So on Wednesday it started. The fight for and against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate 8,000 law-abiding Israeli citizens from their homes has begun. There can be no doubt today in anyone’s mind that in ignoring the mandate he received from Israeli voters in 2003 to oppose unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and joining forces with the rejected Left, Sharon made a decision to plunge Israeli society into deep internal crisis.
As spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad have stated repeatedly, they will pocket their gains in Gaza and in northern Samaria and launch the next wave of war against Israel from Judea and the rest of Samaria. As the Bush administration and the left wing in Israel have made clear, pressure on Israel to follow up the expulsion of Jews from their homes and communities in Gaza and northern Samaria with more and deeper expulsions in Judea and the rest of Samaria will begin in earnest the moment the operation is completed.
Given all this, the only conclusion that one can reasonably reach is that the decision to forcibly evacuate Israeli citizens from their homes and communities was made with an eye toward fomenting an internal crisis in Israeli society. Some have offered that Sharon desires this crisis because he wishes to demonstrate to the Americans that destroying additional communities in Judea and Samaria as Washington demands will simply be impossible. Whether or not this is the case, there can be no question that if the struggle that is now unfolding is not handled responsibly by all sectors of Israeli society, it will lead to open and violent cleavages across the Right-Left and religious-secular divides, and will set the course for the unraveling of Israeli society in the years to come.
With respect to the Israeli media, Glick writes:
One of the main groups of actors in Israeli society bearing grave responsibility for the Furies that are now upon us is the local media. And, judging by the coverage of the violent events on Wednesday in Gaza and along the highways throughout the country, the radio, television, print media and Internet news portals are poised to guarantee that Israeli society will fall apart completely in the coming months.
In anticipation of the blockage of roads by demonstrators against the expulsion plan during evening rush hour Wednesday, the Walla news portal, which is operated by the left-wing Haaretz group, published an article entitled “How to throw the settlers off the road.” The suggested modes of action included “walking onto the Ayalon [highway in Tel Aviv] in large groups with heavy chains, bats for those with a good grip, or just plain fists with the safety lock off, and waiting to see which idiot insists on blocking roads and going crazy in our territory.” Other suggestions involved threatening to douse the demonstrators with gasoline, lassoing them and attacking them with pit bulls.
On Wednesday evening, Channel 10 showed irate motorists heading toward the youths sitting on the Ayalon Highway. The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday, “One motorcyclist took out a heavy metal chain used to lock up a bike and began waving it over the heads of young activists… Another motorist took out a metal pipe and pushed demonstrators to the side of the road.” As the Channel 10 reporter noted, it seemed as though they were acting in direct response to the Walla article.
In acting thus, Walla and the Haaretz group are, on the face of it, guilty of solicitation of violence, which is a felony offense. In releasing its instructions for beating demonstrators, when the public had already been riled by the morning papers and radio broadcasts with doomsday scenarios for rush hour traffic, Walla had every reason to believe with near certainty that its readers would act on its suggestions. And so, already on the first day of the official struggle for Gaza and northern Samaria, a major media outlet was engaged in fanning the flames of civil war.
On a non-criminal but still publicly irresponsible and indeed reprehensible level, the local media, from the television commentators and anchors to the morning newsmagazine anchors on Israel Radio and Army Radio to the front page editors of Ma’ariv and Yediot Ahronot, are through their irresponsible and distorted commentary and screaming front-page headlines doing two unforgivable things. First, they are dousing the flames of internecine hatred with gasoline rather than water, and second, they are giving increased political legitimacy to the Palestinians to carry out their plans to murder Israelis.
The Press in Israel, like the United States, leans to the left and tends to present to the public that news that it feels will serve its agenda.
The Israelis have a lot to deal with in the withdrawal from Gaza. Many believe that it is the wrong move and will lead to increased violence from Gaza against Israel. Other Israelis object to the withdrawal based on the fact that it will not lead to peace with the Palestinian Authority, and is being done only to satisfy the U.S., and thereby putting Israel’s security in jeopardy.
The Left in Israel is in favor of withdrawal. The Right is opposed. The secular in Israel is in favor of withdrawal. The religious are opposed.
Let us all pray that this does not lead to a civil breakdown in Israeli society and let us pray that Sharon is doing the right thing.
I have my doubts about the withdrawal, and I think it is a mistake for Israel. We shall see.