The Return of McCarthy
Hi Joe McCarthy, so you are back again. When you passed away you were generally despised, your name has become a curse in many languages, including Hebrew. And now you have come to life again, in all your sinister splendor, and in the State of Israel, out of all places. (If, as I suspect, you were a hidden anti-Semite, this will look to you a bizarre victory indeed.)
I have a little story to tell as an example. Once a week I write a commentary on the situation and put it on my internet site. It is directed, of course, at the Israeli public.
But the internet is a world of miracles. An English translation of the article is put on the site simultaneously with the Hebrew original and reaches within a short time thousands of people around the world. Many of those put them on their own distribution lists. Here and there newspaper copy it from the web-site and publish it in different languages. Within hours I get reactions from different countries.
Last week, after the dubious cease-fire came into effect, I devoted my commentary to an interim balance sheet of the al-Aksa intifada. I tried to analyse, as objectively as possible, the Palestinians' gains and losses. A leading Palestinian newspaper, al-Hiyat al-Jadida (The New Life), published the article in extenso.
The general public is starting to be fed up. They are called upon to send their sons and daughters, active soldiers and reservists, to defend bunches of fanatics.
There are in Israel several right-wing organizations, financed to the hilt, whose task is to gather material from the Palestinian media for propaganda purposes, One of these took some random sentences from my commentary, severed them from their context and put them arbitrarily together, according to a well-know method. Thus the impression was created that I had written an article in the Palestinian paper calling upon the Palestinians to continue attacking Israelis. Neither did they mention that the Palestinian paper had taken the article from an Israeli web-site, nor that the sentences quoted were taken from a section that analysed Palestinian views. What was left? Avnery calls upon the Palestinians to murder Israelis. No less.
After several days, in which the poison was absorbed, the right-wing organization was compelled to retract, this time, too, using false statements. (It alleged that the Palestinian paper had misquoted me, which is quite untrue.)
What inflamed the rightists was the part of my analysis in which I argued that the intifada has already irreversibly proved that there is no future for the settlements. There is not the slightest chance that the settlers could stay were they are.
The main argument for the creation of the settlements was that they were essential for the security of Israel. Rafael Eytan, the lamentable former Chief-of-Staff, even swore to it in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court. Now it has been proven that the very opposite is true: the army is straining under the burden of defending them. It is overtaxed: if the present situation goes on, the IDF will cease being an army able to defend the state, since it is prevented from training adequately for action against existential dangers. Not to mention the immense material resources devoured by this task.
The settlements are islands - or archipelagos - in a sea of Palestinian towns and villages, whose hate for them grows daily. The roads leading to them are indefensible. No normal person will risk his life in order to get to them - no suppliers, no maintenance people, no domestic help, not even relatives. A great part of the settlers, who did not go there because of messianic hallucinations, have already stolen away quietly, or think about doing so; many others remain because they have no choice, as long as the government does not pay compensation to those leaving. It is a mistake to be taken in by the fanatics, who dominate the media, and who represent only themselves and the likes of them.
The general public is starting to be fed up. They are called upon to send their sons and daughters, active soldiers and reservists, to defend bunches of fanatics. The settlers were never popular with the majority of the Israelis, even before Yigal Amir assassinated Rabin with the encouragement of some of the Judea-Samaria rabbis. Public opinion polls show that a great majority is now ready to freeze all settlement activity in return for a cease-fire. How long before mothers and fathers will begin to ask: Until when? What for? What are we doing there? That has happened not so long ago in Gaza and Ramallah, it will happen tomorrow in Ophra and Ariel.
Any foreseeable political solution will entail the evacuation of the settlers. That's why they spread now the slogan: "There is no solution to the conflict!" Meaning: we must fight forever, and in the meantime the settlers will remain where they are.
That is an illusion. The conflict will not go on forever. It will not go on for many years. People will be fed up long before that. Even McCarthy will not help.
Uri Avnery is a peace activist and former member of the Israeli Knesset.