The Trauma of Evacuation
by Gad Nahshon
'Putcho' or Israel Wisler is a famous Israeli writer. He likes humor, he loves children. He wrote many books for children. He also loves the writings of Shalom Aliedhem, but his true secret love is of agriculture, of the pioneers who always were ready to settle as emissaries of Israel. Putcho loves nostalgia. His years in the Palmach. He is one of the last of the Mohicans of the 1948 generation. He wishes to preserve the ideas and the dedication of this generation, a lost generation. Putcho always loves to go back to nature, to mother earth. These characteristics explain why he decided to research a very sensitive issue of Israel's history. He decided to interview a special tribe of pioneers who volunteered after the Six Day War as early as 1968 to settle in Sanai. The government pushed them to do so, to establish 17 settlements there in 1975. They also founded the city of Yamit. 5,000 Israelis settled in Sanai and performed a miracle in this desert. They covered the yellow sands with ever growing green carpets. These settlers represented the best of the Israeli civilization.
Who remembers the name of these settlements? Netiv Haasara, Nviot, Dikly, Sadot Di-Zahav, Opira and, of course, Yamit. These settlers were sacrificed on the alter of peace. They were the national heroes who were suddenly betrayed by the government. They were presented as obstacles to the peace process. Their nightmare, their shock of evacuation became a reality when Saadat landed in Israel in 1979 and started to negotiate peace with Israel, with Menachem Begin. In April of 1982, following the Camp David Accords, Israel and its military started the process of evacuation. Putcho never forgot those settlers. He visited them after twenty years and recorded their human interest stories. It is a unique, touching testimony. Putcho published it in his new book (Hebrew) Twenty After Ten - To Sanai and From Sanai (Tel Aviv 2002). The heroes, after twenty years, exposed their scars, their suffering, their anguish and frustration. All of them were very critical of the way that Israeli officials treated them: Begin, Arik Sharon, Dan Shomron and others. People still recall the terrible confrontation between the settlers and the Israeli army.
Putcho admires these pioneers. He is not a professional historian but he did document their 'cry-out beloved country.' Why should we read this book? Because many pioneers suggested that the settlers in the West Bank or the Golan should learn, should listen to their conclusions, to their betrayal. In Israel one can feel that the issue of evacuation is always in the air. Settlers are being described by the Israeli left and its international supporters as obstacles to peace. The potential shock and trauma of evacuation is in the air. Of course, it is a product of the Arab propaganda. We know that in the Arab's sick mind, Tel Aviv residents are also just a 'Zionist-imperialist bunch of settlers.' Of course, they will take over Jaffa first. Putcho demonstrated in his authentic documentary the blindness and the cruelty of those officials who were responsible for the evacuation. One settler who became famous then said that they were pushed out very fast by Arik Sharon (then Minister of Defense), because he wanted to go to war with Lebanon in 1982.
Other settlers explained the brutality of the government because it did not try to understand the soul of these heroes. They did not provide mental assistance to these pioneers. They were victims of the peace process. Some settlers told Putcho about the price of evacuation: divorces, suicide cases, car accidents. All an outcome of the pressure to leave their houses, their green fields. Some even left the country forever. One aspect of these stories: the compensation. Some settlers said "The state betrayed us. So let the state pay." But the Israeli media depicted these settlers as 'blackmailers' and 'robbers.' Yes, the government did pay them compensation but it did not solve their problems, people who suddenly lost everything. Suddenly, those pioneers were ashamed to say "We were in Sanai. We were the nation's beloved children." Putcho exposed a picture of people who never have been able to liberate themselves from the trauma of evacuation. As we know, Israeli tractors and bulldozers destroyed everything, leveled everything. "I visited my settlement and I saw camels eating my grass." Putcho described the story of betrayal: politicians promised and did not keep their promises: "I have the peace in my hand, said Begin to Arik Sharon. And Arik responded: for peace we should uproot everything," said one of the more prominent settlers. So the conclusion is - never trust politicians! Settlers in the West Bank, Golan or Gaza region should always be on alert. Even Benny Kashriel, the charismatic, popular mayor of Maale Adumin (30,000 residents) knows that his town, a member of 'Greater Jerusalem', also has to be on alert. He can see the sword of evacuation in the name of 'peace' over the mountain. Politicians can change their minds, very fast. Of course, Itshaq Shamir is an exception.
His nickname is Nakdi. His real name is Shlomo Nakdimon. He is one of Israel's most famous and cherished writers. He was a journalist and today he is a prolific political writer. But Nakdi, a man for all seasons, an intellectual par excellence, is first an admirer of Menachem Begin's legacy. Nakdi spent years as Begin's media advisor. Today he writes together with Kadishai, Begin's legendary secretary, a new biography of the great leader and statesman. "We need, badly, a new Begin or a new Ben Gurion. Begin was like a father. You could trust him. He was honest and modest. He had a healthy mind. He always searched for a formula for unity. Furthermore, Begin was a great teacher of Israeli democracy," remarked Shlomo Nakdimon at our meeting in Tel Aviv. He expressed then, in the midst of a new crisis, his belief that the Labor party made a mistake by dismantling Sharon's government of 'national unity.' "There decision was originated from personal motivations rather from national ones, said Nakdimon who also expressed his notion that the Israeli society suffers from too many conflicts. "There is a feeling here that in Israel a man to man is a dog," explained Nakdi who believes that unity will win, at last.
Nakdimon told me that he rewrites his best seller Altalena, The Boat (June, 1948) that almost caused a civil war during the War of Independence. "Altalena? It was a resume of mistakes," he noted. Among his best sellers: Begin (with Aviezer Golan); Tamuz (The destruction of the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981); Low Probability (About the Yom Kippur War); The Collapse of Hope (Israel's help to the Kurds); and many others. Nakdimon is also active in the Israeli National Camp. He belongs to the Israeli cultural class, a disciple of Menachem Begin, a trustee of the best of the Jabotinsky Revisionist movement heritage, a member of a tribe which is passing away from Israel's society and politics.
The coordinated, sophisticated Arab propaganda machine used a new film, Jenin, Jenin which was produced by an Israeli-Arab, Mohammad Bakri with Israeli money. It is not a surprise to find Israeli post-Zionist or semi post-Zionists who support this anti-Israeli film. The film will be an international success because there are so many anti-Semites or liberal hypocrites (just anti-Israelis.) in many countries especially Europe. The film is a propaganda set of lies and distortion as to Israel invasion of Jenin during the last Intifada. The Arab propaganda failed to build a new anti-Israeli myth of a massacre of Palestinian civilians or refugees. The international community concluded that a massacre did not happen but Bakri decided to produce this film. Recently, Maariv ran a story about a military physician, David Zangen, who fought in Jenin and saw the truth: only 53 Palestinians were killed and their bodies were given to the Palestinian authorities.
Zangen decided to go to the first screening of this film. At the end he spoke to the audience who gave Bakri a standing ovation. Of course, they were Israelis. The place was Jerusalem. When Zangen pointed out the many lies of this documentary he was verbally attacked by the crowd who called him a murderer and at the end he was kicked off the stage. They did not want to hear the truth.
For example: Dr. Abu-Rali, the manager of Jenin's hospital said in this film that he was bombarded by the Israeli army. That is a lie. The hospital functioned as usual during the Israeli attack. Dr. Rali also told the Arab media that Israel killed thousands of Palestinians. The producer Bakri came to Jenin two weeks after the campaign ended. The film's message is a call for hate and murder or more Israelis. "I am proud of the way that we behaved in Jenin. We did not use bombardment, we did not use artillery. We tried not to hurt civilians," said Zangen.
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