Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Why don't I talk more about the "Disengagement"? 

Now that the political maneuvering is winding to a close, the disengagement battle here is beginning to heat up for real. Some discussion of it here in Haaretz.

Anyway, so I've got this blog, and I yak on and on about how I'm gonna be a bit political and what-not. So why don't I talk about this more?

1. I understand and feel for both sides.
2. I hate the thought of alienating myself from either half of my people.
3. The sides are entrenched enough that even if I regurgitated all the arguments I know of in favor of the position I marginally support today, I won't change anyone's mind.

I'd rather be an agent for goodness and reconcilliation. (Time for a group hug everybody!).

Oh what the heck. Let me make one comment on an argument made by Rabbi Smuley Boteach in the Jerusalem Post recently:

Eight thousand Jews living in the midst of 1.3 million Palestinians have no future. The military commitment of protecting the settlers is just too expensive and the potential loss of life too costly. It's time to pull out. It's painful, but logical. There are other places in Israel for the settlers to live and these brave pioneers dare not allow themselves to become obstacles to peace.

There is only one problem with this seemingly unassailable reasoning. Taken to its logical conclusion, it becomes an argument against the very existence of the State of Israel.

What future does a country of five million Jews really have in a region of 500 million Arabs? The military cost of settling those Jews in Israel has been astronomical, and the human cost incalculable. And the Jews who have settled in Israel indeed have other places to live. Whereas once there may have been a need for a Jewish homeland, today Jews live in peace and prosperity in dozens of countries from America to Australia. Why should Jews aggravate the Arabs and serve as obstacles to peace by insisting on cultivating a land that the Arabs claim has been theirs for generations and which the Jews only conquered through war?

I found the logic very appealing at first. A sort of slippery slope argument: if we say that adversity should cause us to flee from one place, then we will eventually flee entirely from all places, from the entirety of the state, and not just from this small piece of our choosing. The principles are the same, and we either support them everywhere, or nowhere. Nice.

But there are some problems with this slippery slope (surprise!).

First of all, the proposal to unilaterally pull out of Gaza is for the purpose of martialling resources to protect what is the essential and central goal: the entirety of the State. A military commander sometimes pulls forces from one outpost to fortify a more important bridge, even at the expense of losing the outpost. The same logic, of rearranging resources to serve a more critical purpose would not dictate that we abandon the entire state, since it would be in the service of no higher goal (unless the writer was accusing those in favor of disengagement from Gaza of nothing but cowardice, with their own skins the only goal, higher than the survival of State and People--which I don't believe he was).

Secondly, even if one did buy his logic (which would obviously be absolutely impossible after my first crushing argument, but what the heck, lets run with this a bit)...so, um, where was I? Oh yeah. Even if we buy his logic, then that slippery slope applies uphill as well as downhill, catch my drift? No? What I mean is: if the possibility of disengagement, of pullback, at any point leads inexorably to the justification of retreat all the way up to closing down the state itself, then we have a problem. What do we say to somebody who sneaks into Cairo, or Damascus, pitches a tent, and demands IDF protection claiming if we don't support him we are surrendering the entire state? If he tries to convince us our cowardice will make it clear to our enemy we have no staying power? It doesn't even have to be Cairo or Damascus, how about just Gaza City? Or the Muqata in Ramallah? Why don't we have tent outposts all over the place?

Clearly, we all have already shown the power to draw a line somewhere on this slippery slope, to make strategic choices. We have the capacity (most of us do). We should argue about where to draw the most strategic line, not about whether it is even possible to hold a crayon on a slippery slope without sliding all the way off before drawing any line at all.

Ok, so can you guess now which half of my family is going to disown me (at least as of today)? And to think I'm registered Likud! Its a shanda!
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