Whenever talk of evacuating settlements starts, it's immediately accompanied by the phrase "the painful price." Evacuation of settlements, we have been habituated to believe, is synonymous with "national pain" and "trauma." Yet why should this be so? It's understandable, of course, that people who are uprooted from their place of residence and who loved their home, will not leave joyfully. It's never pleasant to move from a beloved place to which we have grown accustomed to a new place. Not pleasant, but not so terrible, either, especially when it's possible to return to the place you came from not so long ago. True, it's possible to believe that some of the settlers will experience true grief, just as others will breathe a huge sigh of relief - but it's a long way from here to turning the evacuation into an object of national mourning.
In the meantime, not so much as a potted plant has been evacuated, but we are already reading heartrending articles about the settlers of Yamit - the victims back then, in 1982 - and about the coming victims, the settlers in the Gaza Strip. Here are their children and their fields, the synagogues and the baby strollers, all of them portrayed as lambs to the sacrifice.
This emotional manipulation by the settlers and their supporters must not be allowed to dominate the public discourse, and we must not let their pain, whether real or false, become part of the public domain. Nor is this the time to conduct a dialogue with them, as some self-righteous left-wingers will soon undoubtedly suggest. The fact is that the settlers, who never showed consideration for the feelings of the other public, which bitterly opposed their enterprise, cannot now expect solidarity with their pain. There are Israelis who for years watched hopelessly the injustices they wrought. The settlers showed no consideration for their pain. They, who displayed no compassion for the feelings of their opponents, and certainly not for the feelings of their victims, the Palestinians, on whose land they settled and whose lives they embittered, do not now deserve compassion or commiseration. They deserve, at most, compensation.
This is all the more the case with regard to the settlers in the Gaza Strip. They are a handful of Israelis who knew they were causing the split of a small area in which two million people live in conditions of tremendous overcrowding. It's not too late to bring them to account: for the dozens of soldiers who shed their blood in vain for them, for the thousands of soldiers who had to guard their dubious project day and night, and for the vast suffering they caused the Palestinians.
Israel will not be paying a high price for the evacuation; it will be doing itself a huge favor. Therefore, if the settlers claim they went to the territories in the name of the state, that the state sent them - fine, then let them now leave for the sake of the state. However, the truth is that a large number of the founders of the settlements, especially in the West Bank, went there illegally, like thieves in the night, contrary to government decisions. Certainly those who went there with the aim of improving their living conditions - the majority of the settlers - do not now deserve any more than financial compensation. In any event, they struck a good deal. They got a house and garden for next to nothing, and now they will get generous compensation - you won't find any comparable transactions in the Israeli real estate market. The residents of the development towns and the slum neighborhoods can only envy them.
However, the main reason the settlers do not deserve compassion is the immorality and the wickedness that are inherent in their deeds. This refers not just to the minority among them, who abused the Palestinians and treated them with violence and cruelty. This refers to all the settlers, from the first of them at Elon Moreh to the last of them at Rafah Yam, to moderates and extremists - all of them bear responsibility for this terrible injustice. Every morning, as they leave their homes, they see tens of thousands of imprisoned Palestinians mired in mud, making their way under the blazing sun, stuck at checkpoints or locked behind iron gates, while the settlers travel with lordly freedom on their roads. From the windows of their homes, they see the women in labor, the elderly and the sick, and the children plodding across fields, trying to get to school or the hospital, and they know that they are the cause of the situation. They see farmers whose olive groves were plundered in order to build another road for them, and providers whose places of work were demolished to expand another settlement. The settlers have no problem living with this reality. None of them cries out in protest, no one's conscience torments him. Where were they when thousands of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes and their land without any compensation? If they had not gone there to settle, that wouldn't have happened.
All the settlers are tainted. If the Israeli society's sense of justice were more developed, the settlers would have long since been condemned and ostracized. A healthy society must disgorge its immoral elements. Now that at long last there is a budding prospect, however faint, that some of them will be evacuated and part of the injustice they caused will come to an end, there is no place for any manifestations of sympathy for them, not even in their hardest hours, whether real or false.
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