On Third Thought

As the withdrawal looms, deputy minister Avraham Ravitz is reviving an idea he raised eight months ago: Some settlers will remain as residents of Palestine.

In November 2004, deputy social affairs minister MK Avraham Ravitz (Degel Hatorah) distributed a glossy full-color pamphlet entitled "On third thought: No to disengagement, no to occupation." It drew little public interest. The impending messy withdrawal from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip this week reaffirmed for him that he was right then: There was no need to evacuate the settlements; they should have been left under Palestinian rule. That, he thinks, is what should be done with the settlements in the West Bank, within the framework of an agreement with the Palestinians.

He imagines to himself that Israel and the Palestinians resume negotiations and Israel issues a declaration of the end of the occupation. The large settlement blocs near the Green Line will be annexed to Israel, with the Palestinians receiving other territories in exchange. The Jewish settlement enterprise in the West Bank will not be dismantled: Every Jew who lives there will be able to go on living in his house as a citizen with equal rights, but under Palestinian rule.

The percentage of Jews who will be able to live in the Palestinian territories will not exceed the percentage of Arabs who live in Israel. The Jews of Palestine will be able to maintain their Israeli citizenship, Ravitz said this week, and Israel's Arabs will be able to be citizens of Palestine as well. Jerusalem will not be divided, though true rule will reside in the municipality, and if the city's Arabs want to take part in the elections, they will get their share in local government, too.

The Zionists were wrong, the deputy minister says. There is no need to foster love of the Land of Israel through political and military rule in the entire land. One can love Hebron even from Tel Aviv. By the same token, there is no need to link the attachment to Hebron by means of Israeli rule there; the city can be loved even if it is under Palestinian rule. The State of Israel is not a value, says Ravitz, 71, who was a member of the pre-state Lehi ultranationalist underground: "Only matters of spirituality belong to the family of `values.'"

This is actually a kind of variation on the theme of establishing a binational regime in the Land of Israel, an idea that fires the imagination and refuses to disappear from public discourse. It was also discussed extensively this week at the World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

But what will happen if the Hebron Arabs try to perpetrate another massacre of Jews in the city, as they did in 1929, I asked Ravitz. In that case, he said, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will protect the Jews. Nor is the IDF meant to leave the territories all at once but by degrees, in conjunction with the Palestinians demonstrating their readiness and willingness to accept the Jews under their rule and ensure their safety as a minority with equal rights.

I once asked Yasser Arafat about this idea, and he replied that he was in favor of it. Ravitz said that he also hears Palestinians supporting the proposal and that there are more and more Israelis who accept it as well. In the past few weeks, he has been following items about this subject published in Haaretz Magazine. He is also in contact with settlers who say he is right, though only a few are ready to say so publicly at this time.

Ravitz sent his pamphlet to the prime minister. Sharon read it and reacted coldly, through one of his aides, Oren Maganzi: "It is essential to bring about a reduction of friction between Israelis and Palestinians at the military and civilian levels alike. Therefore, Israelis cannot be left in territory that will be transferred to Palestinian control without the presence of the IDF," the aide wrote.

But that was in January. Ravitz believes the trauma of the withdrawal may prompt Sharon to take a second look at the pamphlet he sent him.

No one really knows what is subsumed under the category of "Jewish studies." The debate over the issue has raged for years, and until it is resolved, the organizers of the World Congress of Jewish Studies approve almost any subject for a lecture, from "Morality and philosophy in the Bible" to "The personal story of Zippora Tzabari, Queen Esther of the Tel Aviv Purim carnival"; from "The thought and doctrine of Maimonides" to "Children's newspapers in the first decade of the state." More than 1,000 lectures generate a vast festival of thought and knowledge, research and reflection.

Visitors to the congress naturally took an interest in Jew-hatred before and after the Holocaust: Quite a few of the speakers gave important talks on this subject. Some of them were invited to the event in conjunction with an institution called the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), whose president is Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

Dr. Daphne Burdman, a psychiatrist, spoke (in English) about "Hatred of the Jews as a psychological phenomenon in Palestinian society." They have an "authoritarian personality," she explained, using a term coined in 1950 by Theodor Adorno to explain Nazism. The participants at the World Congress of Jewish Studies heard from Burdman that Adorno's thesis explains also what she called "Islamo-fascism." Like the Germans who became Nazis, the Palestinians, too, are like that because of the rigid education they received in their childhood, which includes cruel corporal punishment and sexual abuse.

