In the year and a half which preceded the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria, the leftist elites in Israel waged an unrelenting cultural war against the Israeli Right generally and against religious Zionists specifically. Religious Zionists were portrayed by the media, by entertainment icons, by Sharon's advisers, and by his political allies on the Left as blood-crazed zealots, parasites, and the single largest danger to Israel's well-being.
Last December, in an op-ed in Ma'ariv, Labor Knesset member and former health minister Ephraim Sneh called for a civil war against religious Zionists. Using the American Civil War as a precedent, Sneh wrote, "85 years after its establishment, the United States of America was drawn into a cruel and destructive civil war, but the results of that war formed the democratic character of the giant country. The confrontation among [Israelis] is also unpreventable."
As the months dragged on, the attacks against religious Israelis became more and more hysterical. In July, Ha'aretz editorialized: "The disengagement of Israeli policy from its religious fuel is the real disengagement currently on the agenda. On the day after the disengagement, religious Zionism's status will be different." It went on to castigate religious Zionists as "a Trojan horse that has infiltrated Zionism in order to destroy it from within."
Calls like these came against the background of a constant drumbeat of hatred against religious Zionists from all quarters. The Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which was organizing the campaign against the withdrawal and expulsion plan, was unable to find a public relations firm that was willing to take it on as a client. Its leaders were told time after time by public relations executives that working with "the settlers" would wreck their reputations.
In retrospect, it is clear that the council had no chance of succeeding in its attempt to cancel the withdrawal and expulsion plan. As was the case with then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin with the Oslo Accords, the moment that Sharon succeeded in buying off a sufficient number of right-wing Knesset members, there was no way for the plan's opponents to prevent it from being implemented.
On the other hand, the council and the opponents of the plan in general achieved a major victory with the fact that in spite of the best efforts of Israel's leftist elites, in the aftermath of the expulsions the vast majority of the Israeli public expressed support and sympathy for the settlers. The dignified manner in which the protesters conducted themselves prevented the Left's plan to use the expulsions as a means to bring about the delegitimization and criminalization of the religious Zionist community from succeeding.
But history did not end with the expulsions. Nor did it begin with Sharon's announcement in December 2003 that he was adopting the Labor Party's platform which just months before had been overwhelmingly rejected by Israeli voters in general elections.
The Left has been waging its culture war against religious Zionism at least since Menachem Begin's ascension to power in 1977. Since the enactment of the Oslo process with the PLO in 1993, that war has become the main objective of the Left. It is an objective that eclipses the importance of attaining either security for the state or peace with the Arabs.
This war is nowhere more apparent than in the commemoration of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin 10 years ago today. Indeed, as the years have gone by, in the service of the culture war against religious Zionists, Rabin himself - who he actually was and what he stood for - has been all but forgotten.
Since the night he was assassinated 10 years ago, the purpose of memorializing Rabin has been twofold. First, his murder is used as an opportunity to mark the entire religious Zionist public with the scarlet letter of murder. And second, as Rabin's actual positions have been smothered by an army of far Left eulogizers, his legacy has been co-opted by these radical elites to force their political and ideological agenda on the general public in his name.
As was the case in previous years, so too, this year, Yediot Aharonot, with its monopoly share of the newspaper market, has been leading the charge to criminalize religious Israelis and to claim Rabin's legacy for the radical Left. Yediot's first assault this year came last Friday when with screaming headlines it told us that 20 percent of Israelis believe that Rabin's assassin Yigal Amir will likely be paroled someday.
Why this is shocking, or even interesting in a country where terrorists are released from prison as a routine matter, the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of convicted murderers to marry and have children behind bars and those serving life sentences can expect to be paroled in at most 20 years, is unclear. But nonetheless, Yediot thinks we should all be distressed by this state of affairs.
On Sunday, to make sure that everyone got the point, Yediot hauled out Carmi Gillon, who was the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency)in 1995 when Rabin was murdered. Why anyone should care what Gillon, the single worst director the Shin Bet ever had, has to say is unclear. It should be recalled that it was Gillon who oversaw the organization as it subcontracted its counter-terror operations to the PLO and thus lost almost all its counter-terror capabilities in one fell swoop. And it was on Gillon's watch that the Shin Bet failed to protect the prime minister from murder despite the fact that Amir was associated with Shin Bet agent Avishai Raviv.
