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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Likud decides on Israel's soul

by Michael Freund
Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2004

For a nation that rightly prides itself on its humane treatment of its enemies, Israel needs to start taking a long, hard look at how it treats its own citizens.

This coming Sunday, the fate of some 8,000 Jews will hang in the balance, when members of the Likud cast their ballots on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to withdraw from Gaza and northern Samaria.

It is a vote laden with significance, in political as well as diplomatic and strategic terms, one whose outcome will have far-reaching repercussions, both locally and on the international scene.

But amid all the debate and discussion regarding the various aspects of Sharon's proposal, there is one key question that has been largely ignored: What kind of society is Israel becoming?

After all, it is not every day that a liberal Western democracy considers the mass expulsion of thousands of its citizens from their homes, barring them from living in a certain area because of their ethnicity and religion. Nor does it happen very often that an entire community finds its right to exist called into question, thereby implying that it is somehow less legitimate or less equal than others.

Put aside for a moment your thoughts about the wisdom of Jews living in Gaza, and consider this: What does it say about a society when it is willing to countenance the forcible eviction of Jews?

And how does such a possibility mesh with the age-old vision of Zionism, or the modern day conception of the individual's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

The vote this Sunday, then, is more than just a referendum on Jews living in Gush Katif. It is a vote for Israel's soul, a fateful verdict on the nature of what Israeli society and morality have become, and what they wish to be.

Because deep down, we all know that if Gaza's Jews were Palestinians, this would never be happening.

Indeed, if a government in Israel arose which sought to put the question of evicting Arabs up to a vote, it would rightly be denounced as racist and immoral.

But when it comes to Jews, it seems that a double standard is too often applied.

Take, for example, the issue of prayer on the Temple Mount. Week in and week out, thousands of Palestinians stream to Jerusalem's Old City for Friday prayers. Yet Jews who wish to do the same, tax-paying citizens of this country, who seek to exercise their basic right to freedom of worship, are subjected to all sorts of restrictions and limitations.

When Palestinians suspected of terrorism are placed into administrative detention, the defenders of freedom and human rights raise a hue and a cry, denouncing the government for resorting to extra-judicial means.

And yet, when the very same tool is used against a Jewish settler, an Israeli citizen ostensibly safeguarded by all the rights and protections that civil society affords him, the voices of concern suddenly fall silent.

THE OBSESSION in certain circles with ensuring Palestinian rights has inevitably led to a lack of resolve when it comes to protecting Jewish rights. Indeed, although the Left likes to assert that the "occupation" is corrupting Israel's soul, the only thing that has truly been tarnished is Israel's treatment of its own citizens.

And so, because Jews are not Palestinians, the government feels free to do things to them that it would never even consider doing to our foes.
Sad, sick and very true. Read the rest.


And see too what Sharon is saying, as the polls are starting to show him losing the Likud ballot: Sharon warns of perils of rejecting Gaza plan:
He predicted victory, but also warned hardline party members, many of whom oppose the proposed Gaza withdrawal, that a defeat could topple the Likud-led government.

"You cannot be for me but against the plan I am spearheading. Whoever believes in me must vote for the disengagement plan," he told Israel's Army Radio.

"Otherwise it will be a victory for Arafat and Hamas
and will ultimately bring about Likud's downfall," he added. . . .

Sharon's camp had seen victory as a foregone conclusion after President Bush endorsed the plan. . . But an Israel Radio poll on Thursday showed 51 percent of the Likud against a pullout and 39 percent in favor, Sharon's worst showing since introducing the initiative.


An Israeli woman walks past a poster advertising the upcoming Likud
party referendum, which reads in Hebrew, 'Love you Sharon, voting
against the disengagement plan' in Jerusalem April 29, 2004.
(Reinhard Krause/Reuters)