Restraint is Not Heroism

Who knows if things would not have turned out differently if the Gush Katif leadership and rabbis had acted as does Sderot's leaders, and exceeded all bounds to protest, to cry out and - mainly - not to remain silent.

Nadia Matar,

OpEds Nadia Matar
Nadia Matar
Arutz 7
With his article, "The Wailing of Sderot Compared to the Heroism of Gush Katif" (Hatzofeh, June 20, 2006), journalist and commentator Hagai Huberman joins a few of the deportees from Gush Katif with whom I spoke, all of whom express themselves more or less in the same vein: "The residents of Sderot are crybabies. Look how they're going mad in response to the Kassams falling on the city of Sderot. We in Gush Katif continued our routine lives and we didn't wail over the Kassams that fell."

I read and hear these things and I just don't believe them. Do you want to tell us that you are proud of having continued the sacred "routine," without having cried out, "We can't bear it"? Don't you think that the response by the inhabitants of Sderot is the normal reaction in light of the not-normal situation of mortar shells and Kassams falling on a civilian population, day after day?

It is specifically the response of the residents of Sderot that is correct. Their message is clear: "It is inconceivable that daily life will go on in the country when the murderous enemy attacks civilians in an Israeli city. We will not remove the issue from the national agenda until the government will do something about this. Whether this is the cutting of electricity to Gaza or the razing of Beit Hanun from where the Arabs shoot - it doesn't matter what - we will not remain silent until you deal with the Arab enemy who is attacking us. This is the government's duty: to defend its citizens."

These are the messages that are broadcast from Sderot. We will not enter into the debate regarding the type of protest (personally, I oppose hunger strikes and closing down the city under attack; in my humble opinion, instead of shutting down Sderot, Ramat Aviv and the vicinity of the Knesset in Jerusalem should be shut down by the Sderot residents and their supporters), but the bottom line is: the residents of Sderot have set out on a vociferous struggle.

The fact that the media highlights several individuals who are willing to leave the city is irrelevant. We know that most of Sderot's residents are staying put, just as our brethren from Gush Katif did. The media always found in Gush Katif the one individual who announced that he was packing and leaving. So what?

When the Gush Katif leadership and rabbis silenced our brethren in Gush Katif and lulled them to sleep, and prevented loud and vociferous protest, as a considerable part of them had demanded, they did an injustice not only to Jewish morality (for how can one remain silent when Jews are attacked), but they also did a great injustice to the struggle to save Gush Katif, and the entire settlement enterprise in general. When the victim remains silent, we cannot expect that anyone will come to his aid. No one interpreted the silence and restraint of the Gush Katif leadership as heroic. To the contrary, anyone who is silent when attacked, broadcasts the message that he does not deserve protection, that he admits that he is a second-class citizen, that his blood and the blood of his children doesn't count for as much as that of the inhabitants of Tel Aviv. Obviously, I know that this was not the intent of the leaders of Gush Katif, but as we see, the way to deportation is paved with good intentions.

Who knows where we would be today if the Gush Katif leadership had screamed a resounding "We can't stand it any longer" already when the first mortar shell and the first Kassam fell? Who knows if things would not have turned out differently if the Gush Katif leadership and rabbis had acted as does Sderot's leaders, and exceeded all bounds to protest, to cry out and - mainly - not to remain silent.

And this should not be addressed only to the leaders and residents of Gush Katif. Where was the entire national camp; where were we all when Kassams fell on Gush Katif or when Arabs killed our brethren in shooting attacks on the roads of Judea, Samaria and Gaza? How did we dare continue our daily routine, as if this were a decree from Heaven about which nothing could be done? How was it possible that the leadership of the national camp and its rabbis did not demand that we put a complete stop to our everyday life, so we would not stand by while our brethren were murdered? Yes, it transpires that we all sinned the sin of the silence of the lambs. And, incidentally, we are still guilty of this sin of silence today - a silence that enabled the malicious government of destruction to carry out its wicked goal of deportation all the easier, without pangs of conscience and without the inhabitants of Israel and of the world sensing that a crime had been committed here.

Thus, instead of leveling criticism at the "wailing" of our brethren from Sderot, I propose that we learn from them. Not only must we support them, we must ensure that, from now on, we, too, the residents of Judea and Samaria, who are candidates for ruin and deportation, must not be silent and carry on with our normal lives. Unlike the inhabitants of Sderot, who face only an Arab attack, we, the residents of Judea and Samaria, must contend with the double war that has been declared against us. The government of Israel has joined together with the external enemies of Israel, and they act together to destroy the settlement enterprise in Eretz Israel - as a first step towards the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state and its transformation into a state of all its citizens. Accordingly, our protest, our outcry and our struggle must be even more assertive and determined than the battle waged by the residents of Sderot. Our struggle is not one to save some settlement or other, it is a battle to save all of the Land of Israel.

And so, we will go forth with a cry of fighting both Arab terror and the decrees of the internal foe - the government of Israel. Yes, it is true, we will not win the sympathy of the media as has Sderot, but it is a known psychological fact that someone who respects himself is respected. If we exhibit restraint, remain silent and act as if "we look like grasshoppers to ourselves" (Numbers. 13:33), so we will look to them; and they will succeed in deporting us with ease.

But if we struggle, already now, against every decree (starting with a determined and uncompromising struggle for each and every outpost), and cry out over every terror attack, the authorities will begin to think of us as a force that does not intend to turn the other cheek, not to the Arabs and certainly not to the "leftists".