but for most of its length a chain-linked wire fence that could be taken down within an afternoon) and the assassination of successive leaders of Hamas, the number of successful terrorist attacks within Israel fell by more than 75 per cent between 2002 and 2004. The breathing space that these policies have allowed Israelis has encouraged serious thinking about territorial compromise and the outlines of an eventual settlement with the Palestinians.

The dispiriting fact is that no negotiated two-state agreement is likely in the near future. Western commentators who speak of a two-state “solution” adopt a misnomer. A two-state arrangement, with Israel withdrawing to boundaries approximating the pre-1967 armistice line, is not a solution to the conflict, but an outcome of the end of the conflict. The end of the conflict requires something more deep-rooted: a changed relationship and mutual trust between Israelis and Palestinians. As an Israeli analyst, Dan Schueftan, says: “At this stage, it is extremely difficult to imagine how any amount of European funding or sponsorship could produce a mega-gimmick convincing enough to persuade Jews, except in the hard-core Left, to consider a refurbished version of the Oslo act of faith after that failed so miserably.”

This is the context in which Mr Sharon’s plan should be assessed. Israel within its pre-1967 borders was militarily indefensible. After the Six-Day War, in which Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, successive governments kept these territories juridically separate from Israel and treated them as bargaining counters for future negotiations. That consensus ended with the election of Likud governments in the late 1970s and 1980s, but since the collapse of negotiations at Camp David and Taba in 2000 and 2001 the political terrain has shifted again.

Israeli leftwingers have had to acknowledge the failure of the peace process established with the Oslo accord of 1993. Mr Sharon became Prime Minister because Yassir Arafat rejected the offer of an independent Palestinian state made at Taba, demanded a “right of return” for all Palestinian refugees a course incompatible with Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and declared a second intifada.

Mr Sharon, meanwhile, has taken the Right an important stage on from merely accepting the need for negotiations with the Palestinians, and has acknowledged that what he explicitly terms the “occupation of the West Bank” is untenable for Israel and for the Palestinians. His security measures have reinforced a consensus among Israelis for a strategy of defensive deterrence, withdrawal from settlements in Gaza, and direct negotiations for a Palestinian state. The prerequisites for a final settlement include Israelis’ confidence in the ability of the Palestinian leadership to crack down on terrorism and to make their administration of Gaza a success. Israel will feel secure enough to withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries only when it no longer believes they are continuously threatened. On any realistic assessment, this will take time.

That is why Gaza is important. Mr Sharon knows that Israeli security is ill-served by the diversion of effort to protect 8,000 Jewish settlers among 1.3 million Palestinians. To the settlers’ anguish, he is evicting them as part of a wider plan to create the conditions for dialogue. The wisest course for politicians outside the region is to cease attacking Mr Sharon for not being able to create peace by fiat. The cause of confidence-building and direct negotiations has never wanted for meddlesome outsiders; it should be given a chance to flourish unaided.

 

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU’S RESIGNATION LETTER

Text: Netanyahu’s Resignation Letter
[Unofficial translation from Hebrew]
August 7, 2005

Mr. Ariel Sharon
Prime Minister Jerusalem

Sir;

From the first conversation when you presented your plan to me, I told you that I oppose unilateral withdrawal without anything in return, that in my estimation will strengthen the forces of terror. As a minimum I asked for the inclusion of the settlement blocs within the security fence before the beginning of the withdrawal and the holding of the Philadephi Corridor in our hands. In this way we would be neutralizing the impression that we are running away from terror and instead shows that we are choosing a new defense line in accordance with out national interests. In addition, we set that after then the Government would be able to consider if to decide on the evacuation in light of the reality developing in the area.

To my sorrow, the security fence has not been completed around the settlement blocs, the Philadelphi Corridor will be handed over to the Palestinians, and worse than that, we will allow the Palestinians to open a sea port that will be open to the terror boats.

To my disappointment, the Government ignores reality. As I warned, the Hamas is strengthening, the terror continues, the firing of rockets and mortars on our communities has not ended, and terror elements proclaim that they will move the rockets that drove us out of the Gaza Strip to Judea and Samaria, and from there will operate them until “the complete liberation of Palestine.”

I do not know when the terror will break out in full force. It is possible that it will take a month or two or a year or two. It is possible that the terror will first break out in Judea and Samaria. I hope that it won’t break out at all. But just as I warned in 1993 that the Oslo Agreement will bring attacks from Judea and Samaria and rockets from Gaza, so I unfortunately am convinced today that the current move will bring in the course of time to an increase in terror rather than a decrease. As you know full well, security officials also confirm that in the wake of the unilateral withdrawal they expect an increase in terror in the mid-run.

In summary: it is becoming increasingly clear that the unilateral withdrawal under fire doesn’t give us anything. The opposite; it endanger the security of Israel, divide the Nation, and sets the principle of withdrawal to the 67’ lines that are no defendable.

This is not the way to achieve peace.

I always thought that the withdrawal from Gaza is possible in an agreement or for a reasonable consideration. That is not the case now. Therefore, what are we receiving in return for the withdrawal? What are we receiving for uprooting families with their children, their homes, their graves! We will receive an Islamic terror base.

