A Summer of Scandals

It was only to be expected that this criminal activity would be followed by an attempt to demonize the residents of Gush Katif and their supporters, presumably giving the architects of disengagement the moral high ground.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on July 5, 2005.)

It’s going to be a hot Israeli summer, hotter than usual. Blood pressures are already going up as we witness scandalous behavior committed by people who insist they have the best interests of the country at heart.

It began with the article by Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus entitled “Corruption can wait.” Who can justify the thesis put forth in this article by the highly regarded columnist, who was chosen by the prime minister to break the news of his plan for disengagement?

The press, which is supposed to be the watchdog, snooping out corruption in government, is called on to enforce an embargo on going after corruption, while knowing full well that this scourge has to be cleaned out before it grows to unmanageable proportions.

If Marcus is to be believed, uprooting the residents of Gush Katif and northern Samaria is well worth some corruption in government. When every last Jew has been cleared out of these areas, and corrupt government has flourished in the meantime, the people of Israel are presumably going to be better off. It is hard to believe many Israelis share that view.

Next comes the Jewish Agency – an anachronistic bureaucratic structure dating back to the days of Herzl – which should have gone out of existence when the State of Israel was established. It lays claim to presiding over the relations between Israel and the Jewish people in the Diaspora.

Anyone seeking the job of chairman must first be pronounced eligible by a council of unelected representatives of Diaspora philanthropy. This arcane procedure is reminiscent of the ayatollahs in Iran ruling on the eligibility of candidates for the Iranian parliament before they can compete in the elections there, making a laughing stock of what are supposed to be democratic elections.

Whereas one might have thought this was no more than an empty formality in the Jewish Agency, along they come and announce after some deliberation that Natan Sharansky is not eligible for this august post. So what if he is a hero of the Jewish people who took on the KGB leading the fight for the right of Jews in the Soviet Union to emigrate to Israel? So what if he spent nine years in Soviet jails, threatened by a death sentence? So what if every Israeli politician worth his salt fought for the opportunity to be photographed with him on his arrival in Israel? So what if his moral stature is unmatched by any other Jewish leader today? These Lilliputians have decided that he is ineligible. The reason, presumably, is that he opposes the removal of the Jews of Gush Katif and northern Samaria from their homes. Support of this plan has suddenly been made a requirement for anyone who wants to compete for the post of chairman of the Jewish Agency.

Now that these representatives of Diaspora philanthropists have had their hour of glory, the time has come to close down this unnecessary and wasteful institution.

Then comes the worst of all – at least so far. Insisting that opposition to the disengagement plan warrants any and all acts of violence, the crazy fringe that has attached itself to the large segment of the Israeli public that opposes this plan began endangering the lives of Israeli citizens traveling on the roads. Blocking highways, wasting people’s time. Then escalating to spilling oil on the roads and dispersing nails, endangering the lives of drivers. Encouraged by these acts, or maybe in cahoots with their perpetrators, teenagers wrapped in the Israeli flag began taking over abandoned buildings near Gush Katif and engaging in rock-throwing duels with local Palestinian youngsters, causing serious injury. This scandalous activity has now reached life-threatening proportions.

It was only to be expected that this criminal activity would be followed by an attempt to demonize the residents of Gush Katif and their supporters, presumably giving the architects of disengagement the moral high ground. But there is little morality in wrenching people out of their homes. You can declaim a thousand times that this decision has been taken by a democratic majority in the government (after ministers were fired to create this majority), and by a majority of the members of the Knesset (after some were promised ministerial and deputy ministerial positions in return for voting for this plan), and that the High Court of Justice has declared the decision to be legal, but the moral basis of this decision remains highly questionable. The scandals accompanying the preparations for its execution only make matters worse.


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