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A Tale of Two Traumas Print E-mail

By Sarah Honig
August 20, 2009

Two traumas shocked this country's Jews at the tail end of sizzling August. Both were defining watersheds but they occurred 76 years apart. The time lapse alone appears to rule out any correlation between the two. Yet, as is almost invariably the case here, the past is never irrelevant to the present and seemingly distant history is ever interconnected with what took place just a chronological microsecond ago.

On August 23, 1929 - before the appearance of any supposed casus belli like mass aliya, Jewish independence and certainly 1967's Six Day War with its resultant so-called occupation - incited Arabs rampaged throughout the land and butchered Jews in a savage killing frenzy. Their victims were mostly members of the pre-Zionist "old community," comprised of religious Jews who had resided for many generations particularly in the holy cities and passively awaited the messiah.

They were precisely the sort of politically inactive Jews, who, according to Arab propaganda, the PLO is magnanimously willing to tolerate. Yet agreeable meekness didn't stand in their good stead. The marauders swooped down on unsuspecting families. Shouting Alahu akbar [God is great[, Itbah el-Yahud [slaughter the Jews[ and Din Muhammad besayeff [Muhammad's religion by the sword], they massacred anyone they encountered - young and old, male and female. Many Jewish communities were dislodged and others changed forever.

ON AUGUST 23, 2005, the "disengagement" from Gush Katif and northern Samaria was completed. More than 9,000 Jewish pioneers, Israel's most devoted sons and daughters, were forcibly removed from homes and farms they built and cultivated for decades. Most remain dispossessed to this day. Twenty-five communities were razed to the ground and returned to the desert from whence they were reclaimed.

With frenzied screams of Alahu akbar, Gazan marauders demolished the public structures bequeathed them and they tore to shreds the hi-tech hothouses left behind as sources of employment and hope to ordinary folks whose "humanitarian plight" is decried worldwide and which, so conventional wisdom asserts, instigates terror. Verdant fields were soon turned into rocket launching pads and terror training grounds, where new recruits are schooled in the arts of Itbah el-Yahud.

So where's the tie-in? Perhaps Arthur Ruppin and Dov Weissglas can link it all up for us.

Ruppin, the famed "father of Jewish settlement," was one of the founders - in 1925 - of Brit Shalom, forerunner of Peace Now and assorted allied outlets of unflagging Jewish liberality, naivete, trust in the essential goodness of man and in the destiny of reasonable compromise to triumph over all adversity.

Such utopian sentiments, then especially prevalent among the more refined and urbane Jewish intellectuals of western Europe and America, gave rise to pacifist dreams of kinship, cooperation and harmony with local Arabs. These were to facilitate the creation of a binational state with joint government and blissful communal coexistence. "Mutual voluntary nondomination" was envisioned. Pretty sweet and alluring stuff - if you can get it.

In 1929, though, Ruppin realized that all that sugariness was - alas - unattainable. His rude awakening followed the bloody jihad set off by preceding Arab exhortations to "holy war to protect al-Aksa from Jewish conquest." To fan the flames, provocative photomontages of Herzl (then deceased for 25 years) ostensibly near the Aksa compound were circulated.

The fanatic Muslim agitation, which would eventually trigger Ruppin's walkout from the credulous Brit Shalom, sprouted with the British Mandate's inception, when Muslims expediently evinced overnight attachment to the Western Wall, claiming it to be the hitching post where Muhammad tethered his winged steed Burak. Jewish wailing was abided occasionally after remittance of exorbitant fees for the privilege, providing Muslim sensibilities weren't offended.

The problem was there was no telling what would give offense. In 1919 wooden benches for the old and infirm were cited as insufferable affronts. The British promptly removed them, but Arabs then began to regularly drive cattle and laden donkeys through crowds of Jewish congregants. From 1920 the muezzin was dispatched to bellow his loudest chants precisely during Jewish services.

By 1921 the sound of the shofar, blown at the Wall on the High Holy Days, became the next pretext for unrest. The British obligingly forbade the annoying blasts.

The shrillest Arab outcry was raised in 1928 over a flimsy partition put up to segregate male and female worshipers. The British lost no time to tear the insulting screen right at the climax of Yom Kippur services. From then on premeditated disruptions near the Wall grew increasingly violent, till trumped-up tales of Jewish takeover attempts of the Temple Mount sent Arabs rioting on August 23, 1929. The weeklong bloodbath left 133 Jews slain.

The pogroms began in Jerusalem, but the most notorious carnage was in Hebron where 67 men, women and children were hacked to death in homicidal fury. The centuries-old Jewish community was uprooted, as were smaller Jewish enclaves in Gaza, Jenin, Tulkarm and Nablus.

In response, Ruppin quit the very Brit Shalom in which he invested so much gullible cerebral energy and wishful thinking.

DOV WEISSGLAS was prime minister Ariel Sharon's consigliore, the one credited with advocating appeasement of the Peace Now adherents who rule our judicial and media establishments. Sharon, in legal hot water, needed to be in their good graces. For reasons hardly as unadulterated as Ruppin's eight decades earlier, Sharon pretended to espouse the "voluntary nondomination" ethos.

In an October 8, 2004 interview with Ha'aretz, Weissglas promised "disengagement will secure the future of most Judea and Samaria settlers and will only leave question marks over smaller, more outlying settlements... I concluded with the Americans that most settlements are untouchable, while others won't be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns. This means freezing the diplomatic process, preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and precluding any deliberation on refugees, borders or Jerusalem. The entire 'Palestinian state package' is indefinitely off our agenda... and all with the American president's blessing and the approval of both houses of Congress. Can any better be expected?"

Maybe not, assuming that Washington is immutable. But shortsightedly, Weissglas didn't anticipate the Bush administration's duplicity or Barack Obama's change of tack. Everything Weissglas purported to strive for was for naught and all disengagement's sacrifices down the drain.

Yet Weissglas cannot manage atonement. He merely brought himself to express disillusionment with the Palestinian leadership, following the ultra hard-line adopted by Fatah's Bethlehem convention. Weissglas's disillusion, however, hadn't sufficiently matured to also address the utter failure of his own grand and costly folly.

His disengagement was interpreted in Gaza as reward for murder and mayhem and it emboldened terror's masterminds to aspire for more of the same. In contrast to Weissglas, Ruppin was man enough to admit a similar basic conceptual error. "The conciliatory tone" of the Brit Shalom he led, Ruppin candidly conceded, "was interpreted by the Arabs as weakness."

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