Evacuation Pampering

Is it not more correct to ask today, after all the huge investments and the blood spilled in vain: Who should be compensating whom?

Who said the Israeli left has disappeared? Thirty intellectuals from the left have published a petition calling for putting an end to the "neglect of the evacuees from Gush Katif and northern Samaria." Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Uzi Dayan, Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Sarid, the cream of the crop, signed a manifest drawn up by the evacuees that refers to the "law's directive" and "morality's directive." "This is the fundamental tenet of democracy," they write with characteristic pathos, in an outburst of concern for the population that for years did everything it could to undermine the law, morality and democracy in Israel. This petition is a disgrace to its signatories.

In recent weeks, there have been many heartbreaking reports about the evacuees' difficulties, especially in a series of articles by Nadav Shragai in Haaretz. The Gush Katif Committee claimed that 49 percent of them are unemployed (the government's employment service, by contrast, reported 25 percent); that 500 families are experiencing a difficult economic situation; that there were ten cases of eating disorders and 12 cases of attempted or contemplated suicide - and here is the punishment: 90 percent of the evacuees' children will not serve in elite Israel Defense Forces units.

Has anyone checked how many people are contemplating suicide in Jaffa or looked into the number of eating disorders in Shlomi? What happened to Shulamit Aloni? What swept over Yossi Sarid? What flame engulfed these luminaries? Does the lame excuse suggesting that "their neglect [of the evacuees] is liable to strip the state of the legitimacy for taking similar steps in the future" justify defending yesterday's violators of law and morality, upon whom the state has already showered more than enough assistance and rehabilitation funds? After all, this mobilization of leftists only augments the "tragedy" of the settlers. Is this the weakest sector of the population, on whose behalf these personalities need to mobilize? Is it the most ethical part of the population? Is it not more correct to ask today, after all the huge investments and the blood spilled in vain: Who should be compensating whom?

The evacuees of Gush Katif are in distress. There are many others like them. The compensation money they received, an average of about $300,000 per family, should have taken their case off the agenda. They went to settle in a land that was not theirs, knowing full well that it was a dubious business, until this scandalous practice came to an end. There is no reason to commiserate with those who were never interested in the troubles of others.

For years, they enjoyed benefits those living in other places could only dream of. In 2003, for example, the Gush Katif regional council received "a balancing grant" of NIS 28.5 million from the Interior Ministry, exactly the same amount as a large and impoverished city like Bnei Brak, with 150,000 residents. When you live within the boundaries of a council where only 9 percent of the budget comes from local taxes (compared to a national average of 35 percent), the transition back to within Israel's borders is difficult. Many of the evacuees were paid for fictitious work performed at the regional council, and now they find themselves unemployed. They are certainly no different from the unemployed in Ofakim. The unemployment of 300 farmers who employed 3,000 foreign workers, mainly Palestinians, under conditions that exploited the distress of those on whose land they settled, should not stir our compassion.

The State of Israel compensated the settlers with NIS 4.5 billion. This amounts to evacuation pampering. The one million French settlers evacuated from Algeria in 1962 only received a grant for living expenses of 450 francs per couple for one month, as well as a loan of 20,000 francs to help them reestablish themselves. They were allowed to take only two suitcases with them. The shepherds in the southern hills of Hebron, whose wretched tin shacks were demolished by the state last week, did not receive any compensation. Those who permitted the scandalous settlement in Gaza finally decided to put an end to it, and this should also be accompanied by putting an end to dealing with their case. "Have we forgotten that refugee camps are a ticking social bomb," the leaders of the left ask sanctimoniously, perhaps hinting at their silence in the face of other, much worse atrocities, which we have created ourselves. It is much more correct to ask: Have the leaders of the left forgotten their moral criteria?