The deportation of the Jews from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria over the past week and a half and surrounding events have put paid to two of the foundational myths of the narrative that has been propounded for the past 30 years by the Israeli and international Left.
In attempting to analyze these traumatic events in a manner that will – at least to a degree – mitigate the dangers to Israeli security that the expulsions have engendered, it is important to identify these myths and dispel them now. For if we do not do so, we will find ourselves, again, waging an uphill battle to dispel these lies after the next die has been cast in favor of still more Israeli retreats and expulsions – this time from Judea and Samaria.
And so, even as our souls cry out in pain as we stare wild-eyed at the sight of 8,000 Jewish patriots, transformed in a moment into homeless, wandering Jews in the Land of Israel, our duty is to soldier on and work to preempt further destruction.
The foundational myth of the Left is that Jewish extremism, not Palestinian terrorism, is the cause of Israel's present security woes and the source of the constant wars that have plagued us since the dawn of modern Zionism. What we saw this week was that these people – whom one British reporter standing outside the synagogue in the now-ruined city of Neveh Dekalim ever so eloquently referred to last Thursday as "the hardest of the hard-line settlers" – are anything but extreme.
The expelled residents of Gush Katif – from the farmers of Atzmona, Katif, Netzarim, Netzer Hazani and Kfar Darom, the surfers and fishermen of Shirat Hayam, the Torah scholars of Neveh Dekalim and the mothers of Gadid – are not "hard-line" or "extremists." They are the finest sons and daughters of Israel. They are the bravest soldiers in the IDF and the most patriotic citizens that Israel has produced.
This truth was exposed to all in their darkest hour. As they were physically ejected from their homes and synagogues, they behaved with the most exquisite patriotism, heroism and humility. In combat, heroism is a matter of common sense – of survival. Patriotism on the battlefield of war is everywhere clear and unimpeded. You stand before an enemy bent on your physical destruction and your job is to kill him first while protecting your comrades.
The heroism the Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria displayed in the face of their own destruction is of another order altogether. Standing before their own army, on the surface, they were faced with a terrible choice. Do they fight their countrymen to maintain their communities, or do they accept their cruel and inexplicable fate?
Yet the truth of the matter is that this was never their dilemma. A glance at the murals on the walls of the schools in Atzmona and Neveh Dekalim and a look at the faces of these Jews showed clearly that for the residents of Gush Katif, there is no difference between their faith in the God of Israel and their loyalty to the State of Israel. Their dilemma, as events proved, was of a different and more tortuous nature. Given their complete loyalty to the state, how do they abandon their lives' work and still maintain their honor and the honor of the work of their hands for the past three generations?
In this near-surreal mix, the deported Jews found the golden path. The exodus of the Jews of Netzarim from their synagogue, standing behind their menora; the embracing of the IDF and police forces who came to expel them by the residents of Katif and Atzmona, followed by quiet exoduses from their homes – these decisions, and a million smaller and greater ones, belied the propaganda that these Jews are an obstacle to peace. It exposed as a lie the insistent rantings of the Left and the international community that these peaceful patriots, in or out of their communities, manifest in any way, shape or form an obstacle to peace with a credible Arab partner who is willing to accept coexistence with the Jewish state, whatever its borders may be.
WHEN WE contrast the behavior of the expelled Jews to that of the Palestinians over the same period, we see, too, that for the Palestinians, terrorism is not a weapon of weakness or evidence of desperation, but rather a strategic choice. It is a weapon that defines them as a society as much as moderation and humility characterize the now homeless Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria.
As the IDF and police passed through the gates of Neveh Dekalim, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei entered the gates of Damascus. There he met with the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and negotiated an agreement that their forces in Gaza, Judea and Samaria will not be disarmed or harmed in any way. Exiting the meeting with Qurei, the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad told reporters that there is no reason for a Palestinian civil war since they share the PA's strategy.
