Sunday, September 19, 2004

So what about that withdrawal business? The first thing we need to do is remove some of the ideological clutter that has sabotaged any hope of reasonable discussion of this topic.

There are those who argue that any withdrawal is immoral, anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish, etc. This rests on one of two claims:
1. In the battle against evil, maximal borders are optimal borders and retrenchment is defeat.
2. The redemption locomotive has left the station, it travels in one direction and you're either on the train or a dog barking at it.

The first claim is simply wrong; it appeals mainly to those who lack the patience or the wit for subtlety.
The second claim is coherent only to those who simultaneously a) subscribe to hyper-Zionist ideology and b) are frum enough to actually take it seriously. In short, kooks.

Conversely, there are those who argue that not withdrawing is immoral, anti-Zionist, anti-Jewish, etc. This also rests on one of two claims:
1. If the above-mentioned ideological arguments against withdrawal are fallacious, then their polar opposite must be true.
2. We have a moral debt to the Arabs.

The first is simply bad reasoning. Nevertheless, it's useful for moral grandstanding (an egregious example of which is Leon Wieseltier's (characteristically) well-written but (characteristically) self-righteous and pompous recent screed).
As for the second: kiss my ass.

So now that that muck is out of the way, what are the real arguments? Serious proponents of the withdrawal make the following arguments:
1. By shortening defense lines and reducing interaction with local Arabs, the defense burden on Israel's security forces is substantially diminished.
2. By disengaging from a large and growing hostile Arab population, we delay the demographic threat to Israel's Jewish character.
3. By making essentially minor concessions, we derail international pressure for far greater concessions.
4. By adopting a centrist position, we reduce internal political tensions which threaten to undermine Israel's social cohesiveness.

Quite an imposing list! Unfortunately, these arguments are mostly specious.

1. Despite what the Israeli Left would have you believe, Gush Katif is geographically disjoint from the major Arab population centers in Azza. (This is not true of Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag.) Thus, the major defense burden in Azza is not the defense of the Jewish civilian population there but rather preventive action against terror originating in Azza and directed at Jews both in and out of Azza. In particular, the IDF is engaged in the prevention of smuggling of weapons via Egypt and via the Mediterranean, gathering of intelligence on terrorist operations and destruction of explosives factories. Withdrawal will not diminish the need to carry out these missions. It will, however, make them almost impossible to achieve.

2. To the extent that Arabs in Azza constitute a demographic threat to Israel, that threat will remain after a withdrawal of Jews from Azza. The Arabs aren't going anywhere. Israel is not currently responsible for Arab civilian matters in Azza and Arabs in Azza are not enfranchised in Israel. The demographic threat lies , then, simply in the proximity to Israel of a large hostile population. If we close our eyes, will they disappear?

3. Throwing the EU a bone will not keep them busy for long. It will only whet their appetite for more. As for the U.S., let us not delude ourselves that they are on board with settlement blocs, if they go ballistic at the mention of a few new apartments in Maaleh Adumim. All the concessions made at Oslo and all the terror it engendered have bought us no long-lasting goodwill; they have only invited greater pressure for more far-reaching concessions.

4. There was no consensus for withdrawal from Azza before Sharon set out to create one. (I'm not convinced that there is any such consensus even today.) In fact, Labor was trounced in the last election in no small part because unilateral withdrawal from Azza was a centerpiece of its platform. Creating an artificial consensus for withdrawal and then arguing for withdrawal on grounds of consensus is more than a little disingenuous. And if Sharon's intention is to split the difference between his own former self and the Beilins of the world, he can give up now. There is no red line they won't cross to stay far to his left. Finally, if Sharon thinks that it is only the Left's loyalty to the State that need concern us because the Right is incorruptibly patriotic, he may be underestimating the trauma that this withdrawal will cause. Remember that many children have lived their whole lives in Azza -- and then been buried in its soil.

So what argument do withdrawal supporters have left? Somehow it always comes down to what is essentially an act of intellectual desperation that goes roughly like this: Israel has strategic interests which far outweigh that of remaining in Azza and what must have happened is that the United States promised/threatened to do so-and-so if Israel does/does not carry out the withdrawal. It's all very hush hush, so just take Sharon's word for it and hop aboard.

I personally am not about to abandon reason in order to place my faith in a man whose only two confidantes are Dov Weissglas and Omri Sharon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cut to the chase egghead (I say that respectfully) Are you pro- or against-?

2:01 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I thought my position was very clear but I've tightened up the conclusion so it can be understood even by, um, non-eggheads.

9:42 AM  
Blogger the shaigetz said...

You are very articulate and you argue your points sensibly and without the rococo embellishments that so many yeshivishe type frummers seem to find neccesary.

That does not mean I agree with what you write of course. I am not sure that the facts you quote are reliable and there is certainly room IMHO to rescue some of the humanity we used to be so proud of and this occupation is so surely stifling.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually thought the anon was kidding, Ben :)
Anyway, a couple of points:
1. I've always understood the demographics issue to be associated with the "Two state" idea rather than the disengagement, and it's certainly an important issue, especially since this government seems intent on speeding the process (via cuts to child allowances, etc.) Again, there are two sides to the coin, but the argument for separation is certainly stronger there.
2. I think the real reason for the plan is the unstated one (and also seems to have been the one behind Oslo): despair, which you also mentioned. People just can't live in fear like this in the long term, and become wishful about the possibilities offered by an alternative - any alternative - even if it may end up bringing worse results than the original problem.

