Part One: 10 Years Since Disengagement - The Context of the Protests



Even ten years later, I find it hard to calmly collect my thoughts about the Hitnatkut, the "Disengagement" project for evacuating the Jews from Gush Katif and the North Shomron.

If you had asked me say 15 years ago, what I thought of Gush Katif, I would have associated it with extremist firebrand settlers, living in a hostile location, surrounded by the most extreme Arabs.

Not a place I had ever visited, had any interest in, and I certainly had no desire to dedicate a period of my life to trying to save it.

All that changed in December 2003 when Arik Sharon announced to the world, at the Herzlia Conference, his plans to evacuate Gush Katif.

For the next year and a half me and my family became 'orange', the colour chosen for the pro-Gush Katif campaign.  

While ultimately the orange campaign failed, in that the evacuation of Gush Katif was carried out as scheduled in August 2005, it is important to remember the context of that campaign, which defined the tone and the measures taken by the protest movement.

To understand that, one needs to step back further in history to the previous huge right wing political protests, which were against the Oslo Agreement and its implementation, between 1993 until 1995.

These ended with the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and a subsequent witch-hunt after right wing activists and the leadership, which was (falsely) accused of incitement to assassinate Rabin.

In light of that, the orange campaign, above all, needed to avoid violence or incitement to violence.

The theme song chosen was Arik Einstein's "With love we will succeed". Instead of violent confrontations with the security and law enforcement forces, protesters handed them flowers, and attempted to appeal to their Jewish conscience.

It was specifically not a campaign dedicated to "victory at any cost". The red line was spilling Jewish blood for this cause, or any incitement to do so.

And whereas the Oslo Protests were managed by a grass roots spontaneous organization, operating in the shadows (including via my fax machine, on behalf of a neighbour!), "Zo Artzeinu", the initiative of Moshe Feiglin (who later became an MK) - the Orange protests were managed by Moetzet Yesha, The Settlers' Council.

Moetzet Yesha is a quasi Government organization, which was able to provide significant resources and operational abilities, as well as practical authority and responsibility, but were also ultimately responsible to the Government of Israel, whose policies they were protesting.

It is notable that in the whole 18 month campaign, involving dozens of major protests, countless thousands of protesters, thousands of law enforcement officials, as well as the evacuation process itself, implemented by the army against some 20,0000 civilians, not a single person died, and serious injuries were also minimal.

Given the initial red lines, this did represent some measure of success, at least in its means, if not in its ends.  

Of course, all this was like a boxing match where one competitor has volunteered to have his hands tied behind his back. A major handicap to winning the fight...

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  1. This post has been included in the very latest edition, Shiloh Musings: Pinchas, Let's Take a Stand, Havel Havelim

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