The betrayal of the settlers

By Miriam Shaviv, August 8, 2008

It is exactly three years since Israel withdrew from Gaza, and few of the settlers banished from their homes have rebuilt their lives.

According to a survey by the Maagar Mohot Institute, 81 per cent are still in temporary housing; 50 per cent are unemployed; and 15 per cent are supported financially by family. Fifty five per cent report a deterioration in their health, and require psychological care.

These are devastating statistics. Agree or disagree with their politics, these people were sent to Gush Katif by successive Israeli governments - including Labour ones - and their lives were disrupted on the state's behalf. Israel has a duty to take care of them.

So why is no one agitating on their behalf? Certainly inertia, and emergencies such as Iran, have played a role. But it seems to me, more fundamentally, that they are being used as political pawns.

The right, though theoretically sympathetic, has a vested interest in keeping them unsettled. A two-state solution will depend on evacuation of some West Bank settlements. But as long as the Gaza settlers remain neglected, no one can expect settlers from Judea and Samaria to leave their homes for "Israel proper", on the basis of a few government promises.

The left, conversely, should want to help the Gaza settlers to pave the way for a Palestinian state. But too many on the left cannot relate to settlers as human beings, and do not care about their fate. With no political settlement on the horizon, they can afford to forget about them - for now.

For years, we have blasted the Arab nations for leaving the Palestinian refugees to fester in camps, because they don't really care - and because it is politically convenient. Can we honestly say we have behaved any better with our own refugees?

Dunner's Drugs

So Benzion Dunner, a pillar of Charedi society, had cocaine in his system when he died, according to his inquest. Whatever next?

The temptation for the Charedi community will be to suppress this genuinely shocking story, internally. But since it has been widely reported in the national press, this may prove impossible.

And a good thing, too.

Benzion Dunner was not some kid smoking dope behind a bicycle shed, who can be dismissed as a "problem child" unrepresentative of the Charedi community. He was the best, the brightest, the kindest, the frummest, the richest, the most generous of his group. If a man of his calibre was taking drugs - and knew where to find them - you can be sure there are many others. And while there is no suggestion he had a regular drug habit, are we really to believe that he had only ever tried it once - to celebrate Purim, the day before he died? Cocaine is an addictive Class-A drug which is not for drug novices - or anyone.

Last week, 200 Charedim chased an American rabbi down a street in Stamford Hill, because he campaigned against Charedi paedophiles. It is high time the community recognised that it is not immune to the social ills of the secular world. Because without admitting the problems, it has no chance of dealing with them.

If the tragedy of Benzion Dunner is not treated as a serious wake-up call, what will be?

Airline security

The British press had lots of fun this week with the story of the four-year-old forgotten by her parents at Ben-Gurion airport when they flew with Israeli charter Sun Dor to Paris - together with 18 suitcases.

But there is, in fact, a very serious security issue here. Last week, an eight-year-old travelling alone with El Al flew to Brussels instead of Munich. Two weeks before that, a 10-year-old was left behind at Ben-Gurion while his family flew with Turkish Airlines to Denmark.

How come none of these airlines counted their passengers? And how could they take off with luggage belonging to a passenger who was not on board? Not very reassuring when flying out of one of the most security-sensitive airports in the world.

Last updated: 12:57pm, August 7 2008



Thu, 08/07/2008 - 23:01

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Miriam, may I challenge you on this?

MKs from the right-of-center parties have been desperately attempting to lobby the various government ministries, Knesset committees, the press, etc. to get these people into permanent homes, regular employment, etc.

A woman from my home of Shiloh went down to the Nitzan Caravilla site to serve as school principal. Other social workers have volunteered beyond the normal services extended to them. The press has been bombarded with stories with the object of getting things aright. Rabbi Tzvi Rimmon has set up a Gush Katif employment agency, JobKatif and was recognized by President Shimon Peres.

There is much more I could detail but I really think you erred on this one. We are not like the Arabs who have kept their "refugees" in camps for 60+ years. One success, Maskiyot, for 20 families from Shirat HaYam even made headlines (albeit due to the location of the new community).

You were wrong on this and misleading. Why you penned this viewpoint is beyond me.