After the terror attacks in New York, Washington, London and Sinai, the world begins to understand that it is necessary to fight terror and not make compromises. The international community understands more and more that it is impossible to fight terror by running away from it, because the accumulating experience shows that the terror only strengthens and pursues us. And yet Israel, which showed the world the way to fight terror, now, goes in the completely opposite direction.

In recent months I hoped that the Government would open its eyes against this clear reality and change direction. But the opposite happened. A balanced Government that reflected the will of the People in the last elections has turned into a Government that carries out automatically policies that oppose the principles of the Likud and the mandate that we received from our voters.

Mister Prime Minister, you could have kept a balanced National Government. You could have prevented the splitting of the Nation. Over the course of months I asked for a national referendum that would maintain unity in the Government and the Nation. To my sorrow, you chose to oppose it, as before you chose to ignore the referendum of the Likud members that you initiated and whose results you promised to honor. Now, in these hard days before us, the need for reserve, control and responsibility from all parts of the Nation and the Government is greater than ever.

All this time I remained in the Government despite my growing opposition to the withdrawal given the developments. I did this as an attempt to minimize the dangers and damages resulting from the unilateral withdrawal. An attempt that to my sorrow has been exhausted. And I did it out of responsibility to my position as minister of the treasury. We are in the middle of carrying out a revolution of reforms and privatizations unprecedented in the market, which will strengthen the State of Israel and its economy. These days I completed the two last reforms, in banks and reducing taxes, and I prepared a responsible State budget that I developed in complete coordination with you.

When I entered my position two and a half years ago, the Israeli economy was on the edge of collapse. Today this economy is healthy, growing and vibrant. If the economic policies that I led are not changed, the growth will continue and reach all parts of the Nation.

Today we reached the moment of truth. There is a way to reach peace and security. Unilateral withdrawal under fire without compensation is not the way. I am not prepared to be a partner to a step that ignores reality and blindly advances the establishment of an Islamic terror base that will threaten the State. I am not prepared to be a partner to an irresponsible move that endanger the security of Israel, divides the Nation, sets the principle of withdrawal to the 67’ lines, and in the future even endangers the unity of Jerusalem.

Therefore I advise today of my resignation from the Government.

Best regards,
Binyamin Netanyahu

 

NAZI REMINDERS IN GAZA?

Nazi reminders in Gaza?
By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
July 31, 2005

www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/07/31/nazi_reminders_in_gaza/

A reader e-mails a link to a news item from Gaza, where some Jewish residents have “tattooed” their national ID numbers on their arms, Auschwitz-style a bitter gesture of protest against their forthcoming expulsion. My correspondent’s comment is blunt. “Misusing Holocaust language and imagery,” she writes. “Utterly disgusting -- makes me have less sympathy for them.”

In just over two weeks, tens of thousands of Israeli troops are scheduled to carry out Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “disengagement” -- the forced evacuation of every Jewish resident in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. In a country deeply scarred by Holocaust memories, it was inevitable that the wholesale transfer of more than 9,000 Jews from communities where some of them have lived for decades would trigger angry -- and anguished -- comparisons to Nazism.

In the village of Elei Sinai, some residents plan to wear concentration-camp uniforms or yellow stars with the word “Jude” on the day they are expelled. A Likud Party faction opposed to disengagement calls it “an order the likes of which were last signed in German.” A member of Israel’s parliament set off a storm when he said, “Maybe we killed Eichmann for no reason, because he was also just following orders.”

Such Nazi allusions have been sharply condemned. The Anti-Defamation League called them an “inexcusable perversion of history,” and Yad Vashem, Israel’s renowned Holocaust research institute, warned that they “damage the memory of the Shoah.” Some of Sharon’s allies on the left, oblivious to such niceties as freedom of speech, even proposed making the non-historical use of Holocaust terminology an offense punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Let’s be clear: You don’t have to support disengagement to agree that the Nazi-talk is grotesque. The Israeli army is not the Gestapo. The peaceful Jewish residents who will be forced from the homes and land they love are not being sent to gas chambers. Sharon’s plan may be delusional -- instead of enabling Israelis to “disengage” from Palestinian violence, it will bring them more of it, and in deadlier forms -- but it isn’t the Final Solution.

And yet . . .

And yet there is no getting around the fact that Israel is about to become the first modern, Western nation in more than 60 years to forcibly uproot a whole population -- men, women, children, babies -- solely because they are Jews. There is no getting around the fact that the forthcoming expulsions are rooted in the belief that any future Palestinian state must be Judenrein -- emptied of its Jews. And while it goes without saying that Sharon and every member of his government abominate the Nazis and all they stood for, there is no getting around the fact that disengagement is meant to appease an enemy that has always regarded the genocidal hatred of Jews in a very different light.

