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Professor Michael Sherman

Thoughts about the Holy Land

Dear Friends:

As you now, I am now in Israel until mid-July. Many things look very different from within then from the other side of the Ocean. Hopefully, I will have a chance to discuss the current situation in Israel when I return back. However, because the time is pressing, I would like to say few words now, although I realize that my ability to be convincing is very much limited by such short format.

Being in America, I always wandered why every Israeli move regarding Arabs is so illogical. For example, why Israel, acting according to written Oslo agreements, gave out territories, and never requested from Palestinians fulfillments of their part of the agreement? Even minor things like incitements in official PA media have not been enforced until now. Another example: it is well understood that Hamas is now the major political rival of Abbas. Why then Israel releases 900 terrorists many (probably most) of whom are members of Hamas, saying that it will strengthen Abbas? Do you see logic? We can go on and on with such stories. (You see I am talking only about pragmatism and logic, and I am not talking about irrelevant issues like justice, etc.)

So, why Israel behaves like that trying to make peace with Arabs? Here, in a course of talking with a large number of people, I realized that this question is actually invalid, because it has an internal assumption that the goal of these processes is to solve the Palestinian problem. In reality, Palestinian Arabs are just bystanders who are unlucky enough to be caught in an internal struggle for power between Jews. In fact, Palestinian identity, as a way to create a Palestinian problem, was invented and promoted by Jews. This is a novel paradigm for me, but let me briefly describe without many arguments what appears to take place here.

1. Israeli Left (as a movement) was very important in creating the State, and at the first stages of struggle for survival. The main and only goal of the Left has always been a creation of the State that serves as a "safe haven" for Jews. People on the Left do not have historic-religious background in their consciousness, and therefore they do not have sentiments about the Land beyond the borders of 1948.

2. Israeli Left movement failed to create the "safe haven", probably because this goal is unreachable within their model, and so they come to a stumbling block. They lost a vision, and start agonizing being unable to realize that the problem is at the basis of the ideology, i.e. the model of "save haven" cannot save the Jewish state under the condition that neighboring Nations do not agree with the Jewish right for the Land. Moreover, if the basis of our right for the Land is just a UN mandate, then Arabs, along with many European countries, are absolutely right since we know exactly the price of the UN declarations. If the Jews think along these lines, we should stop the whole enterprise, pack the baggage and let other people live in peace in this Land. This is a bit of exaggeration, but I intentionally put it here to demonstrate that the ideology of the Left is self-destructing. The ideological agony results in a rapid degradation of this part of the society. It becomes very obvious when you compare young generations of Left and Right, and though I will not elaborate on this issue, they look and behave very differently, and guess who makes a better impression.

3. So, Left is a weakened part of the society. I fell that we should not demonize them in any sense (as they demonize us), but rather we should realize that they are in need of help. Unfortunately, until very recently no efforts have been made to reach out and convince people from the Left that there ought be a shift of the entire paradigm, and the alternative ideology is healthier for them and their children, and actually will lead to a safer and more peaceful State. My feeling is that if these Jews are saved from the ideological agony, this will be the most important achievement of Israel. (Here I would like to distinguish between the ideological Left, i.e. people who have Left ideology, and the political Left, i.e. ruling part of the Left, which is kind of malignant).

4. Historically Left has always being at the helm of power. Since early 80s, however, the political focus of the ruling part of the Left has shifted dramatically, because of the rapid raise of another power, which is Israeli Right (Its ideology, of course, is based on the religious and historical right of the Jews for the Land, but I will not elaborate on their ideology here). Fighting with the Right became the most important task for the Left, since they started to lose because of the lack of positive focus. Unfortunately, as happened in our history many times, this ruling oligarchy started to collaborate with the enemies and established a hostile regime at our backyard and even armed them. It was stunning, but they even did not care about an organized shift of the created PA regime into a full-fledged terrorist entity, which also terrorized its own people, was corrupted, did not care about an economy, spent enormous sums for building carcasses of houses which are never going to be inhabited with only aim to claim the land, etc. Why? From the standpoint of solving problems of Palestinians this strategy of the Left was absolute absurdity. However, if we realize that the goal was nothing to do with making a peace with Palestinians, but rather an undermining the Right, everything comes to place. In fact, this was just an easy way to get rid of the settlements, which are the main base of the Right. Accordingly settlers are always depicted by the official media as "militants", thus justifying a struggle with them as with Hamas, which is also "militant" (you see what a powerful linguistic trick, which was recently adopted by the American media). If settlements are destroyed, the Right will be in complete disarray for a very long time. Of course it was quite risky, but they decided to go this way because of the desperation. Even now, when we know that this policy resulted in a more than a thousand deaths, and thousands of people without limbs and with other severe injuries, instead of covering their heads with ashes and begging for apologies the ruling part of the Left is not giving up and continue their efforts to destroy the Right this same way.

But Jews? Deporting Jews from their homes where they lived for 30 years and where Jewish communities existed for centuries? That is not Ethnic Cleansing. In fact it is not a big deal at all. You see, Jews are movable. They are used to being expelled from the places that they live. They have been expelled from various countries dozens if not hundreds of times.

5. What is happening now in Gush Katif is part of this strategy. I do not want to discuss why Sharon does that. He does not give any explanations, and we can only guess. But whatever was the reasoning, Sharon is now at power only because he is supported by the Left. The Right does not trust him any more. So he will be at power only as long as he goes along with the Left strategy, otherwise he will be toppled in a minute. If he is toppled, we will return to square one but only without Gush Katif and a part of Shomron. If he is not toppled, he will have to continue to sacrifice more and more settlements and territories (and by the way, Jerusalem, as mentioned in the last press conference by George Bush), until the Right base is completely destroyed along with everything else.

6. This is just a thought about what could happen if Sharon's government continues on this path, and to illuminate that we should not fool ourselves thinking that the Disengagement will allow us retaining settlement blocks after giving up Gaza and three settlements in Shomron (Actually not many people are aware that these Shomron settlements together with the surrounding land that is suppose to be given up consist about 10% of the entire size of the country). From the same press conference with Bush it is clear that all the previous "understandings" with Sharon are null and void (and I am not blaming Bush here, since the entire approach was fundamentally flawed).

7. In reality I do not think that will happen because the Disengagement requires a lot of guts, and the Left does not have them, while the Right does have. I guess that the likely scenario is that the government will back up at the very last moment because of the fear of enormous opposition (or increase in Palestinian terrorism, as always happened in the past). In fact, now by polls less then 50% support the Disengagement. I do not trust polls, but unless there is a referendum, we will never know this for sure. On the other hand, in case the government decides to go ahead with Disengagement, the entire country will be paralyzed by the civil disobedience movement, and I do not see how they can physically conduct this action.

8. So, this entire letter is to bring the idea that the Disengagement is just a beginning of a long struggle between Left and Right for Israelis' minds and souls. Frankly, I am more than optimistic. I think the time of agony and lack of vision is almost over, and the country will not be destroyed from within, and will go ahead. Seeing people in Jerusalem, I am pretty sure that we will overcome this dark period. But we need to work on that.

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