You’ve probably heard the one about the boy who murdered his parents and then asked the court for mercy because he was an orphan. But what if, after being pardoned by the judge, who had taken into consideration his heartbreaking experience, the young kid also demanded that the state provide him with financial assistance to compensate him for the loss of his main providers?
Now isn’t that chutzpah? Well, you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve read the interview Ariel Sharon gave to the ultra-Orthodox Israeli weekly Mishpaha (cited here by way of Ha’aretz), in which he delivered a stinging attack against the residents of Tel Aviv who went to the beach and sat around in restaurants and cafés instead of empathizing with the pain of the settlers whom he removed from their homes in the Gaza Strip.
“I heard today that Tel Aviv’s beaches were filled to capacity with bathers,” the prime minister said at the very moment the evacuation of Neveh Dekalim and Kfar Darom [two of the Jewish settlements in Gaza] was being completed. “I would imagine that one would be hard pressed to find an empty place this evening in a Tel Aviv restaurant. In these difficult times, I would expect more solidarity from various parts of the nation. But you know, the talented and unique Jews also know how to hate. We have masterminds of hatred here. I would definitely like to see more understanding and empathy on the part of different sectors of the nation for the pain of the evacuees.”
Forget for a moment the hypocrisy of the ultrasecular Sharon—he once astounded Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci when he offered to share with her his not-very-kosher shrimp cocktail, describing it as his “favorite dish”—being celebrated by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish magazine as he delivered sermons on Jewish Brotherly Love (Brotherly Love was, ironically, the name designated for the removal of the Jewish settlers from Gaza) to the secular Jews of Tel Aviv whom he accused of hatred. It certainly takes chutzpah to demand that the Jewish (and Arab) residents of the Greater Aviv area, most of whom were opposed to the policy of diverting Israeli resources and troops—and let’s not forget the U.S. taxpayer money—to build and protect the Jewish settlements in Gaza should feel the pain of a bunch of religious fanatics who were throwing rotten eggs and stones at Israeli soldiers and comparing them to SS troops while vilifying all those who disagree with them (most Israelis, including Sharon) as “traitors” and Jew-hating “Nazis” and “Cossacks,” and then pocketing the $300,000-per-family grant provided by the Israeli government to help them resettle inside Israel.
Sharon’s soaring level of chutzpah becomes even more evident when one considers that it was “Arik King of Israel,” as the settlers used to call him, who was the main driving force behind the building of Jewish settlements in Gaza as well as in the West Bank (or Judea and Samaria). Defying demography, geography, and topography, Sharon, who was hailed as the “Father of the Settlements,” apparently assumed that the millions of Palestinians would simply evaporate, having been “surrounded” by Jewish enclaves. Misleading members of his own government, not to mention several administrations in Washington, he helped the members of the messianic Jewish movement to violate the law and establish a presence in the occupied Arab territories, “creating facts” on the ground that would be impossible to erase and would eventually be transformed into permanent settlements. And he used the power of the pro-Greater-Israel coalition to create his own political base inside the Likud Party and to lead Israel into a disastrous military adventure in Lebanon that, not unlike the settlement project in Gaza, yielded tragic consequences for both Israelis and Arabs. And now he is the one who is criticizing Tel Avivians for going to beach and for their lack of sympathy toward the fate of those settlers who played such a destructive role in the production that Sharon himself had produced and whose script—or at least some lines in it—he is now trying to change.
But guess who wasn’t sunbathing on the beach in Tel Aviv and was feeling the pain of the evacuated settlers? Count CNN and the rest of the American media as the leading empathizers with the members of Israel’s version of Hezbollah and Hamas, playing into their hands by producing a narrative in which the settlers were cast as victims in supposedly one more tragedy in Jewish history.
Doron Rosenblum, a popular Israeli, did a good job of deconstructing the show that the settlers put on during their grand finale in Gaza:
Prayers, embraces, crying, festivals, weddings, endless victimization, surprises and an expectation of miracles, Torah scroll dedication ceremonies, songs, dances, guilt feelings and pangs of conscience, imposing fear by means of hysterical outbursts, eliciting tears in gestures of nostalgic kitsch, Zionistic schmaltz, emotional kvetch in this theater, all means are acceptable [for trying to win sympathy].
In a nauseating demonstration of their perverted p.r. campaign, some of the settlers—who have been prospering in Gaza for years on government subsidies and employing Arab and Thai workers on their farms—were wearing the yellow star or dressed in Nazi concentration-camp outfits as they tried to “simulate” scenes from the Jewish holocaust: Jewish mothers pleading with the Nazi (Israeli) officers not kick them out of their homes in Warsaw (Gaza) and send them to Auschwitz (Tel Aviv).
But the images that have enraged many Israelis, including holocaust survivors, have probably brought tears to the eyes of viewers watching the melodramatic American television coverage of the disengagement. “I couldn’t help but take note once again of the striking double standard applied by American news media as well as the U.S. government,” wrote Orit Shohat in Ha’aretz. “I cannot recall any sympathetic coverage of Palestinians being evicted from their homes. No interviews with weeping mothers or fathers. No discussions of whether the evictions were right or wrong.” This was “obviously a deliberate policy on the part of America’s television networks, for after all, they had 4,170 opportunities to report on Palestinian evictions since September 2000,” Shohat continued. “That’s how many homes were destroyed, and, of course, doesn’t count the orchards and olive trees bulldozed by the Israeli army or Israeli settlers.”
The American media coverage played into the settlers’ hands, creating the image they wanted. The settlers were crying, and CNN was crying with them. Wolf Blitzer failed to mention that these same settlers were responsible for their fate by going to Gaza in the first place and by refusing to cooperate with the Israeli government. None of the settlers seemed to care about the eight Arabs murdered by Jewish terrorists inside Israel and in the West Bank in the name of opposition to the withdrawal. They seemed to have no connection to that, just as they had supposedly no connection to the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
And, of course, the ultimate winner that has emerged in the aftermath of this choreographed media event is Ariel Sharon, who is being lauded by the Bush administration for his “political courage” in being willing to make a “great sacrifice” for peace. In fact, the decision to remove the Jewish settlers from Gaza had very little to do with a desire to reach peace with the Palestinians and was more a response to pressure from the majority of the Israeli public and members of the political and military elites, who have concluded a long time ago that Israel’s long-term security interests were damaged by using precious Israeli resources to maintain and protect a small number of settlers in the midst of more than a million angry and poor Palestinians. It was a unilateral Israeli action that is part of strategy to consolidate Israeli control of large parts of the West Bank and most of the Jewish settlements there, which includes the construction of a “security fence” that will separate Israel from Gaza and the populated Arab areas in the West Bank.
That policy might prove to be cost-effective in terms of ensuring that Israel will not be transformed into a binational Jewish-Arab state while helping the Israelis to protect themselves, at least in the short run, from terrorist attacks by radical Palestinians. Many observers are wondering why the Israeli disengagement from Gaza didn’t take place many years ago. And why were those Jewish settlements established in the first place, resulting in so much waste of Israeli economic and military resources, not to mention the loss of lives on both sides?
In another demonstration of chutzpah, Sharon has already requested that the American taxpayer provide Israel with financial assistance to help her carry out the disengagement from Gaza. But we should recall that all U.S. administrations have condemned the establishment of those settlements, as well as those in the West Bank, and have regarded them as “illegal.” Not unlike the poor orphan who murdered his parents, Sharon and the settlers don’t deserve our pity or our support. There is no reason why Americans should shed tears over the fate of the Jewish settlers or express their gratitude to Sharon for forcing them to return home to Israel proper.
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