January 4, 2003 - The Deal

In the midst of these bad times, let us take a short break, perhaps even a comic relief, and look at a somewhat detached issue.

The issue is one of the most superficial and fallacious arguments against our refusal. For some reason, this argument has amazing vitality, and it keeps surfacing as follows: "Now because of you, the right-wingers will refuse to evacuate settlements too, and then what shall we say to them !?!"

Sadly enough, this argument is usually heard from people who oppose government policies, people who used to be called "the Left" (in other words, potential partners to our struggle). It is even more prevalent among that moderate sector's political representatives, and what do you know, even our Supreme Court couldn't find a better argument[1].

Actually, the gut reply of most refuseniks is the best one: let these right-wingers go ahead and refuse then. We are the last ones who would demand of someone to act against everything he was raised upon[2]. But this reply does not pacify the plaintiffs: What do you mean let them refuse? And what would remain of the glue that holds us together? How can one run a country this way? They lash out at you, as at one who has trampled upon their most precious treasure, the single thing they have managed to somehow preserve in spite of everything. And so they recycle the same argument again and again, an argument that seems to them as sound and solid as the reality seen through Israeli TV, and as bold and determined as the struggle of Labor[3] and Meretz[4] for peace. I think it's about time for us to put some effort, dig to the source of this argument and beat it up for good.

What is the sanctum sanctorum of the argument, its heart and soul? A Deal. A charming wink from the "left wing" to the "right wing": we're keeping our punks under control, you take care of yours. So, before I continue, let me tell the deal-makers: I know that in our public culture there is nothing holier than a holy deal, but my private conscience is not up for sale in any deal. If something seems to me like a crime, I'm not going to do it, and don't employ your mafia-style logic on me. In any case, you have no right to be mad at me - at the very best, you could meekly ask for my cooperation, accompanied by many apologies.

On second thought, let's not be so strict. Let's allow some slack here. After all, it's our national unity etc. that's at stake, maybe we should sacrifice a bit of our conscience upon this crucial altar. Let's see if it's worth it. Let us examine the practical details of this deal.

Who is the other party, what is this group of potential refuseniks that we are being held hostage against? Its core is composed of the ideological settlers and their followers. Yes, the same group born during the 70's, amidst climbing on hilltops and forcibly defying all laws and all forces of law and order sent to stop it. The same group, that during the 80's demonstrated its political clout, by toiling day and night to release some of its leaders who were arrested for being members of the murderous "Jewish Underground" terror movement[5]. The same group, that during the 90's sprouted from its flanks bad weeds such as Baruch Goldstein[6] (whose tomb has become a pilgrimage shrine) and Yigal Amir[7] (who receives fan letters from teenage girls) - people whose acts have brought the country to near ruin. To sum it up, we are talking here about one of the most violent and law-breaking groups in the country, a group with whom, since the late Rabin, no one has dared to mess. I don't really remember that any of the leaders of the extreme or 'legit' right wing offered true cooperation in bringing this group under control. As a matter of fact, I've heard mostly the opposite.

I hope to God, that when the fateful day arrives, and a determined ruler tries again to really end the Occupation, I hope and pray that all we'll have to deal with from these guys, is conscientious objection, newspaper ads and a few peaceful demonstrations[8].

Moreover, who needs their non-refusal? After all, from a practical viewpoint there is a glaring asymmetry between the two sides of the deal, between the amount of obedience required here and there: evacuation is an operation of limited duration and scope (an operation that only God knows if and when it will ever take place!) On the other hand, the obedience to serve the Occupation is shoved down our throats during three or more years of regular service, and then every year or two in reserve, without an end in sight. And "they" already look with coveting eyes at our male offspring and our future grandsons, and mark them for tyranny when they come of age.

All this, all of us and our sons and our sons' sons, our conscience and our dignity, you have taken the right to sell, my gallant dealmakers, in return for what exactly? And from whom exactly? And where, mind you, is the written contract, or even a handshake? This, then, is the Glorious Deal, that you have been bothering us so much about. Well done. You deserve at least three medals: The Ehud Barak Medal for conducting negotiations, the Shimon Peres medal for contact with reality, and the Fuad[9] Medal for National Unity. Get outta here.