Long before there were “occupied territories,” Haj Amin El-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem and the leader of Palestine’s Arabs, urged Hitler to “solve the problem of the Jewish elements in Palestine and other Arab countries... by the same method that the question is now being settled in the Axis countries.” When five Arab armies invaded the newborn Israel in 1948, the secretary-general of the Arab League vowed to wage “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”

More than half a century later, what has changed? The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is the author of a book denying the Holocaust and claiming that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis against the Jews of Europe. Palestinian Authority TV broadcasts poisonous diatribes, like one Friday sermon by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris. “The Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers,” he preached. “The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature and have been throughout history.”

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza changes nothing, the senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahard said recently. He told an Italian newspaper that Israel’s existence would be unacceptable even if it were to retreat to the armistice lines of 1949. “In the end, Palestine... must become Muslim,” he insisted. “And in the long term Israel will disappear from the face of the Earth.”

The abandonment of Gaza and northern Samaria plays directly into the hands of the haters. The sight of Jewish troops expelling Jewish families from their homes and schools will do nothing to promote Arab-Israeli peace. It will reinforce instead the notion that any Jewish presence is intolerable on land the Arabs claim for themselves. And if that is an argument against Jewish life in Gaza, it is also an argument against Jewish life in Israel.

 

NO, WE ARE NOT BEHAVING LIKE NAZIS

No, we are not behaving like Nazis
Israel’s disengagement is the best hope for lasting peace in decades
By Isaac Herzog (Israeli cabinet minister, from the Labor party)
The Guardian
August 2, 2005

www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,10551,1540857,00.html

The coming days, weeks and months are going to be difficult for everyone in Israel and the Gaza Strip, but for the first time in decades there is genuine hope that this is the beginning of a process that can lead to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

On August 15 Israel will begin withdrawing more than 8,000 of its citizens from the entire Gaza Strip and more than 300 sq miles of the northern West Bank. And it will happen, whatever obstacles are placed in our way.

We have had plenty of talk over the years, but progress towards peace and an end to this senseless violence will not happen through talk but through actions. And the disengagement is genuine, positive action - a step to break the deadlock, to reinvigorate the peace process. But this step does not come without pain and controversy. Indeed the strain on our democratic values has been considerable, with large parts of Israeli society refusing to accept the government’s bold move.

I recently received a letter from a former high-school teacher of mine in Tel Aviv. He was liberated from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp by a British army unit in which my father served. He was criticising me for working on the government’s plan to withdraw from 21 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank. “How dare you pull Jews out of their homes?” he wrote. “This is just like what the Nazis did to us!”

Sadly, I am no longer surprised when a Jew compares me and other Israeli officials to Nazis. It has become part of the rhetoric of those who oppose withdrawal. What concerns me more than these comparisons is the fact that, while most settlers are likely to leave of their own volition, tensions here in Israel are starting to reach the point where a tiny minority may use violent resistance to try to foil the withdrawal.

Seen from the UK, the evacuation of 8,000 Jews from their homes may seem simple, straightforward even. But this disengagement will not be easy. Imagine the difficulty and controversy involved in relocating an entire town the size of Hartlepool or Maidstone, against the will of many residents, and you can begin to understand the complexity of the task ahead of us.

Yet, despite the difficulty, I believe Israeli democracy will face the challenge and be strengthened. The majority of Israelis continue to back the government as it embarks on this path because they are convinced that eventually the withdrawal will bear fruit - for Israel and the Palestinians. By withdrawing from Gaza, Israel will legally end the occupation of an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians. Israel will no longer need to set up checkpoints and roadblocks within Gaza, and evacuated settlements will provide desperately needed buildings to ease Gaza’s crowding. Most importantly, Israel will have shown that it is fully committed to a two-state solution.

Still, like all such undertakings, withdrawal is fraught with risks. While the disengagement plan should prove to the Palestinians and the Arab world that Israel is serious about peace and the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the withdrawal risks sending the wrong message: Palestinians may come to believe that terrorism is what forced Israel from Gaza.

Like many Israelis I am fearful that rather than leading to a reduction in terrorism, the disengagement plan may be used as an excuse by the Palestinian terrorists for further violence.

This is why it is critical that the entire Palestinian leadership face their own challenge and make it clear to their own people that Israel’s leaving Gaza does not represent a victory for armed struggle. Rather it is proof that peaceful means will bring Palestinians closer to fulfilling their hopes for independence than years of senseless violence have. Should the majority of Palestinians see the withdrawal for what it is - a bold step towards an elusive peace then Israel’s move will reignite hope that a broader, negotiated two-state solution is possible.

Beyond rhetoric, it is imperative that Palestinian leaders prevent the terrorists trying to fire on Israelis during the withdrawal. Equally, they must ensure that the land Israel leaves behind does not fall into the hands of Hamas, but rather goes towards easing the plight of the refugees in Gaza.

At the end of the day, we in Israel will move beyond our present disagreements. I believe that those who oppose our withdrawal from Gaza, such as my old teacher, will eventually come to see why leaving Gaza was inevitable. Should we succeed in carrying out the withdrawal smoothly, peacefully and quickly, and if the Palestinians can control their own opposition forces and make democracy prevail, hope will be restored for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel would much prefer to be the first democracy in the Middle East rather than the only one.

(Isaac Herzog is the minister of construction and housing in the Israeli government)


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.