Human faces of disengagement
Photo: AP

A willing evacuation

The government has power and the right to use it. But it doesn’t have the right have the right to erase opposition

Much has been said over the past few days about the “willing evacuation” stage. The media reports about the first families of settlers who have agreed to move out willingly before the forceful evacuation began. A few supporters of the disengagement wonder out loud, what’s the big deal about being evacuated?


People move houses every day. Both sides of this coin manage to blur the distinctions between a willing act and a forced one.


Many people choose to stay silent—so does that mean the government is justified in silencing others? Some people commit suicide of their own will—does that mean killing them is then justified? People agree to have sexual relations of their own will—does that mean rape is then allowed too?


So then let’s not talk about a “willing evacuation”. It’s true the government has power, and in the right situation, it also has the right to use it. But the government has neither the right nor the power to erase opposition, nor to turn protest in to agreement, nor force in to will.


Coercion is coercion


The government would like and the media encourages the idea among the settlers that they should be coerced until they come to say that they actually want to be removed. It’s much more pleasant and agreeable that way. Temptations offered, threats spoken, all to the goal that the most stubborn of the opposition should say: actually we want to go.


But the settlers are refusing to give in. the only thing they have left is to defend their dignity and the autonomy of their will. To retain their right to say: We want to stay. You may succeed in removing us, but you will not succeed in changing our will.


The decree has been set


Field reporters and studio interviewers ask the question again and again in amazement: Don’t you understand that the “decree has been set?” They use the word decree from the word “Pur”in Hebrew, referring to the evil decree Haman procured from the king in order to carry out his wish to kill the Jews in the Book of Esther 9:24?

Don’t you realize that it’s a done deal, the interviewers say? What else do you think is going to happen?


It’s worth taking a moment to look at the biblical root of this expression “Pur”—and the fate of Haman and his decree to destroy the Jews.


Those same interviewers who protested the use of expressions or comparisons to the Holocaust and the disengagement found themselves—either innocently or from ignorance—comparing the edict of disengagement to the edict of the evil Haman.


The end of the story is well-known: The villain was hung on a tree and the holiday became known as Purim, from the root of word “Pur”. And if the expression “it has been decreed” reminds us necessarily of Purim, then let’s not be surprised if the settlers act like Mordechai the Jew, who would not bow and who would not give in, who prayed and expected a miracle to happen that would change things completely and make “the Jews rejoice with happiness”.


Disengagement under fire


“There won’t be a disengagement under fire,” said the Prime Minister. What that sounded like to those who were listening was that if there would be fire—there won’t be disengagement. Ever the creative one, Sharon clarified what he meant: If there will be fire—we will stop it. The disengagement will be carried out, and we will make sure that there will be no fire. But even a powerful ruler like Sharon cannot control fire. At most he can react to fire, but he cannot prevent it. You can have a pullout without agreement, but there is no such thing as a unilateral disengagement. There’s always another side, and it is out there on the streets and it has its own view and perception of reality.


Between those two ideas, Sharon meant that the disengagement will not be carried out on the ground as long as there is fire from above. A disengagement under fire, or a disengagement in exchange for fire: instead of “an eye for an eye”, we got “disengagement under fire.” Land for terror. They shoot and we get out. That’s the way the other side sees it, and it would be difficult to say that that’s a far-fetched interpretation.


People move all the time


True, human beings are mortal and move around a lot. People move houses, sometimes by desire, and sometimes because of work, family and things like that. They leave the place, but the place remains. A man that leaves the place he was born, knows that at some point in the future he can come back to it, with his family, his children and grandchildren, and say to them, like in the famous song: “I was born here, my children were born here, I built my home with my own two hands here.” He takes his leave of a place but refuses to give up his past and his memories.


But in Gush Katif, the bulldozer will destroy al that. It will wipe out all memories. It will erase the fingerprints and reformat the diskette. It will make the gentile dream come true: “And there will be no more memory of the name of Israel anymore.”


As such, we aren’t talking about an evacuation; we are talking about total destruction. Not only are people being moved against their will, but the place itself is being destroyed. The homes, the gardens, the public building, synagogues and even the cemeteries. There won’t be any foothold left, not even a grave. No one will be able to go back and visit, there will be no trace, no memory. Not only will a dream of the future fly away, but the present will be forever frozen. The past too will be wiped out. Gush Katif will never have been.


That is the edict and that is the intention. Facing that are people who wish to maintain their dignity, to leave something personal geographically and not something personal (or communal) biographically. They don’t want to erase it all, don’t want to destroy every trace down to the foundations. That something should remain of their blood, sweat and tears, of their dedication, their faith, their dreams and their hopes.


Hami Avneri, a resident of Alon Shvut in the Gush Etzion bloc, is a PhD student of constitutional law in the University of Haifa, and a researcher at the Schwartz Institute/Morasha House in Jerusalem


פרסום ראשון: 08.18.05, 00:23
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