They Won't Forget and Won't Forgive?

While other minority groups suffer discrimination or humiliation at the hands of Israeli society, the national-religious camp enjoys prestige and inexplicable sympathy.

There is a group in Israeli society that never pays the price for its craziness. It is a group that has caused severe and ongoing damage to the state, and - more than any other group - has produced characters who have endangered the democratic regime.

However, not only do we fail to settle accounts with them, the opposite is true. After an unsuccessful attempt to incite a mutiny and after the blow it received in the evacuation of a handful of settlements, it is returning to the stage as if these things never occurred. The silent majority looks on, apathetic and passive as usual, only now with unjustified guilt feelings.

If there is a place for guilt, it is in religious Zionism. "We won't forget and won't forgive" was the slogan of the gathering held by the religious right several weeks ago at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. But this is what the secular, moderate majority should be saying. We won't forget and we won't forgive the blood that was shed in vain, the hatred their actions engendered, the injustices they caused, Israel's dubious stature in the world that stems from the occupation and settlements, and the shame every proponent of peace and human rights in Israel has experienced because of their behavior. But the majority forgets and forgives, enabling them to continue in their ways. And, therefore, this silent majority also continues to pay the price.

While other minority groups, such as the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox, suffer discrimination or humiliation at the hands of Israeli society, the national-religious camp enjoys prestige and inexplicable sympathy. It is true that this group is the most active and organized in Israeli society, but does this justify the incessant attention given to the statements of every rabbi who, until quoted in the media, was unknown to most Israelis? Why do we need to receive periodic reports about the ideas of Rabbi Yisrael Rosen from Alon Shvut? Why is it so important to report in the newspaper that Ramat Gan's rabbi, Yaakov Ariel, has reached the conclusion that the national-religious camp must "upgrade the state" instead of disengaging from it, or that the director of the Rosh Yehudi program of Jewish study, Yisrael Zeira, has called for his camp "to invest in the fundamental task of illuminating the internal faith of the people"? It is true that some of these people exert influence over their flock, but the exaggerated attention paid to every statement they make only serves to increase their power.

The result is that the main point is forgotten - that we are talking about a minority. They comprise no more than a fifth of the citizenry, about the same percentage as the new immigrants from Russia or the Arabs of Israel. But these two groups can only dream of the attention and influence the national-religious camp enjoys. The meager attention they generally receive versus the compulsive focus on the mumbling of every rabbi only perpetuates these disparities of power.

Last summer, the leading camp in contemporary religious Zionism attempted to threaten the Israeli regime. The attempt to stir up a mutiny was an utter failure, and this camp found itself isolated, composed of mainly the religious. The defeat was absolute; the evacuation was accepted with indifference. But even after the defeat, we must not forget that this camp tried to impose its will forcibly on the democratic majority and did not succeed only because it did not find enough allies. We should settle accounts with this group over these aspirations - especially in light of the fact that these aspirations have not changed a single bit.

The attempts to portray this camp now as "beaten" and "bleeding" and "soul-searching" are misleading. They have learned nothing and have not forgotten anything. It is true that Rabbi Aviner has called for renewing the "face-to-face" campaign within Israeli society and that Zeira from Rosh Yehudi wrote: "We are responsible." But, in fact, while this camp is asking itself why it failed, it continues to believe with the same fervor in the rightness of its path. This cannot be called "soul-searching." No one has risen up and asked: Perhaps the entire matter was fundamentally wrong? Perhaps the path was distorted from the outset? Perhaps the defeat testifies to the fact that there is an absolute majority that is not prepared to accept this path and maybe it should therefore be abandoned? Perhaps the real historic mistake was the fact that we settled in a land that did not belong to us, while causing horrible injustice to neighbors and imposing an insufferable burden on the entire society?

Instead of this, they are trying to examine where the tactics failed: Did the leadership let them down? Were the methods of struggle wrong and did they invest enough in public relations? They are trying to win the hearts of the people again. We must block their path. Israeli society has paid enough for their lust for power and greed for land, and until they turn away from their harmful path, we should turn our backs on them.

Ironically, instead of hearing the majority express this view, we are hearing calls from the national-religious camp to "disengage from the state." But we must disengage from them, castigate and ostracize them - until they do some true soul-searching. At a time when the National Union party is embarking on a campaign whose slogan is "Returning to Orange," it would be fitting for the majority in Israeli society to remember this color as a sign of dreadful disgrace.