By Caroline B. Glick
Jewish World Review
July 25, 2005
FAR MAIMON, Israel \u2014 Walking among the tens of thousands of Israeli
protesters here this week was like being witness to a miracle. There in the scorching
summer heat were thousands upon thousands of families with children of all
ages, young men and women and elderly people, living under siege and in
conditions that would make an infantryman cringe.
And yet, there was no complaining. There was no shouting. There was no
pushing. There was no garbage on the ground. There was no stench of any kind. What
one saw in the protesters’ faces and heard in each and every statement and
conversation was dignity, determination, integrity, faith and a form of
earthy, plainspoken and unabashed patriotism and concern for the greater good that
has become an artifact of a barely remembered past for many Israelis.
In witnessing this \u2014 when just outside were 20,000 soldiers and policemen,
laying concertina wire along the fence penning these people in as if they were
terrorists, and standing arms locked in row upon row, poised to pounce at
them at the slightest provocation \u2014 it was, indeed, hard to shake off the sense
that one was watching a miracle happen.
The tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens \u2014 estimates of their actual
numbers run between 30,000 and 60,000 \u2014 were exercising their democratic right
to protest the government’s plan to expel 10,000 Israelis from Gaza and
northern Samaria and destroy the communities they built from sand next month. The
protesters oppose this plan for moral reasons. It is simply obscene, they
say, to carry out these expulsions. These people are set to be thrown out of
their homes and their farms just because they are Jews. Israel receives nothing
in return. These people’s homes will be either destroyed or turned over to
the same Palestinian terrorist forces that have been attacking them
continuously for the past five years. Their hothouses and livestock are set to be turned
over to the Palestinians as well.
The plan’s proponents argue that the expulsion of 10,000 Jews from their
farms and communities in the Land of Israel is necessary to maintain Israel as a
democratic, Jewish society. Yet, what these opponents of the expulsion plan
experienced, in their efforts to even voice their opposition, is that in
insisting on carrying out this plan \u2014 which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was
reelected overwhelmingly in 2003 by promising to oppose \u2014 the government is
trampling and endangering both Israel’s democratic form of government and its
character as a Jewish state.
On Sunday evening, the day before the Council of Jewish Communities in
Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip’s solidarity march from Netivot to Gush Katif
was set to begin, the police denied the council a permit. In so doing, the
police unabashedly denied these people their democratic right to protest the
policies of their government. The police’s justification was the announced plan
to walk to Gush Katif \u2014 on the third day of the protest. The denial of the
permit to demonstrate meant that everything about the protest plan was deemed
illegal. Citizens conducting demonstrations in Netivot, Kfar Maimon and Kibbutz
Re’im, the first three planned stops on the march \u2014 all of which are well
within the sacrosanct 1949 armistice lines \u2014 was deemed an illegal activity.
Then Monday, when the council ignored this draconian announcement, the
police breached the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of Israelis by
intercepting privately owned buses throughout the country \u2014 from the Golan
Heights to Tel Aviv to Eilat \u2014 and prevented their law-abiding passengers and
drivers from exercising their right to travel freely in the State of Israel. In
both of these actions, the police \u2014 with full backing from the Prime Minister’s
Office, the State Attorney’s Office and the leftist local media \u2014 took
actions that undermined Israeli democracy and its foundations as a state ruled by
law and not the police.
On the roads to Netivot on Monday and on the roads to Kfar Maimon on Tuesday
and Wednesday, the police set up roadblocks to inspect cars. Cars with
orange banners of solidarity with the residents set for expulsion, and cars whose
passengers were identifiably religious, were pulled over and not allowed to
pass. Rather than turn around and go home, the passengers said nothing of this
obviously unlawful, discriminatory humiliation. They simply got out of their
cars and, pushing their baby carriages and strollers, walked for kilometers
under the desert sun to reach Kfar Maimon on foot. In so treating these
citizens, the police clearly signaled that they view religious Jews as a threat.
So much for leaving Gaza and northern Samaria in order to ensure Israel’s
future as a Jewish, democratic state.
AS ONE walked along the crowded road and the lawns of Kfar Maimon, one was
struck by the ubiquity of the television cameras. Nearly all major news
organizations in the Western world were present. In the past, when the council
brought up to a quarter of a million people out to protest land giveaways, the
mass demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv received barely any attention.