For the past two weeks, Gaza has been one great parade ground, with armed terrorists from all factions walking the streets and declaring victory. The banners and graffiti tell the entire tale: "Four years of intifada: Victory; Ten years of Oslo: Nothing!" The terror leaders themselves have held press conference after press conference saying that they are moving their battle to Judea and Samaria and will transfer their rockets and mortars to the edges of the urban centers of Israel – Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Hadera, Netanya.
PA chieftain Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly dismissed the Gaza pullout, scoffing that the area comprises "only five percent of Palestine." Like his lieutenants Muhammad Dahlan and Qurei, Abbas has repeatedly threatened that unless Israel immediately follows the withdrawal from Gaza with further withdrawals in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, the terror will continue. And it already has. On Thursday rockets again rained down on Sderot and Wednesday night 21 year old Shmuel Mett was stabbed to death in Jerusalem.
All of this is important to note because neither the Israeli Left nor US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice even bothered to wait until the expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria was completed before stating outright that the next step must be further expulsions of Jews in Judea and Samaria and further land transfers to the Palestinians. The notion, as former prime minister Ehud Barak said in a radio interview last week, is apparently that since it is so easy to throw Jews out of their homes, we might as well do more of it. The fact that this logic denies the greater truth that was made clear to one and all this week – that the Jews are not the problem, the Palestinian addiction to terror and destruction is the problem – matters neither to Barak nor to his American and European protean chorus of nincompoops.
BUT BEFORE we find ourselves faced with yet more withdrawals and expulsions, agreed to in backrooms, far from public scrutiny, let us understand that retreats from Judea and Samaria manifest a danger of a magnitude far greater than the ill-conceived retreat from Gaza. And let the facts speak for themselves.
Last Friday, an al-Qaida squad bombed the Eilat airport with Katyusha rockets launched from Jordan. Jordan, as we know, is a country that is actually working to root out terrorist cells. And yet, in spite of the kingdom's best efforts, it has not been successful. In contrast, again, the PA has made its territory one of the safest havens for terrorists in the world. If Kassam and Katyusha rockets in the south from Gaza or Aqaba cause a danger to the life of civilians in the periphery, the danger such weapons will constitute if launched from Judea and Samaria present a strategic threat to the state.
Were Katyusha rockets to start falling on runways at Ben-Gurion Airport or on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, Israel's economy would simply cease to function. Given the state of Pa
lestinian society, and simple geography, it is both logically incoherent and strategically ridiculous to think that any withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would do anything other than enable and encourage such attacks.
Furthermore, since the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Left in Israel has been arguing that the threat from the east has disappeared and as a result, Israel no longer needs defensible borders.
According to the logic of this second myth, Israel can and ought to hand the sparsely populated Jordan Valley over to the PLO. But the noise coming from Iraq and Washington these days tells a different tale entirely. While it is true that US President George W. Bush has pledged to remain in Iraq until the Iraqi government is able to maintain security, there is no reason to think that such a government will be at peace with Israel.
Since it toppled Saddam's regime, the US has done absolutely nothing to discourage continued Iraqi rejection of Israel's right to exist or the bellicose statements in favor of Israel's destruction which have been heard from all quarters.
The best-case scenario for Israel from a post-US withdrawal Iraq is that Iraq will act in a manner similar to Saudi Arabia in its dealings with the Jewish state. That is, it will not actively fight us, but it will fund and train terrorists who will fight Israel and will maintain its stridently anti-Israel position both in international forums and in its own society. In any case, there has been no indication whatsoever that Washington cares about fostering peaceful relations between Israel and post-Saddam Iraq and as a result, it is simply irresponsible for Israeli leaders to consider withdrawing from our eastern border on the Jordan River.
The last two weeks have indeed been illuminating. But it is the responsibility of all who are concerned about Israel's security and future viability both in Israel and internationally to relentlessly point out the truths that have been exposed. For against this self-evident reality, the forces are already lined up to deny them and plow on with the same policies that have been refuted by reality for the past 12 years.
The nightmare that Israel has endured with the destruction of Jewish Gaza and northern Samaria must be a starting point for a new period in our history. And this period can only begin with the repudiation of the mythology of the Left.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.