It seems there is no one more fearful now for his good reputation than the central stream of the settlers' combative minority. Every settler "spokesman," be he named Uri Ariel or Effi Eitam, has in his possession the updated lexicon of adjectives, so that when a microphone approaches his mouth or a camera his face, he can outline the boundary of allowable wantonness.
"The government's decision is immoral," Eitam explained in an interview with Ayala Hasson. "But is it legal?" Hasson insisted three to four times, and received no reply. Of course the decision is legal, it won the support of a majority of Knesset members, but that does not make it legal or moral in Eitam's eyes. In the name of the right to demonstrate, democracy, Zionism or property rights, Eitam and every other settler spokesman are prepared to justify the fracas "just so long as it is not violent," and of course, "we won't lift a hand against Israel Defense Forces soldiers." He hasn't yet left off talking, and those whom Israel Harel terms "the only ones on the right peaching violence" - the Maoz Yam folks and another several hundred "teenagers," a cover name for juvenile delinquents, plus sympathizers and supporters - beat, kick, drag and wound soldiers and police officers.
That equation, which on the one hand rejects violence and on the other enlists anyone with a pulse to combat the disengagement, cannot exist. For violence does not and cannot have a prescribed degree. The moment that adolescent boys and girls, ramped up on nationalist hormones, receive permission to snuggle up together in the street, there isn't a rabbi around who can stop that growl. Not Eitam, who promises to draw the lines for aggression, and not the local rabbi of Gush Katif, since there too they are readying their backpacks for "zero hour" and they too will apparently lie down on the roads. Since that, after all, is democratic protest.
The equation cannot exist, for under the respectable cover of "the war for the land," the country is being run by two leaderships: one chosen, the treacherous and flaccid one that "succumbs to terrorism," and the other - a "nonpareil leadership" brandishing a primordial rule book. Each has its own "democracy," with its own red marker for drawing the line. That which is considered violence by one is deemed a divine duty by the other.
That sham, that there are only a handful who are preaching violence, cannot be sold to the public yet again. Whoever witnessed the coordinated efforts of bringing traffic to a standstill at several locations, of spreading spikes and oil on the roads, beheld not a sprinkling of criminals but a criminal community, a community with parents and friends, and especially leaders at all levels, first- and second-generation outlaws, who seem not to be bothered by the struggle over the stumps of the Gaza settlements, but rather by the fear of losing their long-standing ability to withstand a government that was not appointed by the lord. This government is now perceived by them as a gang trying to take over another gang's turf, and as violating the status quo that divided the "Greater Land" between the two leaderships: west of the Green Line and east of Gaza - one government, and in the remainder - the other government.
With a state of affairs such as this, the argument against slandering the central stream of settlers has no validity. For just as the State of Israel is recognized by its militant margins, so too the settlers, all of them, are identified by whomever seeks to lynch an Arab or spits in a soldier's face. This is an identity that cannot be stripped off as needed. It sticks, and will also stick to the community of evacuees from Gaza who in another few weeks will be moving to live with ordinary Israelis. The degree of violence - not just of compensation funds - is what will determine how these evacuees are viewed by the Israeli public, and the extent to which they and their children can feel at home once they've returned to the homeland.
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