Sunday, September 07, 2008


Last week, as part of a reporting assignment, I went on a visit to Ein Tzurim, where many families who were expelled from Gush Katif have (very temporarily) resettled, while they wait to finish getting through all the governmental red tape they need to cut in order to establish permanent new communities somewhere else.

We met with Anita Tucker, an American immigrant who lived in Gaza for many years and acted as the community’s English-language spokesperson during the pullout. She now devotes an enormous amount of time and energy to helping her fellow evacuees lead as normal lives as possible, even while they still – three years later – are living in temporary homes and suffer from mass unemployment.

I supported the pullout from Gaza, but I said all along that it’s imperative that the Israeli government treat the settlers there like kings and queens, giving them extremely generous compensation and making it as easy as possible for them to rebuild their lives. I believe, and have always believed, that they should be treated generously, for two reasons: First, because they are law-abiding, productive, patriotic citizens who moved to Gaza under the encouragement of the government, and therefore the government should treat them well when “encouraging” them to move out, and Second, because if the Gaza evacuees are not treated well –if, as is the case, the government gives them a run-around and is extremely slow to fulfill its promises to them – then the next time the State wants to encourage settlers to leave their homes, there ain’t gonna be any reason for any normal person to cooperate.

During the visit, I felt the following conflicting emotions:

1- Deep sympathy for these poor people whose lives were turned upside down, and who, at best, are living with the unsettled feeling of not knowing where one will live a year from now, or where to register one’s kids for school, or whether it’s worth it to unpack. And it’s by far not “at best” – many families are dealing with unemployment, heart attacks, divorce, pediatric psychological problems, etc because of all the stress.

2- Deep anger at the government for not doing whatever it takes to help them turn their lives right side up again, as quickly as possible.

3- Anger at Jewish media abroad, who are not adequately publicizing the ongoing struggles of the Gaza evacuees. I “get” why the general media doesn’t give a damn – it’s wrong that they don’t, but there it is – but these people have been abandoned by Jewish media as well. A friend of mine who is trying to publicize the situation was told by the editor of a Jewish paper in the States “the Gaza evacuees are just not on the agenda of the American Jewish community. It is not on our radar, and it will not get onto our radar.” Well, why the hell not?

4- Anger and frustration at two other people in our group (not settlers, visitors), who compared the Israeli government to the Nazis and the Gaza evacuees to Holocaust survivors. Not the same thing, people. Not. The. Same. One said “here it’s worse because they were betrayed by their own people.” Betrayed, yes. But for all that they are terribly unsettled and have not been given what they were promised, they are still living in air-conditioned caravillas and have food, education, and a playground that was donated by other Jews. They are NOT refugees, they are displaced people. Not good, but Not. The. Same. Let us not play the Nazi card, people, because that is just so wrong.

5- Frustration with Anita Tucker for suggesting that newspaper editors the world over are essentially being bribed by PR companies to bury the story of the Gaza evacuees. I tried explaining that the most wide-spread flaw of journalists is not that they are unethical, it is that they are lazy. Not good, but Not. The. Same. Also, it is ludicrous to suggest (as she did) that the government of Israel makes it “difficult” for newspapers here to criticize the government. Israel has one of the most free, robust press machineries in the world. There are few countries where so many newspapers not only can but do criticize their own government with as much vitriol as the Israeli ones do every day. Even international media watchdog groups that criticize Israel for blocking media access to the disputed territories freely admit that when it comes to criticizing the government, few can match the Israeli press. This isn’t China. Though the government, PR companies, and the media have a tense and somewhat symbiotic relationship in many ways, if anyone is “controlling” media and burying stories it is not the government here or in America, or the big PR companies, but the advertisers, and by extension, the readers. The Gaza story is buried because editors, for whatever reason, think that readers don’t want to hear it. Perhaps they are out of touch, perhaps they underestimate how many of their readers care, perhaps they are too lazy to find out – all of which is ridiculous, unprofessional, and leading to lackluster journalism, but it’s not unethical.

6- Frustration at not feeling free to voice some of my opinions about the settler movement because I felt outnumbered and because I was there to observe, not as much to participate. And because, given the lack of time I would have had to explain my thoughts properly, they would have been misunderstood. Just as many people on the Left assume erroneously that if you support the settler movement, you must hate Arabs, so too many people on the Right assume erroneously that if you have a nuanced and challenging stance on the settler movement, you must hate settlers, or be a self-hating Jew, or be naïve about what Arabs really want. ::sigh:: Usually, it’s not worth it to get into it. I let people talk and don’t say much when I think they are wrong (either way), because I’m just so tired of it.

Do you see how different numbers 1, 2, and 3 are from 4-6?

It was a tiring day.

Caring about Israel is just so exhausting, sometimes.

*** UPDATE: The comments to this post are fascinating and enlightening on many levels. After 77 comments, I'm asking (in comment 78) that we close this thread. Please do not add any more comments to this post. Thank you.***

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