Dear Web Guest:
It is my turn again. Indeed I am already probably a week or so late but that is only because Marc was a week or so early.
It is also the summer, the heat is on and I just came back from a nice (4 days only) vacation with the family!!! In continental Europe during August one can do absolutely nothing. Everyone is on vacations. In the UK it is known as the silly season. In the USA it is only slightly better. In Hebrew they call August the “Cucumber Season”; there is so little that you can do, so little noise (news) around that you can hear the cucumbers growing.
Yet this August a momentous event is taking place in my home country, in Israel. Israel is pulling, pushing its citizens out of Gaza kicking and screaming. The TV news broadcasts are full of it (they have nothing else to show, it is August after all).
The settlements in Gaza were a historic mistake and a serious one at that. The ones in the West bank are a much more complex story and I am going to leave this to another time. However the settlement movement in Gaza was always doomed. The hard core of the Settlers’ movement is made up, generally speaking of people that I have nothing in common with, they are extremists and fanatics. But the vast majority of the people who lived in Israel’s Gaza settlements are not part of that hard-core. They are normal people like you and I that went to Gaza with the encouragement and subsidies of Israeli governments over many years in search of a quality of life on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. Even so, I fully support the decision of the current Israeli government to pull out of Gaza, no ifs or buts. It was a very courageous, possibly dangerous but absolutely the correct decision.
In spite of all of the fanaticism of the hard core to which I object strongly, the settlements themselves were a mistake. I completely support the decision to remove them. I could not avoid serious “humidity” in my eyes as I was watching these events unfold on TV.
What has taken place over the last few days and is still in process is heartbreaking to any person who has the slightest understanding of history and an element of compassion. Here are people who for 20-30 years lived in their homes, worked their land and created the most beautiful settlements with fantastic agricultural achievements in desert surroundings. Suddenly they are told that they have to vacate their homes, leave everything behind and go to an uncertain future. Most of these people have known no other homes, most have been born there.
I can not recall a precedent in world history where a nation had evacuated its own people from land it had for 40 years; land by the way it took over from another nation (Egypt), in a war that was forced on Israel against its will by that other nation and when that other nation does not ask for, or indeed even want this land back. In the 1978 peace deal with Egypt, Israel begged Egypt to take Gaza back and Egypt declined.
Seeing these pictures, thinking of the Jewish history which is full of forced evictions starting from 2,000 years ago from the same land, through 400 years ago from Spain and about 70 years ago in the horrific events before and during WW II, one just can not stop the tears.
Yet these tears of pain and emotion turn very quickly to tears and feelings of pride. Looking at the way this very emotional matter is being handled by a very powerful army at the service of the only democracy in the Middle East one can not escape admiration (and in my case pride) at the power of Democracy.
A highly controversial decision by a government caused the fiercest of debates in the media and in legal demonstrations. It was full of real emotions and political posturing, resignations, repetitive supreme court appeals reminiscent of the Bush V Gore case and everything else that a real democracy goes through before it makes really difficult decisions; the debate reaches its climax in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, which in exercising its democratic right and obligation, finally votes in favor of this wrenching move with a clear majority following which the final supreme court appeal is rejected. Then, the Government commands the army of the people to do the people’s chosen decision. It, the army, is doing it in the most humane way possible. With the absence of weapons, this powerful army which has bitten many foes is using no weapons; the power of the hands only. Conviction, sense of purpose and duty in the service of the country but no weapons whatsoever.
What a powerful message that sends about democracy and its values.
One can only imagine how this would have been handled in less sensitive non-democratic regimes. Visions of Tiananmen Square come to mind where 16 years ago the Chinese government sent their “people’s army” to evict a few thousand students from their place of “abode”. They did it with tanks and armored vehicles, firing weapons with many, many dead and wounded.
– I can not think of any stronger statement for the power of democracy than the difference between the eviction of Tiananmen Square 16 years ago and that of Gaza as we speak.
– I can not think of any nation who has ever done to its own people what Israel is doing in the quest for peace.
– I can only hope that this message being sent by the only democracy in the Middle East will serve a good purpose.
– Hope, but doubt; but on that in another Reflection article!!!
That was very heavy for a hot August weekend, sorry. I bid you farewell until the next time…….
Ronnie Ben-Zur, CEO
August 24, 2005