Trauma Made to Order

Behind the series of protests, which have been held one after another in recent months, are calculated individuals trying to terrify the prime minister and the general public.

The Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements is expected to hold a large-scale demonstration in front of the Knesset as part of events it is organizing in its struggle against the implementation of the disengagement plan. For 24 hours public discourse will once again be flooded with the sights and sounds of tens of thousands of settlers and their supporters, crying foul against the plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank. This time the organizers have chosen to focus their protest on challenging the political and legislative steps that were taken to turn the disengagement initiative into a practical eventuality. The protesters will demand a referendum and will present their opposition to the evacuation as secondary.

Behind the series of protests, which have been held one after another in recent months, are calculated individuals trying to terrify the prime minister and the general public. The information they use to daze public opinion, like the protest methods they use, are meant to give the impression that the disengagement plan will not be carried out - at any cost. Sometimes they use softer language in their arguments, at other times they issue serious warnings, here and there they also argue among themselves, and as a result they put out contrasting messages, but they are not confused about the definition of their aim: to prevent the plan and to do so by causing a national trauma. The protest due to start tonight serves this same aim.

This does not mean the settlers and their leaders are not speaking truthfully. It also does not mean that there is no justification to some of their apprehensions regarding the decision-making process of the disengagement plan. But fundamentally, in their protest lies a stance that demolishes their claims: They disseminate a willingness to violate the law, they call to refuse orders, they declare that they prefer a civil war over leaving the territories. Whoever calls for a rebellion is hardly convincing in a debate on procedure, not to mention that the settlers would not challenge the process with which the disengagement plan decision was taken were it used to decide on annexing the territories in question.

The blaring banners and the protest rallies are meant not only to recruit new supporters but also, if not predominantly, to bolster the self-confidence and loyalty of the die-hard supporters. This is the rationale, for example, behind election campaigns in which the candidates flood the road junctions with their photographs and banners: Their primary aim is to imbue their activists with the feeling that they are part of a large and omnipresent camp. This is also the case with the settlers' demonstrations: They are mainly meant to renew the loyalty of the believers in the whole Land of Israel and flood their subconscious with the feeling that they must ready themselves for the ultimate battle over the preservation of the integrity of the country and the future of the state.

The settler leaders are now using threatening, hysterical and violent language intended to create an atmosphere of emergency and to rally their supporters into a willingness to act in extremist ways to stop the disengagement plan. The statements of Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun in the Haaretz Magazine on Friday attests to this method: This respected man, who is considered a moderate among the Yesha rabbis, uses terms such as "Stalingrad" and "Masada" when referring to the efforts to oppose the disengagement. He accuses Ariel Sharon of having a calculated plan of confrontation with the settlers in order to create a national trauma of such dimensions that no one will ever think again of further withdrawals.

But the opposite is true. Those who interpret the crisis of evacuation in terms of national trauma are the settlers. Those who create the conditions that will lead to a violent confrontation are the settlers. Those who equate the evacuation with sacrilege are the settlers. And they have a reason for their behavior: They seek to equate the evacuation to a disaster of such proportions that it must be stopped at all costs, and if it is to be - that no one will ever think to repeat the act in other parts of the whole Land of Israel.