Then again, given what he said in the interview, there is no doubt that the reason that Gillon never suffered social ostracism for his incompetence is that he can be counted on to offer up unsubstantiated allegations against the religious Zionist camp on demand. Gillon warned that Sharon's life is in danger because "rabbis" are making "halachic rulings" that set the stage for extremists to pull the trigger. The fact that Gillon offered no names of any such rabbis, and no details of any such halachic rulings is of course because there are no such names and there have been no such rulings - just as there were no such names or such rulings in 1995.
Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz made the latter perfectly clear over the summer when in testimony before the Knesset he said that there was no connection between the public criticism of Rabin in the months before he was murdered and the murder itself. But all this is beside the point. Gillon wasn't brought out of the mothballs to present a picture of reality. He was called on to criminalize a sector of Israeli society and this he did with aplomb.
On Thursday, Ma'ariv published a special magazine devoted to the cult of Rabin's personality. The magazine included an article entitled, "The Geneva Agreement: An expression of Rabin's Legacy." The Geneva agreement, it will be recalled, was the wildcat accord that the extreme Left, led by Yossi Beilin, signed with the PA's propaganda minister two years ago. That agreement recognizes a "right of return" of foreign-born Arabs to the Palestinian state, divides Jerusalem, and transfers sovereignty over the Jordan Valley (like the rest of Judea and Samaria) to the PLO.
The article interviews Gadi Baltiansky, the director of the Geneva initiative who claims, "People who were familiar with his policy doctrine can assume that were Rabin the prime minister today, he would arrive at an agreement that would not be different in content from Geneva."
This is a complete lie. In his speech before the Knesset in October 1995, one month before he was murdered, Rabin set forth his vision both for the years before a peace agreement would be reached with the PLO, and of what the lines of an eventual agreement would look like. In Rabin's words, during the interim period, "We committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth."
As for the final accord with the PLO, Rabin stated clearly that he opposed granting statehood to the Palestinians. In his words, "We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state." Of Israel's final borders Rabin stated, "We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines." He further stipulated that Israel would retain sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, which he said must be defined, "in the broadest meaning of that term."
The fact that the co-option of Rabin by the radical Left is based on nothing but lies necessitates the smothering of all public debate on his legacy, lest facts get in the way of the pure fiction we have been sold. And the need for squelching public debate extends not only to Rabin but to the entire policy of appeasement which he adopted with the Oslo Accords and Sharon adopted with the Road Map and later with the withdrawal and expulsion plan.
As history has shown, these plans have literally blown up in our faces. The strategic failure of appeasement was evident the moment Yassir Arafat entered Gaza in the summer of 1994 when he smuggled terrorists and munitions in his motorcade. In the years since Arafat's rehabilitation, the toll of appeasement has been some 1,500 Israeli dead, billions of dollars lost, and a constant erosion of Israel's deterrent capabilities.
The need to criminalize the religious Zionists springs directly from this harsh reality. For the Left, the only way to avoid accepting that its entire world view is incorrect is to find someone on whom to blame their failure. As the most visible opponents of appeasement, the religious Zionists are the most obvious scapegoat. The more appeasement fails, the more they are hated.
There is a danger involved in systematically alienating an entire population to the extent of criminalizing their values and beliefs. The danger is that as the legitimate and responsible leadership is demonized, it will become viewed as ineffective by its followers who will simply disengage from the society which hounds and insults them. This we see today, in the attacks on Israel Defense Force units by gangs of angry teenagers on the hilltops in Judea and Samaria. These youths saw the systematic humiliation and demonization of their rabbis and the heads of the council, even as these leaders insisted that all opponents of the expulsions reject all violence in their protests and proved their commitment to non-violence by restraining their followers time after time.
There is no doubt that the leaders must meet the challenge posed by these youths and not only restrain them, but mend relations with the IDF. These relations were seriously damaged during the expulsions from Gaza and northern Samaria. It is in the interests of both sides to see them reinstated.
Democracy functions because it gives all sectors of society a voice and a stake in the national debate. When society silences the voices of responsible and law- abiding citizens, it places itself on a very dangerous course.