When the government loses control
The goal of the mass protest is to change the Knesset's decision to uproot Gush Katif. For many, particularly the adults, who constitute a fairly impressive proportion of the marchers, this is a giant protest rally, the likes of which, in terms of both size and power, may never before have been seen in Israel.
At about 2 A.M., during the mass march from Netivot to Kfar Maimon, a well-known figure who "does not belong" - who supports the disengagement in principle - suddenly appeared. And then, as if apologizing, he left before dawn, before his acquaintances in the top ranks of the army and police could recognize him.
What brought him here? Over the last few months, he has realized the decision to disengage was not businesslike, did not take into account crucial security factors and, because of clear political leanings, seriously damaged key state institutions, such as the legal system. What broke him was the decision by Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia to remand a 14-year-old girl until the end of proceedings. The girl did indeed break the law, and he opposes blocking roads. But this was an unprecedented decision, which the juvenile courts, which uphold the principle of preventive rather than retributive justice, utterly opposed. And when, following this injustice by the Supreme Court, he heard on the radio about the arbitrary blocking of the buses, he decided to join the march, incognito.
The goal of the mass protest is to change the Knesset's decision to uproot Gush Katif. For many, particularly the adults, who constitute a fairly impressive proportion of the marchers, this is a giant protest rally, the likes of which, in terms of both size and power, may never before have been seen in Israel. And the principal address for the protest, the frustration and the anger was Ariel Sharon. The Sharon family.
The comparison Pinhas Wallerstein made to the media - that the Sharon family is acting in ways familiar to him from books about the criminal underworld - took wing. It was heard in every broadcast and was mentioned in every interview. Suddenly, people had an answer to the question of why the Sycamore Ranch kitchen cabinet, the "family," chose this particular police commissioner and that particular chief of staff, and also to why the legal establishment, the police and the media, also in line with Wallerstein's description, are abetting people and actions that appear to contradict the norms they are sworn to uphold.
And what began as an off-the-cuff remark was received here, in Kfar Maimon, as fact: The difference between the corruption of the crime families and that of the Sharon family, said one settlement rabbi, is that the Sharon family's corruption is more dangerous, because it is political, and therefore everyone, not just the corrupt, pays the price.
There is no doubt that the delegitimization of the settlers and their supporters has in recent months created a parallel process in which the injured public - mainly because government institutions have provided it with valid justifications - has in response begun delegitimizing the government and all the institutions that have mobilized completely behind it. The most normative public in the country, which is careful to observe even the most trivial as well as the most serious precepts of both criminal and moral law, is now ready, because the inhibitions against doing so have disappeared, to respond by breaking laws in areas that could shake the foundations of those government bodies that have risen up against it - and to pay the price.
And this, in my view, is the real disengagement, far more fateful than the diplomatic one, that Sharon has caused, with backing from all those state institutions that have enlisted on his side. "Here we have an attempt by tens of thousands to undermine the foundations of the government," declared Elyakim Haetzni, the leading advocate of nonviolent civil disobedience, with satisfaction. The government, he said, is panicking and playing into our hands. The precedent of employing the army is a clear sign of loss of control that brings the end of the Sharon government near.
And one of the listeners responded: Once, I thought you were an extremist, an angry prophet who always sees only the bad. Today, you should know, I and those like me, ordinary members of the religious bourgeoisie, are beginning to agree with you. Consider the silence of the jurists and all the other defenders of human rights in the face of the unbelievable step of using the army at Kfar Maimon. Even during the Arab riots of October 2000, the government did not dare use the army against Arab citizens of Israel. Only here, since Sharon knows that the High Court of Justice will back him - even though this precedent is liable to be used against the Arabs in the future - has he dared to use the army against the settlers.
To Dr. Yitzhak Weiss, a medical doctor, historian and biographer of Herzl (in French), the use of the army against one's own citizens recalls the government's loss of control on the eve of the Russian revolution. As was beautifully described in the film "Battleship Potemkin," he noted, the beginning of the czar's end was when the army, rather than the police, was sent in to end the workers' strikes. The soldiers then switched sides, and thus began the revolt that changed history.
When the government abandons all restraint, minor tactical errors, such as laying siege to Kfar Maimon - including preventing food and water from entering for many hours - merely increase the motivation and desire to act against it among the tens of thousands who fill every corner where there is a bit of shade, including packing houses, lean-tos and orchards. And, undoubtedly because of the achievement of having tens of thousands show up for a lengthy, exhausting mission, the very atmosphere tingles with the feeling that the goal - stopping the uprooting - is achievable. And there is certainly an educational message, and perhaps even something more, in the sentence printed on the orange shirts worn by many of the youth: "The eternal people is not afraid of a long road."