More on The Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza Settlements
In this post below I commented on an editorial by Tom Friedman of the New York Times, in which Friedman discusses the Gaza settlement withdrawal. He concluded with this remarkable comment:
[T]his withdrawal is a threat to the Jewish religious nationalists. Their goalWell, frequent guest poster and honorary Hedgehog Ralph Kostant has some thoughts about Mr. Friedman's summation:
is not peace, but to conquer Israeli society with their messianic vision and
biblical map. They killed Mr. Rabin for getting in their way and have threatened
to do the same to Mr. Sharon. Some of these settlers will not go down quietly.
Tom Friedman has stooped to slander in his attack on the Israeli settlers and their supporters who oppose unilateral disengagement in Gaza. Are there extremists among the settlers and their supporters, who might attempt violence against Prime Minister Sharon? Very possibly, but those extremists number more than a few hundred amongst the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of opponents of Sharon's policy. Indeed, Ariel Sharon himself won his office by expressly opposing the policy of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza advocated by his Labor Party opponent, Amram Mitzna. The leaders of the settler movement, including the rabbis whom Friedman would have us believe are a bunch of Jewish al Qaeda mullahs, have responsibly called for only non-violent civil disobedience in opposing the removal of the Gaza settlements.
Friedman has imported into Israeli politics the same tactics used by abortion rights advocates against the pro-life movement, whom they portray as a league of clinic bombers and doctor murderers. Have there been incidents where abortion clinics have been bombed, and abortionists threatened or even murdered? Tragically, yes. But no one can fairly argue that those crimes are representative of the pro-choice movement as a whole. In short, this is another example of the left-wing McCarthyism.
There is one huge group of religious fanatics involved in the debate over removal of settlements, but that group consists of the supporters of Sharon's policy, not its opponents. They display unquestioning, quasi-religious support of settlement removal, despite the disastrous experience of the Oslo Accords, and all of the evidence that Israel is setting itself up for a repetition of the Oslo fiasco.
In the case of Oslo, like the present situation, opponents of Prime Minister Rabin's policies were portrayed by Rabin's government, the U.S. State Department, and the liberal Jewish elites in Israel and the United States, as enemies of peace and religious fanatics. All of the evidence--and it was unrelenting--that Yassir Arafat and the PLO were only using Oslo as a tactic toward the ultimate goal of the destruction of Israel--was ignored in favor of blind faith that all would come out well if Israel only gave peace a chance.
Arafat would advocate peace in his English speeches, but then call for the end of Israel in his Arabic ones. The Palestinian broadcasting system and the Palestinian school curriculum, established under the auspices of the Oslo Accords, spewed forth anti-Israel provocation, including the crudest, boldest anti-Semitism since the end of World War II put Joseph Goebbels out of business. When opponents of Oslo (including such "religious fanatics" as Natan Sharansky and Benjamin Netanyahu) would point to these phenomena and urge caution, the pro-Oslo fanatics would insist that Israel must make even more concessions to the Palestinian Authority, in order to prop up Arafat and appease the "Arab street."
This attitude only ended after the eruption of the second intifada following Clinton's failed Camp David conference, at which Prime Minister Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian State on upwards of 90% of Gaza and the West Bank and sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount. Arafat 's response was to flatly reject the offer and insist on the Palestinian Arab right of return, a code phrase for the end of Israel as a Jewish State.
Then the scales fell from the eyes of the Oslo supporters, including even Tom Friedman, who wrote that henceforth he would only give credence to speeches that Arafat made in Arabic.
Perhaps the best epitaph to Oslo was given by the late Faisal Husseini, a member of Arafat's governing council, in a May 2001 interview with an Egyptian newspaper, just before his death from a heart attack. Husseini, who the Israeli Left had always held up a a model of Palestinian moderation, explained that the entire Oslo peace process, from the PLO perspective, had been a "wooden horse" (his words) like that used by the Greek Army to conquer Troy. It was designed to allow the PLO to return from exile and establish a military force inside Gaza and the West Bank. The ultimate and only acceptable objective, he stated, was Palestinian sovereignty from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Interested readers may read this translation of the entire Husseini interview.
Has anything changed? Palestinians are already portraying the Israeli withdrawal as a Palestinian military triumph, proving the efficacy of violent resistance to Israel. The commander of the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli intelligence are warning that the Palestinian militias are smuggling huge quantities of arms, including rockets and mortars, not only into the Gaza, but also into the West Bank. They are predicting that immediately after the proposed withdrawal the Palestinians will renew warfare against Israel. Only this time, the terroists will be launching their rockets and mortars from the heights of the West Bank at the thickly populated urban heartland of Israel, and from northern Gaza at the Israel's strategically critical port facilities and oil terminals in the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.
And what is the reaction of the Sharon government, the State Department and the liberal Jewish elites in the U.S. and Israel to these warnings? When they do not simply ignore them, they respond that these far-reaching concessions, and even more, are necessary in order to prop up the government of PLA President Mahmoud Abbas and placate the Arab street. Who are the blind religious fanatics?
Note to Cutler: Recent demographic research has indicated that the so-called demographic argument for withdrawal may well be bogus--the population increase among Palestinian Arabs has been greatly overstated and the relative percentages of Jews and Palestinians in Israel, including "occupied" Gaza and the West Bank, has in fact remained constant over the past 15 years.