Paradise? The Gaza Settlers Were Banished From Hell

The idyl was fertilized by the sweat of the neighbors and their small children, and irrigated with the water we stole from them.

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Jewish settlers cry before Israeli police remove them from the Neve Dekalim settlement in the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements, in the southern Gaza Strip, August 17, 2005.Credit: Reuters
Yossi Sarid

In the Jewish calendar, Adar is a month of joy and frivolity, while Av, which starts in a week, is considered the most tragic month.

In the first part of Av they try to wean you from hating someone for no good reason, or for hating someone because he’s different, as if this hatred were an addictive drug. This writer has already expressed his opinion on the virtues of healthy, liberating hatred. If anyone endangers your life, hate him first in self-defense. Maybe it will save your soul.

Immediately after the Tisha B’Av holiday this year, on the anniversary of the Gaza disengagement, you’ll be ceaselessly tormented for supporting it. First the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the 2,000-year exile, then the destruction of the third Temple in Gaza’s Gush Katif settlement bloc and the internal exile of 8,000 settlers.

Some 1,600 families were forced to leave their homes behind. The state invested a couple hundred million dollars in resettling them, but for them it’s never enough. More than 8,000 debtors are thrown onto the street every year, but nobody counts their number or thinks about helping them.

The disengagement was necessary. From the start it was a twisted idea to stick 21 settlements in an arid suffering region among 2 million Palestinians. Only the Labor Movement could have come up with such a notion, which stemmed from its Zionist inspiration and pioneering vision. Only that movement could detect the strategic advantages in setting up wealthy neighborhoods alongside refugee camps — with walls and fences in between.

And after all the sound and fury, what happened? We replaced occupying the Gaza Strip with blockading it.

Is this hindsight wisdom after a foolish act? When the first settlement was established, Netzer Hazani, shoved between Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah, I went there that very day. Don’t rely on Yisrael Galili & Co., I implored the settlers there, don’t trust Ariel Sharon. One day the reality of life and death will banish you from here. They — the self-declared heirs of the prestate tower-and-stockade settlement method — showered their unwelcome guest with contempt.

The disengagement made the lives of Sderot and other border communities a misery. From then on they were plagued by Qassam rockets and other problems — that’s the story they tell today. Do you really want to plunge into the bloody bookkeeping again?

Well, let it be known: Since we allegedly disengaged ourselves, the number of dead and wounded — both soldiers and civilians — resulting from Gaza-related attacks has halved. It hasn’t risen, as they would have you believe, to ensure that the West Bank settlements last forever and no settlement is ever evacuated again. And those tunnels have been dug under our noses, they add.

Memory may be very short, but the shadow of those days is long — Israeli soldiers crawling on their bellies near the narrow strip on the border between Gaza and Egypt, known as the Philadelphi Route, their fingers collecting the remains of their friends from the sand. The settlers weren’t banished from paradise but from hell. That’s the picture they won’t be able to erase.

What isn’t always seen in that picture is the disgrace the Gaza settlements heaped on all Israel. The breeze blew pleasantly, the sand and sea stretched endlessly, the flowers bloomed in the gardens. But this idyl was fertilized by the sweat of the neighbors and their small children, and irrigated by the water we stole from them.

It was necessary to wipe the ugly stain off the face of the new Zionism, and Gaza was the first step. Don’t weep for the evacuees who will never see their red roofs again. The laborers will no longer rise at dawn and go to work for their settler neighbors. Weep for yourselves, because you’ll always be gullible suckers and believe your cynical leaders.

One day tourists will visit the disaster area and wonder: How did apparently reasonable people live voluntarily in a valley of death, where they had to go to the clinic or drive their kids to school under a military guard?

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