|By Roland S. Süssmann - Editor in Chief|
“And now what am I going to do?” sang Gilbert Bécaud. The title of one of the most beautiful French songs ever well sums up Israel’s situation today. Following the uprooting of the Jews of Gaza and Samaria, the questions are as numerous as before the tragedy: the so-called peace process has not advanced an inch and on the international scene the Jewish State remains a “pariah state”, which flouts the basic human rights of the poor Arabs of Palestine. It is true that at the UN A. Sharon garnered praise and applause, and even handshakes from several Muslim leaders. But not more than that!
Before analyzing the current political realities, we must pay a tribute to what the expelled heroes of Gush Katif have achieved. Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to these families, who for years have practiced true Zionism, making the desert flower, defending the Jewish state with their bodies, subject virtually every day to Arab violence. Among them are many who have lost dear ones or have had their children maimed. They left with their heads held high, declining to use violence to oppose their expulsion, well aware of the consequences of a civil war in Israel. “Defended Israel with their bodies?” Really? For more than thirty years the presence of Israeli civilians in Gush Katif, together with the army, constituted a security zone for all the villages and kibbutzim in the Negev, who thus prospered peacefully ever since 1967. Now they will be protected at the risk to life and limb to Israeli soldiers, because it will be illusory to believe that the army’s electronic devices will be able to replace the Jewish presence in Gush Katif. Less than a week after the IDF’s retreat, all the inhabitants of the northern Negev were confined to their homes for several hours, after terrorists from Gaza had infiltrated the village of Netiv Ha’Asara, near kibbutz Yad Mordechai. At the same time, Egypt immediately opened up its border with Gaza. In just three days it let in more arms and explosives than the amount smuggled in during the whole year preceding the IDF’s retreat from the Philadelphia route. Over the last four years many Israeli soldiers lost their lives there in the fight against arms smuggling.
Today the Arabs and the Left are jubilant. “At last Sharon has done something sensible… a promising start!” They consider the crime of having expelled thousands of Jews from their homes as the first step to the accomplishment of their dream, not peace or some form of peaceful coexistence between two populations, but the final solution for a pacified Middle East: the creation of an Islamic state within Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital. Not East Jerusalem, Jerusalem. It is proof of lack of perspicacity and political vision to think that in the Arab world there is a so-called “moderate” trend (moderate towards who, towards what?). The moment the last Israeli soldier had quit Gaza, the “good” Abu Abbas declared, not in Arabic but in English, so that it would be crystal clear for all, “We are celebrating the first victory of the Jihad. The struggle continues”. The Arab objectives from 1948 have not been abandoned. Almost 60 years after the creation of Israel, they still have the same purpose, which has served five occasions of armed aggression as well as terrorism: the destruction of the Jewish state and its replacement by another Arab state.
Jewish history does not forget and does not forgive. Ariel Sharon, his government and the 16th Knesset will go down in the annals of the Jewish people as the legislature that through weakness rewarded Arab terrorism and the assassination and mutilation of thousands of Jews.
Today Israel no longer has any responsibility for the population of Gaza. However, tomorrow, on account of the increasing number of acts of terrorism emanating from Gaza and the anarchy reigning there, the army will have to take back control of this strip of land, just as it will have to go back into all the territory abandoned to the PLO since 1993. It will be the only way to carry out its duty, to protect Israel’s citizens. Unfortunately, in the meantime the present euphoria, rather limited in Israel, will quickly be replaced by grief and mourning, as happened after the Oslo Accords.
In his speech to the UN, Ariel Sharon offered the Arabs peace, as Ehud Barak had done at the Camp David summit in July 2000. That failed, because despite the major concessions by Israel, Arafat refused to end the conflict. The differences then still remain the same: the refugees, frontiers, Jerusalem and security arrangements on the West Bank. On the first point, in an article that recently appeared in the London newspaper Al-Hayat, Abu Mazen wrote, “The return of the refugees can only take place in Israel and not in a Palestinian state. We were shocked by George Bush’s proposal to keep Israel as a Jewish state, because we hoped to drown the country with hundreds of thousands of refugees who would replace the Jewish majority”. The message is clear. As far as the question of borders is concerned, the PLO not only claims a return to those of 1967, which means the total liquidation of all the Jewish population centers in Judea and Samaria, but also part of the Latrun area, which includes part of the Jerusalem – Tel-Aviv highway. On the question of Jerusalem, in addition to wanting to make it the capital of a future Palestinian state, Abu Mazen demands the destruction of Jewish residential areas on its periphery, and says, “There can be a connection between the Jews and the Wailing Wall, but that is not a reason to keep it under Israeli sovereignty”. As to security arrangements, the PLO rejects any form of Israeli presence on the West Bank. Twelve years after Oslo, when the whole world is talking of new opportunities – the disappearance of Arafat from the scene and the retreat from Gaza – even a symbolic agreement that would allow some form of peaceable communal life and guarantee Israel at least defensible borders, is as far away as ever.
Under such conditions, what can be done – what should be done? For us the Jews of the Diaspora, despite the trauma of the expulsions, there is no question of reconsidering our support for Israel. We are devoted to the Jewish state and not to a government. As for Israel, it knows what it must do: in order to negotiate from a position of strength it must strengthen its Jewish identity and develop in the military, economic and scientific fields. Perhaps tomorrow, the world’s high and mighty will not come banging on the doors of a Prime Minister because he will have capitulated, but in order to benefit from all the advantages Israel can offer mankind.
The year that is ending has left behind a bitter taste. Let us go into the new year in the spirit of that verse from the prophet Jeremiah, which General Gershon Hacohen, commander of the disengagement, put at the beginning of his Order of the Day to the men who unarmed carried out the uprooting of the Gush Katif families. “Just as I worked against them to uproot, overturn, demolish, destroy and turn into ruins, so shall I work for them, to build and plant, says the Almighty”.
It is in this constructive and authentically Jewish spirit that the entire SHALOM team wishes you a happy New Year.
Roland S. Süssmann
Editor in Chief - October 2005