The painful pictures of Jewish-Israeli children confronting Israeli soldiers with the question “Why are you removing me from my home?” will forever haunt the young soldiers charged by the Sharon government to do the dirty job of expelling Jews from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. In going through such drastic measures Sharon has basically divorced himself from the Likud ideology not to mention that of the nationalist camp. He has conversely bought into Shimon Peres’ and the left’s ideology that “Israel must end the occupation.”
The ideology of post-Zionism has triumphed over Zionist idealism embedded in the residents of Gush Katif, Judea and Samaria who left comfortable homes in central Israel to fulfill their pioneering mission for Zionism. Back in the 1940’s and the 1950’s it was the kibbutzim youth who displayed the meaning of Zionist pioneering and self-sacrifice for their homeland. Young, left-leaning kibbutzniks, volunteered to combat units, they came to the wild unsettled Negev to teach new immigrants, and “to build the land and be rebuilt by it” as the old pioneering song goes.
By the 1970’s and 1980’s the sons and daughters of the leftist Zionist elites abandoned the kibbutzim for the proverbial three- piece suits and the pursuit of money. Ben Gurion’s son as well as Itzhak Rabin’s moved to the US. Shimon Peres’ son became a corporate tycoon. The socialist elite found its future in the New Middle East as envisioned by Shimon Peres- a new ideology that stands ready to forfeit land, history, heritage, and the very raison d’etre of Zionism, for the global idealism of open markets and technology as the only new tools for existence.
The New Middle East is an unworkable formula for the Middle East. Peres’ mind was on the West when he advanced his notions of markets and technology for the 21st century. The Arab Middle East looks more towards the glories of the 7th century than to Peres’ visions of the 21st. Arab and Muslim leaders reacted to Shimon Peres’ notion of open borders with hatred and contempt.
Similarly, the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, a brainchild of the Labor party, adopted by Ariel Sharon in spite of receiving a huge electoral mandate against such a move, will prove to be as effective as Peres’ New Middle East. However logical in may sound to Westerners, the Arab Middle East has found a different meaning to it: Jewish loss of will and faith, cowardice, and weakness. The Palestinians are heralding the withdrawal as the defeat of Judaism in the face of Islamic resolve.
In the meantime, Sharon dealt a devastating blow to the most idealistic segment of the Israeli population. The National-Religious movement that spawned the Zionist pioneering in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, and sent its youth to the elite combat units, and development towns to help Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, is in a state of shock. Sharon deemed them irrelevant in his post-Zionist Israel.
The message that Prime Minister Sharon sent to every Jew in the world is that in the free State of Israel Jewish sovereignty is limited, the continued living of Jews in their homes might be in doubt and their security conditional. And, that Israel needs to pay “protection money” to the Palestinian Authority enemy, requires Egypt’s protection of its Southern border and US approval of its every action in self-defense or otherwise.
Ariel Sharon alienated the best element in Israeli society-its idealists. Worse yet, he has used the truly sacrosanct Israel Defense Forces to do what the dictator Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe does-throw people out of their homes. What implications this action might have on the future morale of the IDF is yet to be seen. In the short term many of the young soldiers will live with a deep trauma and guilt. Their bitterness is bound to grow as Hamas takes over the former settlements in Gush Katif and uses them as bases for greater and more effective terror against Israel.
The cry of the Jewish children of Gush Katif “Why are you expelling me from my home” may very well be mixed with the cries of the residents of Sederot, Netivot, Ashkelon, and other Israeli towns in the Negev, “Why did you bring upon us the terrorists rockets?” The answers will come in the next elections, but that will be too late for the traumatized soldiers, heart-broken former residents of Gush Katif, and the angry and grieving residents of the Negev.
Joseph Puder is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel (ITAI).