As for me, I have no problem simply admitting that there is no solution, except for the one the Torah offers - Moshiach. But since you won't hear that from any MK (even the ones who believe it), we're basically stuck.

R. Brand

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, you're anti-withdrawl are you? That's not nice. When you use guns to take something that isn't yours, you're supposed to give it back.

Please, no bushwa, about how god gave it to us. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. And if he did, who says this is how we're supposed to act toward the native inmhabitants? I'm not about to impovrish a nation on the grounds of a sfek sfeka :))

10:37 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

When you use guns to defend yourself against thugs who would drive you into the sea, it would be imprudent to give anything back to those same thugs. This is not based on a sfek sfeka but on the absolute certainty that I prefer life to death. I'm certainly not about to advocate concessions based on the recommendation of people who get their information about Israel from tendentious newspaper stories about "impoverishment".

10:57 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Right now I see a lot of short term solutions to some real problems. The Arabs are not going anywhere. Their birthrate exceeds ours and many if not a majority are learning to view us as immoral prison guards who have little to no legitimate claim to our land.

They haven't any reason to believe Torah any more than we should believe in the Koran.

When you are forced to take the kind of protective measures we have At some point in time we do begin to lose our humanity and that is very troubling.

At the same time it is understood that there are large numbers who are happy to slaughter us like sheep, our blood is cheap to them.

So to me it starts to come down to balance. How can I protect my family and my humanity. How do I avoid turning into something that I despise while still providing my children with safety.

The current situation is not going to provide safety. Unless and until we find a way to change the minds of those who educate Arab youth we are going to be placed in this awful position for a long time.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this talk about our "humanity". I tend to think that the folks who ramble on most about that are the ones who feel their humanity is threatened after hearing stories about what goes on rather than those coming off of a month of reserve duty. When you are actually out there - risking your life to defend your kids and the kids of your millions of brothers and sisters here in the Homeland, you find yourself able to engage in a little bit of deeper thinking on the matter. The desire, which our enemies ravenously prey upon, to "save our humanity" (or, acting in a way that is better PR for Diaspora Jews and taking a shot in the dark as we tell ourselves it maaaaaybe will lead to our kids not having to serve in the IDF as much) by jeapordizing the lives of everyone we love through engaging in the same misguided endeavors we have pursued since Oslo.

Another very important point, and I imagine Ben Chorin knows all about both of these stories, is the patently anti-democratic nature of every aspect of the "Peace Process" - best viewed from a case study on the phenomenon of the Jericho casino and Dov Weisglas's business interests in a plan to build a casino in Judenrein Gush Katif as well.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Gilly said...

Extremely well put. Raised some very interesting points.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two forgotten verses

1 - va'asita et hatov v'hayashar...

Has Israel done this viz. the Palestenians? No.

Ok, many of them are thugs. Many of them would like nothing more than to destroy Israel. Maskim. But that's irrelevant.

Jews are required to do what is good and what is right and to let the chips fall where they may. They aren't supposed to justify evil.

2 - ...u'vacharta et hachayim

If it's dangerous to live in the territories, the Torah wants you to leave. Choose life. Kivush ha'aretz is not a harag v'al ya'avor. If we agree, and I think we can agree, that the settlers lives are endangered, the choice is clear: Choose life. Move.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

You can ramble on all you want in an attempt to besmirch and marginalize maintaining some decency, but it doesn't change the reality.

And the reality is that from the most simplistic Judaic precept clearly calls for a higher, more moral standing. We do what we can to try and be better people to try and make ourselves holy.

And I have heard people try to boil this down by saying that all of the Aravim are children of Amalek or some other tripe that can be used as an excuse to beat up, humiliate and denigrate people.

And I still maintain that the longer this kind of behavior takes place the more you lose.And believe me, I am not someone who is shy about defense.

I am not fooled by rhetoric and I know that there are many who want to slaughter us wholesale. So there is a real need to take steps to prevent this.

But there is also a need to reasoned and practical thought. And part of that is an understanding that life is an evolution and that it requires change to survive and that it is height of stupidity to build your house beneath a boulder or in a place that floods yearly.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack and I (the two verses were my contribution) are of the same mind. What's the egghead's answer? ;)

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of the arguments for withdrawal which you listed, the only one which I am interested in is improving Israel's defensive position. In your dismissal of that argument it seems to me there is a contradiction:

1. Despite what the Israeli Left would have you believe, Gush Katif is geographically disjoint from the major Arab population centers in Azza.
Withdrawal will not diminish the need to carry out these missions. It will, however, make them almost impossible to achieve.

If the Israelis living in Gush Katif are so far removed as to not require major IDF resources to protect (this is not the impression I get from my coworkers who serve) then how is it that removing them will make a significant difference in how other IDF operations are carried out?


11:57 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Anonymous Bible Thumper:
I'll respond to you, Jack and Shaigetz in a separate post when I have time.

According to the plan, the army will be withdrawn from Azza completely.


12:12 AM  

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