In mid-February, Israel's parliament backed Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank
While the vote in parliament has set off a few disruptive demonstrations by
anti-disengagement settlers and their supporters, increased violent resistance
may be coming down the pike.
On March 15, Ha'aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, reported, "Settlers
protesting the disengagement plan brought rush-hour traffic to a standstill
in south Tel Aviv.when they blocked the Ayalon Highway at the Kibbutz Galuyot
junction and placed burning tires across the road."
According to recent newspaper accounts, the 9,000 people affected by the removal
plan will receive nearly $900 million in compensation. But removing the settlers
will not be easy, as they have vowed to stand their ground.
Christian Zionists and radical right-wing Jews also appear to be getting ready
to saddle up and head out to Israel to help the settlers halt the removal, a
process slated to begin in July.
"Thousands of Jews and Christians, too are waiting in the
U.S. for the call to join the struggle of the settlers in Gaza," Ha'aretz
reported in early January.
"In Gush Katif (the largest bloc of Jewish communities in Gaza), they
expect that when the hour of reckoning comes, Diaspora Jewry will not only send
financial aid, but will also dispatch legions of people for the violent struggle
against the government," the paper said.
Many of those itching to get in on the action in Israel including New
York City councilman Dov Hikind and Rabbi Mordechai Friedman, president of the
American Board of Rabbis, an organization made up of some 1,000 orthodox clergymen
have been there before.
Rabbi Friedman recently claimed that "hundreds if not thousands of his
followers will come to Israel to fight the [disengagement] plan."
Friedman acknowledged that a member of the Board of Rabbis would be going to
Israel "to meet settler leaders and pave the way for future resistance,"
the Jerusalem Post reported in late December.
"The government needs to protect its citizens and when they don't, the
citizens can take back the government," Friedman told the Post.
"We need to paralyze the country. The only way to do that is with means
which include violence."
Gro Wenske, head of the Norway-based Christian Bible and Israel Organization,
also pledged to participate in the resistance. She said that hundreds of Christians
from Norway will come to Israel to fight the evacuation.
And Helen Freedman, from the New York-based Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI),
said her organization of 4,000 has vowed to join the fight against disengagement.
"We pledged already in November that should the disengagement come to
be a reality, we will go to assist in the resistance," she said.
According to spokespersons for the settlers, "thousands of inquiries from
Jews as well as Christians who are waiting for the call" have been received.
Dror Vanunu, the head of public relations for Gush Katif, who recently returned
from a speaking and fundraising trip to North America, said that both Jews and
Christians contributed generously to the children of Gush Katif. According to
Ha'aretz, "they also received the blessing of Rabbi Hershel Billet,
who is known to be particularly close to President George W. Bush."
At a May 11, 2004 prayer breakfast organized by New York Governor George Pataki
and attended by first lady Laura Bush, Rabbi Billet, an honorary president of
the Rabbinical Council of America, told the audience that, "It is a divine
mission to eradicate evil from the world. I believe that God has given us the
courageous president, Mr. George W. Bush, to be our commander-in-chief to lead
us and the world in the sacred war against the evil of terrorism."
Israel was very much on the minds of those who gathered at the recently concluded
annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters, the world's largest
association of Christian communicators, with over 1,700 member organizations.
After the Intifada began four years ago, "Israel ramped up its campaign
for evangelical support by marketing itself as the place 'where Jesus walked'
and enlisted Christian broadcasters as surrogate propagandists," journalist
Max Blumenthal reported. "With the Intifada now at a dead end and Israel
expecting upwards of 700,000 Christian tourists this year, tourism officials
deployed to the convention exuded a blithe, celebratory mood."
Christian Zionists have been longtime and uncompromising supporters of Israel.
For some fundamentalist Christians, this support is motivated by a belief in
the "end-times" a series of events that takes place in Israel
after the Jews have returned and solidified their hold on the territory.
Christian Zionists hold that after the final battle, or Armageddon, Jesus Christ
will descend from Heaven, ushering in a thousand-year reign of peace on Earth.
How does the Christian Zionists' support for Israel play in country? According
to Gershom Gorenberg, the associate editor of The
Jerusalem Report and the author of The End of Days: Fundamentalism
and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, "To the extent that Israelis
are aware at all of these people, they are most likely to know of them as giving
to philanthropic projects."
Gorenberg said in an e-mail interview that he thought that "only the wonkish
class some journalists, politicos, and foreign policy people pay
significant attention to this political tie, which gets occasional reporting
in Ha'aretz. And within those groups, the feelings are split on left-right
Gorenberg added that "U.S. Jewish radical right groups have a very bad
image here [in Israel] a combination of resentment of the radical right
with a generalized dislike of people who don't live here, don't serve in the
military, don't take the risks, then try to force Israel to take their positions."
The U.S.-born Israeli journalist, who is an associate at the Center for Millennial
Studies at Boston University, added that "the protest movement against
the Gaza withdrawal has already managed to portray itself as radical and to
alienate much of Israeli society, including the moderate Right, due to calls
for soldiers to refuse orders and to use of Holocaust imagery."
"My guess is that if soldiers have to drag foreigners out of houses in
Gaza, the general public reaction will be absolute fury."
(Inter Press Service)