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August 27, 2001
Unilateral Separation

By Uri Avnery


A Patent Remedy

Over 2000 years ago the rulers of China found a remedy against the intrusion of foreign invaders: they erected an immense wall, 2500 km long (approximately the distance between Jerusalem and Rome), 16 m high, 8 m wide, with countless towers.

Now a band of witch-doctors has come along and offer us a similar patent remedy: "Unilateral Separation". To hell with the Palestinians. To hell with the Arabs. To hell with all the Goyim. We shall build a wall that will separate us from them once and for all. At long last they will disappear from our sight.

It's a wonderful solution, because it does not require anyone's agreement. We shall decide ourselves which areas to include in our state and where the border will run. We shall erect a fence or a wall, build towers and fortifications and shoot at anyone who approaches them.

End of the story. End of the conflict. The country will be at rest for generations to come.

It is very appealing. Very popular. It will allow us to dispense with the tiresome negotiations with the Arabs. Nobody will have to shake hands with the terrible Arafat. It will fulfil the innermost aspiration of Zionism: "Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Numbers, 23)

A colorful array of political bankrupts is now gathering around this idea. From Ehud Barak, the monumental failure, to Dan Meridor, a leader without a party; from Haim Ramon, a promising young man who never fulfilled the promise, to Michael Eytan, the eternal outcast of the Likud; from the "leftist" Prof. Shlomo Avineri to the rightist Prof. Dan Shiftan. All of them serious people, all of them ready to clutch at straws to save themselves from drowning politically.

The ideological standard-bearers of this patent remedy are magicians, who repeat the mumbo-jumbo called demography. By means of a secret language ("so-and-so many copulations, minus so-and-so many condoms...") they prophesy that in the year so-and-so "the Arabs" will be a majority in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river. One of them looks at his crystal ball and pronounces: it will happen in the year 2020. Another looks at the coffee remains and warns: no, it will already happen in 2010. A professor with a mad glint in his eyes runs from talk-show to quack-show and cries: Arabs upon you, Israel! Even in Israel proper the Arabs will reach, God forbid, so-and-so many percent in the year so-and-so. Awful, simply awful.

There is nothing new in demography. On the contrary, it is one of the oldest professions. It antedates even the Chinese wall. Already 3500 years ago Egyptian magicians dabbled in it. "Now there arose up a new king over Egypt. And he said unto his people: Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply." And the result of this wise policy: "But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew." (Exodus 1)

After World War I, Europe was full of such wise men, especially in the East. There, an array of new states was set up, most of them squalid, little structures. In each of these the ruling nation busied itself with a constant counting of its human stock and the oppression of minorities. Poles oppressed Ukrainians, Lithuanians oppressed Poles, Czechs oppressed Germans, Austrians oppressed Slovenes, Serbians oppressed Croats and all oppressed the Jews. All these people are still suffering from the results.

The cult of demography reached its mad climax under the Nazis. One can posit a formula: Politics plus biology equals Fascism (P+B=F). Apart from his anti-Semitic lunacy, Hitler was obsessed mainly by the multiplication of the Slavic peoples as against the expected shrinking of the Germans. He planned the eradication of Slavs in order to create a lebensraum in which the Germans could multiply again. The demographic madness created a lot of Himmlers.

All this belongs to the dark past. A modern state, like the USA, has left this kind of calculation behind. The modern nation is freeing itself from 19th century patterns and learning to absorb "foreigners", in spite of the Le Pens, Heiders and their ilk. But in Israel, it seems, things move in the opposite direction. We march resolutely backwards.

The combination of failed politicians and raving demographers has given birth to the "Unilateral Separation" idea, which could easily fill a few more pages in Barbara Tuchman's "March of Folly". Even a superficial analysis will suffice to expose its insanity.

Where will the Israeli wall be located? Seemingly, that's a simple question to answer: Between us and the Palestinians, from north to south.

Of course, it will not follow the Green Line. "We shall never return to the pre-1967 borders," Ehud Barak promised throughout his short career as National Genius. Of course not. The separators will annex the "settlement blocs" to Israel. Since this will be a unilateral procedure, without any negotiations, the separators will vie with each other for tendering maximal demands, so the blocs will be large. They will include many Palestinian villages, whose inhabitants will have to be evacuated. The Green Line will move to the East, definitively.

But what about the Jordan valley? It is clear that Israel will not relinquish the "back of the mountain". The IDF must be deployed there in order to be ready to meet the combined invading armies of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and perhaps also Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. So the future fence must also separate the West Bank from the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea shore.

But that's not enough, either. The settlement blocs also divide the West Bank from West to East. They connect Israel with the Jordan valley on the Ariel-Tapuah, as well as the Maaleh-Adumim-Jericho axes, thus cutting the West Bank up into three practically isolated enclaves. It will be necessary to surround each if them with the electrified fence system, so they will resemble concentration camps.

The same applies to the Gaza Strip. The separators will not remove the settlements. Netzarim and Gush Katif will have to be connected to Israel, cutting the Gaza Strip into three enclaves as well. More fences.

And what about Jerusalem? The separators will not give up the Eternal Undivided Capital. The fence will have to include all of East Jerusalem , including the "Temple Mount".

It goes without saying that the Muslim world in general, and the Palestinian people in particular, will never reconcile themselves to this unilateral diktat that will remove the Noble Shrine from a billion Muslims (according to the demographers, two billion in 20 years) and leave the Palestinian people 10 - 15% of their original homeland, without any hope of ever solving the refugee problem. The wall will turn Israel into an isolated and fortified ghetto, ever ready for war against the Arab and Muslim world, ever dependent on American support - without a guarantee that this support will last forever.

This armed ghetto will not attract immigration, except for groups of crazy fanatics who come here to play the Wild West. American Jewry will develop along opposite lines. Israel will lose the best and the brightest of its young people who will not want to live in such a stifling state and die in its defense. The Israeli economy will finally cut itself off from the economy of the region.

The unilateral diktat, brutally implemented, will revolt the world. It will, of course, also be a blatant violation of the Oslo agreement, which says that no changes will be made on the ground and that the final status of the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, will be decided upon by negotiations. Israel will join the group of pariah nations, occupying the place recently vacated by South Africa. The whole world will turn into one great Denmark.

All this is as clear as daylight. If so, how does such a cockeyed idea attract so many followers?

There are several psychological reasons for this craziness.

First of all, many people don't want to have any truck with the Palestinians, just don't want any contact with them. The legend of "Barak has given them everything and they answered by starting a war" has taken deep root. Any idea - idiotic as it may be - seems preferable to going back to negotiations.

But people want solutions. In every conversation they ask: "What will happen?" The vicious cycle of violence brings despair. But there must be a solution somewhere?? Unilateral Separation masquerades as such a solution.

For many, there is something very attractive about the idea that the Jews will at long last remain alone, a happy band of brothers, in a state surrounded by walls and fences. It reminds one of the ghetto? All the better. In the ghetto, a warm family atmosphere prevailed. The walls separated the Jews from the goyim. And in the new ghetto, we will decide things for ourselves and do what we like, and to hell with the world.

Of course, many know at the back of their minds that this is a game divorced from reality, that in the end there will be no escape from a peace agreement reached by negotiations between the two parties. The outline of the peace to come is now becoming visible (a draft peace agreement was recently published by Gush Shalom.) But the price is painful, and people shun pain.

Israel resembles a patient who knows that he must have an operation. He is ready to do everything possible in order to postpone it. He will listen to quacks and charlatans; he will even believe in patent remedies.

As Abba Eban once put it: "Nations and people will always do the right thing - after all other possibilities have been exhausted."