And here were Fox and Sky News, CNN and the BBC competing with Israel’s
television channels for the best place to park their satellite dishes.
The reason for this is clear: The world press has bought into the demonized
image of the Jewish residents of Gaza, Judea and Samaria that has been
largely propagated by the Israeli Left and the Israeli media. The “settlers” are
viewed as violent, extremist, money-grubbing religious fanatics who threaten
the foundations of Israel and block any chance for peace between Israel and its
neighbors. In other words, under normal circumstances, protests by the
settlers are considered unworthy of media attention. But this time, the media
swallowed the bait set by the council leaders who insisted that they would march
to Gush Katif. Everyone came to film the blood that would be let when the
protesters clashed with the Israeli army and the police.
But once they were there, far away from their air-conditioned offices and
apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they had to send in the pictures of what
they saw. And what they saw was the truth they have been insistently denying
for the past 30 years. Namely, that these Israelis have nothing in common
with their demonized image. Here were tens of thousands of peaceful protesters
singing and dancing and studying together. Here they were, handing fruit and
drinks to the soldiers and policemen sent to stand against them and, rather
than fighting with them, they prayed with them. For the first time, perhaps
ever, both the general public in Israel and the world were able to receive
undistorted images of these people on their television screens.
If the police’s trampling of democracy by attempting to block the protesters
from arriving at Netivot and Kfar Maimon weren’t enough, we had the
hysterical reaction of the police and the IDF to ensure that the general public
understood that, like the media, the commanders of the police and the IDF had
fallen for the discriminatory stereotypes of the settlers and their supporters.
Arrayed against these families was a division and a half of security forces.
There were more security forces laying siege to Kfar Maimon than participated
in the Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria in April 2002. In the
entire US invasion force of Iraq in 2003, only 20,000 troops actually
participated in combat operations. As the Palestinians in Gaza continued their
Kassam rocket and mortar attacks, rather than fight Israel’s enemies, the IDF
deployed six combat brigades to Kfar Maimon, where the soldiers were told to lay
siege on their own family members.
Brig.-Gen. Gershon Hacohen, who is the division commander charged with
commanding the withdrawal and expulsion from Gush Katif, laid siege to his
brother, Rabbi Reem Hacohen and his family. Reem’s son, a cadet at officer training
school, laid siege to his parents and siblings. Thirty percent of the
soldiers in the Golani Infantry Brigade live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. These
soldiers laid siege to their parents and brothers and sisters.
At least one battalion commander refused to follow his order to lay barbed
wire along Kfar Maimon’s fence. Several commanders ordered their soldiers to
remove their unit insignias and berets so that no one would recognize them.
Soldiers from command courses in the IDF, who were sent with no warning to Kfar
Maimon, cried when they received the orders and the soldiers standing arm to
arm against the protesters cried as they were forced to lay siege to their
innocent countrymen whose only offense was voicing their opposition to the
Sensing the impact of the demonstration, and no doubt noting that the latest
polling data from the left-leaning Herzog Institute show that less than 50
percent of Israelis support the plan, Thursday morning Deputy Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert said that the government may order the expulsion to begin
immediately rather than on its scheduled date of August 17. US Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice arrived Thursday afternoon to make sure that Sharon goes
through with the plan in spite of the fact that doing so all but ensures that Hamas
will take over Gaza. Hamas has already prepared 20,000 new uniforms for its
operatives and supporters. They are planning a victory march through Gush
Katif the day after the last Jew is expelled. So much for Washington’s belief
that throwing Jews out of their homes simply because they are Jews will
contribute to the prospects of Middle East peace.
When a democratic government adopts an immoral policy, it is the duty of its
loyal citizens, through acts of protest and civil disobedience, to hold up a
mirror to their leaders and their fellow citizens to force them to contend
with the implications of their policies. At Netivot and Kfar Maimon this week,
the protesters did just that. What we saw on the one side was the dignified,
humble and stubborn Zionism of the citizens set to be expelled and of their
On the other side, we saw the anti-democratic and discriminatory face of the
government that stands against them. The time has come for the people of
Israel to be allowed to freely and democratically decide which side they are on.