Wait a minute, I'm not done yet. Now I'm not laughing anymore. Because this is not a simple deal - but rather, as is common in our places, a complex and circular deal. While our "left wing" representatives wink to the right (and imagine they're seeing a wink back), they also manage to wink at us, their rank and file: guys, keep on patiently obeying. We'll do everything in our power to end this nightmare. And this second deal, between us and them, is far less imaginary.

Because I kept my side of the deal for years. I took vomit bags and anti-nausea pills, and went to the Territories again and again, with the innocent belief that there is someone out there working for my future, for my children's future. Someone who, at the moment of truth, will lie down on the road and won't let the worst come to pass. But the moment of truth arrived. This moment has been here for over three years now. It started in the lost days of Barak, a time when I asked myself again and again with shock: What is he doing? WHAT IS HE DOING???[10]

And where were my representatives? They were being loyal. Loyal to whom? To me and my children? Loyal to a lasting peace and an end of the Occupation? No. They were being loyal to the Prime Minister.

And after that shameful, sorry night in October 2000, when Barak faced the nation and said without blinking an eye that "there is no partner", and thus sealed all escape exits from the cycle of bloodshed - after this night, when I wanted to shatter the TV to pieces, where were all the Knights of Peace, the Knights of the Holy Deal? They were backstage, holding his hand, whispering advice. And what have they been doing since then? Coming (only when it's convenient for them) to the microphone in order to preach to the entire world - especially to the Palestinians, of course - taking extreme care to speak in noncommittal, uninvolved, non-intervening terms.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the "Men of Peace" who fell asleep while on duty: I kept my part of the deal. It is YOU who broke it in the most contemptible manner. Now I'm busy, with my meager powers, trying to do the job that you're still weaseling away from.

Don't talk deals to me. No more circular affairs. Now it's time for the real thing: to struggle for what you believe in.

Assaf Oron


[1] On December 30, a week after the Hebrew version of this text went online, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the famous "appeal against the Occupation" by refuseniks, using this exact same argument as the main reason for the decision.

[2] An aside: I wonder what were these souls raised upon, souls who are so empathetic towards people living in their homes for thirty years, sometimes five years, sometimes only a few months - these very same merciful souls, who are usually the first to demand the expulsion and home-destruction of more and more people living in their homes for many hundreds of years. And the only difference being the blood and race of the evacuated tenants. Never mind, I'd still let them refuse. Driving people out of their homes is not a pleasant thing to do.

[3] To those who already forgot: until November 2002, Labor was a major partner to Sharon's government of war and re-occupation.

[4] An all-too-silent and lethargic opposition party.

[5] Arrested in 1984, this Jewish terror group was responsible for several murderous attacks and murder attempts, including assassination attempts on the elected Palestinian mayors of Nablus and Hebron. Following intensive lobbying, the late president Herzog (Labor party) gave way, and granted all of the terrorists pardon by about 1990 (the few years they did serve were, of course, in high-privilege prisons). One of the terrorists, Hagai Segal, then became a columnist in the high-circulation Ma'ariv daily, and used this position to incessantly incite against Rabin, the Oslo process, and all things democratic.

[6] Perpetrator of the 1994 Hebron Massacre, which is now seen by many as the first nail in the Oslo coffin.

[7] Rabin's assassinator.

[8] I hope and pray, but really there's not much chance.

[9] Benjamin "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer, Sharon's Defense Minister until last November, led the Labor party to full complicity in Sharon's crimes, for the sake of national unity.

[10] Ehud Barak, elected in May 1999 with the solemn promise to return Israel onto Rabin's route to normalcy, actually adopted Netanyahu's corrupt zigzag politics, both internally and externally, and also his contempt for the Palestinians. Within a short while, he managed to frustrate and anger most Israelis - especially those who voted for him - and even more so, the Palestinians.