Burdman is not a Middle East expert and does not know Arabic, but on the basis of what she read, some of it on the Internet, she was able to give a fairly detailed account of what Arab children undergo. At the age of two or three, it often happens that their mothers rub hot peppers on their nipples in order to wean the infants abruptly; this induces an emotional trauma in them. At the age of four or 12 or 13, the boys are circumcised without any prior psychological preparation and without anesthetics. Burdman quoted a boy who said after that operation: "I got small." No wonder they become suicide bombers.

Burdman also identified in the Palestinians narcissistic elements that make them see themselves as victims of the occupation. For example, they allege that IDF soldiers at checkpoints abuse them; they do not understand that the checkpoints were set up to protect Israel.

It remains to be explained why the authoritarian personality induces the Palestinians to act precisely against Jewish targets. Dr. Burdman offered an explanation for this, too. It turns out that the Prophet Mohammed, the father of Islamic hatred of Jews, was married to an older woman who was twice widowed before she married him and was also rich and powerful. She was Mohammed's boss, the lecturer said, and explained: maybe Mohammed, as a man, disseminated the doctrine of Islam because he wanted to compensate himself for his weakness in the face of his wife. When the Jews rejected it, he got upset and turned aggressive, as anyone can read both in the Koran and in the Hamas Charter.

From distant London, the JCPA brought a skullcapped lawyer named Trevor Asserson. He came to warn the Jewish people about one of the most serious dangers that lurks for it at this time: the BBC. For the past six months, Asserson monitored the BBC Web site, which carries a daily photograph from the world news.

Asserson examined the photos meticulously, took notes, classified them and drew up comparative tables. The result is indeed terrifying: the majority of the photos were pro-Palestinian. He showed some of them, punctuating his remarks with clownish observations. One example was a photograph of a man kneeling in prayer next to the separation wall in Jerusalem. The scoundrels at the BBC apparently wanted to show that all Palestinian men always pray, Asserson said, and injected a word or two in Yiddish into his remarks, because Yiddish, as everyone knows, is a very funny language. The audience laughed.

But the British solicitor brought them back to the cruel reality: unfortunately, in the West, democracy exists and the leaders do what the public wants. The public is influenced by the media. Therefore the BBC constitutes a serious menace, really.

A week ago Thursday, Dr. Ruth Lamdan placed a mourning notice in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz. Two days later, on Saturday, the 23rd day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, would be the 59th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. "Ninety-one people - Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, including clerks, workers, guests and passersby - were murdered by miscreants. We shall not forget!" the ad read.

Lamdan, who teaches history at Tel Aviv University, never forgets. She was about 3 years old when the pre-state underground Irgun blew up one of the hotel's wings. Among those killed was Zvi Shimshi, the district officer in the Netanya region; Shimshi was her father.

She has published similar notices in the past. She once also wrote to Menachem Begin, the commander of the Irgun, seeking his account of the event: His people warned the British to evacuate the building but they did not accede. So he is not to blame for what happened - they themselves are.

Begin was asked more than once to explain the difference between the acts of terrorism perpetrated by his organization and those perpetrated by Fatah. He always claimed that the Irgun attacked only governmental targets, whereas the Palestinians attack civilians. That is not true. The Irgun carried out attacks in markets and on buses, and had it attacked the King David Hotel at night, Ruth Lamdan's life might have been different.

In the years since then, terrorism and the struggle against it have become a central element of the self-identity of many countries. The questions about what is permissible and what is not have assumed dimensions that might perhaps justify a special scientific congress next year, on the 60th anniversary of the event. This is a story that remains alive and kicking, Lamdan said. The pain constantly bursts out, the anger is at its height.

The building that houses the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design is located on the seam line between Jerusalem and the West Bank. The terrorist attack on the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus three years ago, which took nine lives, occurred not far from the academy. But the graduation exhibition mounted by the academy seems to exist in a different country: no occupation and no terrorism, no suppression and no disengagement, no involvement and no protest.

Against this background a work called "Victory Album," by Sagi Bloomberg, a graduate of the academy's visual communications department, stood out. The album, designed in the format of the victory albums that were published in Israel after the Six-Day War, is meant to glorify the "victory" in the intifada. He has also designed an intifada medal.

Bloomberg was a deputy battalion commander in Operation Defensive Shield, which was launched just after the 2002 Pesach terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya. He took along a camera. One of the photographs in the victory album shows three Palestinian captives, their eyes blindfolded, each of them holding a matza. They were hungry, Bloomberg said this week, and that's what was available.