Tsunami in Gaza

While the whole world had sent aid to the tsunami-hit South East Asia, Israel forwarded a team entrusted with unique task. Not many Israeli tourists were swept away by the giant waves – official death toll stands at three, with some twenty missing; not many comparing with hundred thousand Indonesians or even with three thousand Swedes. Still the Israeli teams were very active on the ground. The highly trained experts led by Rabbi Meshi Zahav did not go to save trapped survivors or alleviate suffering of millions; their job was to save dead Jews from fate worse than death – that is to be buried with the goyim in the same grave. The Haaretz daily [1] reported: “The Israeli rescue teams in Thailand split up Thursday: one team worked on identifying bodies in Krabi, while another worked on the same task in Phuket. The Israeli crews – from the police and Zaka (a non-profit group that specializes in identifying victims of disasters) – are trying to locate dead Israelis before they are buried”.

They pressed upon the Thai government to postpone the mass entombment, though it was necessary to prevent spread of epidemics; and Bangkok gave in. Every dead Jewish body should be taken to Israel, or at least buried separately from impure non-Jews. Witty Gilad Atzmon remarked: “the ‘altruistic’ Jews … are in a state of panic, as we all know, dead Jews are precious, they deserve a special burial. The fact that 5-10 Jews might be lost forever among some other 125.000 gentiles is pretty horrifying, I am sure you can see it.”

This is a part and parcel of Jewish faith, the pinnacle of “The Nation Shall Dwell Alone” commandment – Jews are not supposed to live or to die with non-Jews. Their separate burial is necessary to guarantee their bodily resurrection when Messiah comes. A Jewish body defiled by gentile proximity won’t be resurrected, according to the Jews. Even irreligious Jews follow this separation rule without giving it a second thought.

This squeamish attitude is particularly unpleasant: whenever the Jews discover that a person of doubtful Jewishness is buried among their lot they remove the body and dump it elsewhere. It happened to an Israeli citizen Teresa Angelowitz. She was buried in the Jewish cemetery; later on the religious authorities discovered that she was a wife of a Jew, but not a Jew. They exhumed her body at the dark of the night and re-buried on the dumping ground. It happened to many Russian soldiers who died defending the Jewish character of Israel and were refused the burial. Now, in face of the huge tragedy in South East Asia, this insistence of ‘not being counted among the goyim” is especially offensive, bordering on denial of our common humanity. What is so bad about Thais, French, Chinese and other people who found their death in the catastrophe that you can’t leave your dead lying next to them?

This nasty exclusiveness has to be taken into account while trying to comprehend the long-running show of Israeli redeployment in Gaza. Sharon’s government wants to withdraw its troops from within the strip to its perimeter. Fine and good: this is a reasonable (from his point of view) decision: it is cheaper to keep Gaza under lock and key, surrounded by Israeli troops. The redeployment is not good neither bad for the Palestinians – the Jews will be able to kill whoever they wish from their bases outside the narrow strip, but this act is presented as an important step on the way to creation of a Palestinian state.

Now, instead of redeployment, Israelis discuss the fate of some (probably two thousand) Jewish settlers in Gaza strip. Sharon wants to evacuate them and pay them hefty compensation; they object to evacuation. The whole Israeli society discusses whether they can be removed; how much force should be applied; whether ‘Jews may remove Jews’; whether the ruling of the Rabbis forbidding the evacuation takes precedence over the government decision.

Nobody, but absolutely nobody is ready to consider an obvious (for a non-Jew) solution: remove the army and leave the settlers where they are. If they want to stay in Gaza, let them. Do not pay a penny for their removal: they are free men and women; they knew what they did when they accepted the lands and houses in Gaza. There are hundreds of American Jews who want to buy their houses, there are Palestinians who will be willing to buy – so there is no problem, whoever wants stays, whoever wants to leave sells his house and leaves. If they will be nasty to their neighbours, they will flee; if they will be good neighbours, they will flourish.

Indeed, when the British Empire left Palestine, or India, or Africa, they did not evacuate their citizens by force. Whoever felt that he caused too much grief to the natives, left for England; whoever preferred to stay – stayed.

Kenya is a good case to consider. The country had a sizeable English settler community; there was also very active Mau-Mau native resistance, much more violent than the Palestinian; still, when Kenya was granted independence, the settlers stayed. I have met them in the Highlands near Lake Rudolf: prosperous farmers, strong and sunburned, similar to old-style Israelis, they speak local language, are involved in local life. Many of them have their small airplanes and pop into Nairobi for an evening drink whenever they get tired from watching pink flamingos at the lakeside. The settlers try to be good neighbours to the native people – after all, the political power in hands of native Kikuyu; and RAF is not likely to defend them.

This is the example for the Israeli settlers to emulate, while the Israeli government should not tell them what to do and where to live. Their settlements won’t be ‘for Jews only’. They will have native neighbours, not only farm hands, but native officials, native police and native judges – but this consideration did not stop thousands of Brits and French, Portuguese and Spaniards, Russians and Germans to remain in the newly independent countries. The evacuation discourse that brought Israel to the verge of civil war can’t be comprehended outside of the general nasty picture of Jewish exclusiveness.

Only people who can’t bear the thought of being buried in one grave with a goy, can’t imagine the possibility of staying as equals without the army and colonial administration to enforce their superiority. Azmi Bishara, our MP from Nazareth, was right when he refused to support Sharon’s initiative; while the Labour party of Peres and Barak added another shameful deed to its long roll of shame when they joined Sharon’s government to carry on the ‘disengagement’. The case of the Gaza settlers may be used to undermine and destroy the “Jewish character of the state”. There is no reason to play into the game of Jewish exclusivity, whether in Thailand or in Gaza.

1. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/521450.html

Israel Shamir is a critically acclaimed and respected Russian Israeli writer. He has written extensively and translated Joyce and Homer into Russian. He lives in Jaffa, is a Christian, and an outspoken critic of Israel and Zionism.