The revolt against disengagement is such that even its fiercest critics must admit there has never been anything like this in the history of Israeli protest.
These protests are more furious than the virulent demonstrations under Menachem Begin against German reparations. They are wider and deeper than the street rallies against the war in Lebanon. The orange rebellion can be compared only to those of the 1960s and 1970s in Europe and the United States, against the withdrawal from Algeria, against the Vietnam War, against everything. Here, this is an unprecedented phenomenon.
In a society that is more disciplined and policed than it is prepared to admit, emotional power, human resources and such impressive organization have never before come together for such a fundamental struggle. True, most Israelis complain, but not many have joined a significant communal protest. Israelis erupted at the beginning of the last decade into a deep loathing of corruption. After the limited achievement of a change in the election method, the feeling dissipated. As Israelis became more spoiled and aimless, even the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin didn't bring them to their feet. It primarily wrought the vague, mumbled lamentations of flower children by candlelight in public squares.
The French insurrection, which became heated in May 1968, was described by analysts of the time as one of the most important revolutions of the century. This was a protest for no particular reason, and therefore had widespread power and crossed all bounds. "Be realistic; demand the impossible," went one of the many protest slogans. The unrest, a combination of many material and spiritual grievances, played a large role in shaping the France of following decades. Beforehand, during a dangerous national crisis and circumstances quite similar to ours, the rebellion against withdrawing from Algeria turned France's stomach and came to the point of an attempted assassination of Charles de Gaulle, a horror we were to experience.
So, too, in the United States of the 1960s, a cultural revolution from which many elderly Americans have yet to recover. Vietnam was the trigger for the next American rebellion; besides hatred for the war, it also kept up the confusion of the Beat generation, the flower children, the lost generation. In its extensive scope, including the unprecedented killing of Kent State University students by Ohio National Guard members, it shocked America. And Germany and South America have known their share of painful eras of corrosive unrest, replete with victims of radical violence.
Israel has now come to such an exposure of its internal rifts. How many years could we talk about conflicts (Ashkenazim and Sephardim, religious and secular, rich and poor) before an authentic huge protest ensued from one of these channels? But the orange rebellion, like that of the heroes of the revolt in the West, goes beyond the immediate cause. It's a battle about an idea, about a way of life. There has been nothing like it, even after the "conception" was shattered in 1973, immediately after which Israelis went ahead like good children to vote again for Golda Meir and her ilk.
It became clear yesterday that the State of Israel has not managed to stand up to tens of thousands of demonstrators any more than it was able to defeat a handful of settlers a generation ago, from Hebron to Sebastia, in a capitulation that started this mess.
Today, in the field more than in the Knesset, will emerge a major test ahead of the events of the coming month. By its outcome, the future of this place will largely be determined. For this reason, the revolt can also be welcomed. In contrast to their brothers in the West, this rebellion is homogeneous, of a particular ideological slant, primarily on the periphery. The large cities won't support it, except for Jerusalem, the concrete-covered capital that is also gradually becoming part of the Israeli periphery. But the orange rebellion is bringing the most important conflict in the history of the country to a resolution. It will determine the country's future. Therefore, the failure of the rebellion must be clearly recorded. It ought to be a clear victory - not for the government or Ariel Sharon, but for the national position supporting major withdrawals in the future, as well, and the return of territories in exchange for an agreement.
If the disengagement revolt had not existed, it would have had to be invented. Israel needed it to put an end to the long-extended pretense that with some understanding, compassion and unity it would be possible to formulate a sustainable, coherent policy here. The mother of a 16-year-old girl, held in custody for disturbing the peace, complained on television yesterday that the arrest warrant says "State of Israel against Penina Ben Maimon." Yes, Mrs. Ben Maimon, because the headline is State of Israel vs. Orange, in the case of its revolt against the country, its decisions and its laws.
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