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Uri Avnery / 01.12.01

The Gambler

Anthony Zinni has made a request to Ariel Sharon: Please, stop enlarging the settlements. At least for some time. Do you mind?

Zinni is a general from the Marines, his thinking is straight and logical. It's difficult for him to understand why Sharon doesn't comply. What the hell is it all about? A few houses somewhere. Is it worthwhile killing so many human beings, so many children, Israeli and Palestinian, just for that? What kind of madness is this?

All the more so as the life of the settlers themselves has turned into hell. They cannot move about without risking their lives. The settlements have become their prisons. The world gets upset when a suicide bomber blows himself up in Tel-Aviv, but it does not get upset when settlers get shot. They are seen to be a part of the occupation, and therefore legitimate targets for the resistance of the occupied people.

A great many settlers - perhaps the majority - would undoubtedly be more than willing to return to Israel now. Those who were looking for "quality of life" in a picturesque landscape, and found out that the picturesque landscape produces mostly desperate suicide bombers, are now dreaming of a quiet home in Ra'anana, the rich people's suburb near Tel-Aviv. But to whom to sell a villa with red tiles and a nice garden, which can be hit at any moment by a mortar shell? Only the government can buy, and the government does not want to.

It's easier for industrial enterprises. Their owners were seduced by successive governments (including those of Rabin, Peres and especially Barak) to sell their expensive plots in the cities and get instead, for next to nothing, land in the industrial parks of the settlements where they could exploit Palestinian slave labor. No minimum wage, no social benefits. The owners also got ali kinds of subsidies, tax exemptions etc. Now they steal away, very quietly, one after the other. Suppliers, drivers, professional employees do not come to these places anymore. In contrast to the Hamas fighters, they do not want to commit suicide.

All this is well known to General Zinni's advisers. They have good eyes that hover in the skies. Therefore they do not understand, with their simple American mind, why Sharon is so obstinate.

They understand, of course, that there are political pressures. Americans understand political pressures, after all. They, too, have them. Sharon must take account of his extreme right-wing partners, also of the fanatical settlers' lobby. But this does not explain the fierceness of his opposition. So what's it all about?

It would be worthwhile for General Zinni (as for his predecessors and successors) to study some Zionist history. They would discover that the settlements are part of the genetic code of the movement from the day it was born, 104 years ago. Indeed, from the moment of its inception, when the Jewish egg met with the nationalist European sperm.

This genetic code tells the movement to settle all parts of the country, to turn all of it into a Zionist homestead. It started quietly, "dunam after dunam". The tempo accelerated during the 30s. In the 1948 war, in which the settlements played an important part, Israel conquered 78% of the country. After that, some 500 Arab villages were eradicated and settlements were put up in their place. Just when this job was finished, the war of 1967 broke out, Israel conquered the rest of Palestine and started at once to put up settlements there, too. Whoever was in power - Labor or the Likud, Begin or Peres, Nethanyahu or Barak - the settlement activity went on, without resting for a moment.

The Goyim can say what they want - that the settlements are immoral, an obstacle to peace, illegal, and lately that they are a war crime. But the action goes on. During the year in which Barak negotiated the "end of the conflict", settlement activity achieved a pace unequalled in any previous single year.

Sharon is the son of settlers, he grew up in a settlement, settlements are the very essence of his life. Throughout his checkered career, whatever his job was at any particular time, he devoted his energies first and foremost to the setting up of settlements. But even if he had been the son of new immigrants from Morocco - he would still have done the same. Because the settlement drive is not a personal thing, it is dictated by the collective genetic code.

If there had been no resistance, the settlement drive would have continued until all the West Bank and the Gaza Strip had been covered with settlement up to the last dunam. From there it would have spilled over into "Eastern Eretz Israel" (as Jordan is called in geography lessons), as well as all the other neighboring countries that are included in God's generous promise given in the Bible. The army would have conquered, the settlers would have settled.

That will not happen, because pressure creates counter-pressure. The unstoppable movement meets an unmovable object: the Palestinian people. The war between the two peoples has now reached a climax unequalled during the last 104 years (except, perhaps, in 1948). The continuation of the settlement activity may bring disaster upon the whole enterprise.

Classic literature knows the character of the compulsive gambler. He has a successful day, he wins and wins, an immense heap of chips is stacked in front of him. He could get up at any moment, exchange his chips for real money and live on it happily ever after.

He could, but he is not able to. The compulsion does not let him. He goes on gambling, loses and loses, until the last chip is collected by the croupier.

In the classic stories, the gambler gets up, as pale as the wall, struggles to the door, puts a revolver to his temple and shoots himself.

The question is, whether we are condemned to act like him or to say to ourselves: Enough! We change our genetic code. It's time to change the code by implanting a new gene of sane living, free from the old compulsion. Let's turn the settlements beyond the Green Line over to the Palestinian refugees and bring the settlers safely back home.

That's the story, general. The problem is ours. But maybe you can help us a little, general, sir.

haGalil onLine 07-12-2001


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