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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Deportation of Jews

If all goes according to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans, the Gaza Strip will be emptied of Jews by this time next month. It is tempting to say "cleansed of Jews", but the term has such negative connotations that I hesitate to use it.

The shocking thing has been the absolute silence from human rights advocates. After all, what PM Sharon plans is the mass eviction of a significant population from their homes -- homes in which they have been living peacefully and lawfully for years; homes in which they have built businesses and raised families. Homes, in short, where they have built a life.

The victims of this eviction will be transported to other places, which, they are told, will be safer for them. And arguably, they are without democratic recourse.

In the State of Israel, which is so often touted as "the only democracy in the Middle East", PM Sharon won the last elections by a landslide. It was a one-issue race, and the issue was giving Gaza to the Palestinians. This election was the only chance the Israeli electorate has had to express its will concerning this plan, and the overwhelming majority of the citizenry said: "No".

Not only does the Prime Minister have no mandate for such an unprecedented move against his own people, but he has a solid mandate against it. And when his own party, the Likud, demanded a referendum, Sharon, confident that the polls were giving him a large margin of victory, agreed. More than this; he agreed to accept the results of the referendum as binding.

When the Likud referendum went overwhelmingly against Sharon's plans, he reneged on his public agreement to accept the results. After effectively disenfranchising the Israeli public as a whole, he had also disenfranchised his own party.

When Sharon brought the plan to his handpicked cabinet for approval, he once more found himself in the minority. And so he did what any dictator with a token cabinet would do: he fired ministers who opposed his plan, and then announced with all the sincerity of Leonid Brezhnev after a Soviet election that the cabinet had voted in favor of the plan.

Why are the human rights advocates not up in arms about this?

Perhaps it is a matter of numbers. After all, we are only talking about some 8,500 men, women and children. But consider: the population of the State of Israel is roughly 6.9 million people. The US population is approximately 297 million people. The 8,500 Israelis facing deportation are the equivalent of about 366,000 Americans.

The population of Miami is 363,000. The population of St. Louis is 348,000. The population of Pittsburgh is 334,000.

Think about those numbers. Picture them in your mind, because that is what 8,500 people means in Israel. Or since all of the deportees are to be Jews, perhaps we should consider only the Jewish population of Israel, which is only about 5.26 million. That would make the victims of this eviction equivalent to 480,000 Americans. Comparable US cities include New Orleans, Las Vegas and Cleveland.

Imagine the US government announcing that the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was to be evacuated in its entirety, and the area turned over to al-Qaeda as part of a deal to encourage them not to attack us again. Now imagine that this became the sole issue of substance in a presidential election, and that the most vociferous opponent of the plan won the election by a landslide on the strength of his commitment to oppose any such thing, ever.

And then imagine the victorious presidential candidate announcing that he was going ahead with the eviction anyway.

This is the reality of PM Sharon's "disengagement" plan, due to take place next month, with the approval of the US government.

Why are the human rights advocates not screaming themselves hoarse about this?

Certainly it can't be because the Israeli government is behind the plan. That has never stopped these advocates from attacking Israel in the past over offenses real and imagined. When the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin deported 415 terrorists to Lebanon, the world went into a tizzy. You would think that the fates of over 8,500 men, women and children might merit a protest or two from the self-appointed defenders of the downtrodden.

Could it be because they find silence to be politically expedient in this instance? Could it be that they are willing to countenence any abuse of human rights, by any non-democratic means, provided that it leads toward a goal of which they approve? Such an accusation is a strong one, and it would be nice if there were some more charitable interpretation of the silence from these activists for (some) human rights.

Maybe people haven't grasped the magnitude of the crime about to be committed against an innocent and law abiding population. Maybe.


Anonymous Joshua W. Burton said...

Israel has rescued still larger numbers of Jews than this in the past (14,000 from Ethiopia in a single day in May 1991), while facing much more severe halakhic, cultural, linguistic and economic obstacles to their successful absorption.

The fact that Jews in many places have lived, and still live, under appalling racist threat of annihilation is a human rights issue of the first magnitude, and the world's indifference to it is a travesty and a stain. But every time a few thousand more, or even a single family more, are brought inside our Biblical boundaries and within the full protection of Israeli law, the scope of the threat is that much lessened. Or so I, a Zionist, have always believed.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I'm not sure that I can wrap my mind around the idea of "saving" 8,500 people against their will.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Joshua W. Burton said...

Talk to any Moroccan who came over between 1951 and 1956, especially the tens of thousands who were dragged away from "undesirable" parents or uncles. Or to my Yemenite friends, the Catabis, on Rehov Noah Kromer in Rehovot. Or to my Romanian office mate at the Weizmann, whose father's valid passport was confiscated by the Aliyah Bet in Cyprus in 1946, imprisoning their family for two full years so as not to lose them to the Communists.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I know people who were stolen from their parents by the Jewish Agency in order to secularize them. I know the children of such stolen children. None of those I've met considered it a favor.

I also know people who had children stolen from them at that time, and neither do they consider it a favor.

Ultimately, the Christian idea of doing unto others is without any support in Judaism. It led to burning heretics at the stake in order to "save" them from eternal damnation. Not a path to be admired or emulated.

In Judaism, we say "Do not do to others what is hateful to you", and refrain from recommending any kind of "doing unto others".

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Joshua W. Burton said...

Also, we say "kol Yisra'el arevim ze l'ze," all Israel is surety one to another.

The alternative of simply pulling back all troops from Gaza, and allowing residents of all backgrounds to come to a permanent solution by expedient means, is not without its supporters among the Israeli secular left. But I haven't often heard it defended as a Jewish answer.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Joshua W. Burton said...

And, lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear that all the anecdotal Israelis I cited do consider their involuntary salvation a favor, from a perspective of two generations later...though they agree it was callously done.

We've left behind leeks and watermelons before, and there are always complaints.

3:17 PM  
Blogger pacatrue said...

Howdy. I cannot really debate these issues with you, as I am woefully ignorant on the full history. But I thought I would try to guess the alternatives. Let's assume for this that the decision has been made to withdraw security from the settlements in the Gaza strip. There seem to be two basic choices. 1) Let the settlers stay there and live as they can. 2) Take them out against their will. You have mentioned all of the issues with number 2. However, choice #1 isn't all that pretty either. I am guessing that soon there would be attacks on Jews in the settlements who are not defended with heavy security anymore. Then I imagine the news reports of someone shooting a rocket at the settlement and killing a family. Then you have the natural outcry. How can the government sit there and let these people die? They must provide security! It is the only humane thing to do. And so, voila, the withdrawal ends, and back in the Israeli security forces go. So I wonder if there is no way to withdraw without taking the people with you. At best it seems like the alternative would be a Gaza version of the Wild West where people fight it out on their own, while we all sit and watch.

Writing to learn...

6:10 PM  
Anonymous jon baker said...

Jewish blood is cheap. We all know that. "Human Rights" types yell about the Jewish wall, while not saying anything about half a dozen other defencive fenses put up by other countries for political-internal reasons; yell about Rachel Corrie, while ignoring Alisa Flatow.

By the way, you might want to place a disclaimer about the Google ads. 3 of the 4 visible when I read your blog today were for Wicca-related things. I think the "ex-Wiccan" hits their context-sensitivity.

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Shimon said...

Lisa said:
Could it be because they find silence to be politically expedient in this instance? Could it be that they are willing to countenence any abuse of human rights, by any non-democratic means, provided that it leads toward a goal of which they approve?

... Could it be because the deportees are... ummm... Jews???

6:12 AM  

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