Israel's Black September

Israel, too, has its Black September, but it started in August this year, when nearly 10,000 of her citizens were made homeless.

Walter Bingham

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Black September was a little-known terror group until they murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. They took their name from the battles between the Jordanian army and Palestinian terrorists in September1970, when a great number of them were expelled from Jordan and then moved their operation to Lebanon, where they started to ferment that country.

For the USA, September will always be associated with the terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, and recently, with the floods in her southern states and the loss of so many lives on those occasions. It will indeed be a black memory.

Israel, too, has its Black September, but it started in August this year, when nearly 10,000 of her citizens were made homeless. But not by a tsunami or catastrophic floods, or another natural disaster decreed by G-d. No, they were forcefully dragged from their homes and synagogues with the help of water canons and allegedly debilitating chemical substances. Was it done by Palestinian terrorists or an enemy force? Again, no. It was the Israeli police and our own defence forces that carried out the dastardly act. It has to be said here that many of the uniformed personnel were forced to act against their consciences. They were not resolute enough to refuse and join others in uniform who did, and who had to pay the price of their freedom.

There is no need to once again review the reasons for this expulsion, they have been discussed and condemned ad nauseam (instead of having evoked national revulsion to the point of a general strike, which would have, in my view, prevented Ariel Sharon's reckless and irresponsible excursion). For the moment, it's done. The houses and most large buildings have been raised to the ground. Despite opposition from some quarters, the shells of synagogues were left to the Arabs to desecrate; the people have gone and the voices of the many happy children that were constantly heard to echo around those streets are still.

Where are they now? In new communities, prepared in advance, with equivalent homes and similar facilities to those they built up during the past 20-odd years, and which they had to leave behind?

Absorbed into existing communities with homes of the same size as those from which they were expelled?

Are their many children enrolled in kindergartens, primary or high schools for the new school year that started early in September?

No to all that. One thousand of the 1,500 families are languishing in hotel rooms around the country, accommodation that, in the kindest terms, has to be described as totally inadequate.

I thought this expulsion had been on the cards for quite some time and the government made the necessary arrangements. You might justifiably ask about that.

Ask you may, but answers are not forthcoming. And those answers that are offered are couched in meaningless terms, which are effectively lies, because the government has no explanation for its neglect. It is becoming clearer by the day that the only well-prepared and extremely effectively organised action was the relentless clearance of anything Jewish from Gaza. Not much thought was given to the plight of the now-homeless.

Oh yes, figures of compensation have been bandied about and I believe that some moneys have been distributed. However, the monetary value of the expellees' properties in Gaza, on which compensation amounts are based, will buy you a storage shed in some parts of the country, unless they move to other so-called settlements in disputed areas, to maybe - G-d forbid - be forced out again if the present government has its way. Many of the now homeless were once before expelled. They came from the Yamit area in the Sinai to Gaza after the peace treaty with Egypt in March, 1979.

I saw the places in Yivol and Yated, some five kilometers from the Egyptian border, where some 400 families were to be accommodated in mobile homes, and I walked in 18 inches of loose sand. I saw some of the necessary public services in the process of being installed, but having been expelled from their spacious homes, surrounded by beautiful greenery and civic infrastructure, and sent to this place, is, to put it mildly, a traumatic experience of immeasurable proportions. Just imagine yourself in their place. Even in ordinary circumstances, it is said that, after bereavement, moving is the most traumatic event in one's life.

This government has adopted an important pillar of Judaism, but, as with most of their actions, got it all wrong. I am talking about "Na'aseh v'Nishmah - we shall do and we shall act, and only then listen and ask questions (Exodus 24:7). This maxim applies to our relationship with the Almighty, when we accepted his Torah, not to our daily interaction with our fellow Jews.

It is interesting that when it comes to the government's actions that affect those who are determined to wipe us off the map, the Palestinians, it invariably acts according to the concept that the end does not justify the means. So that to remove Arabs from Jewish land, even in an exchange ? to relocate Arab villages from northern Samaria to Gush Katif, for instance - is against the government's principles. But to throw Jews out of their homes, some from the centre of the country, for some obscure political manoeuvre has fallen within the principles of this corrupt and rotten government, led by the dictatorial General Pinochet-Sharon. Yes, like Pinochet of Chile, Sharon of Israel has committed a crime against humanity and should be brought before the courts to justify it. But then, the judiciary in Israel does not act as independently as it should. An analysis of their judgements of late clearly indicates a political empathy with the present government. The cases are too numerous to list.

I am, of course, not privileged to be present throughout cabinet meetings. nor do I have access to classified information, but I want to say this: Let's assume for one moment, just for one moment, that there were compelling, valid reasons for a retreat from Gaza. Would it not have been right and proper to first disclose it to the communities affected, and for the very man who personally encouraged them to settle there, Ariel Sharon himself, to also personally explain to them the reasons for his proposed action? Instead of , the Disengagement Plan was publicly announced at the Herzliyah Conference. Another example of this uncaring and heartless administration - if one were needed. To borrow a phrase from Abba Eban, 'His ignorance is encyclopaedic!"

Now that Sharon's dirty work is complete, the expellees feel abandoned ? and probably are: 'Here are a few dollars, now go and fend for yourself.' Most of them were farmers or horticulturalists. Where are they going to get the equivalent volume of land of which they were robbed? Even if they would be resettled in the Negev, the southern part of Israel, whatever compensation they receive would be a drop in the ocean considering the months, even years, of labour required to make the desert arable. On the other hand, it recently came to light that Sharon allegedly received a grant of NIS 600,000 from government funds for some project on his farm. The whole business of the so-called disengagement from Gaza was a disgraceful act and as far as the humanitarian aspect was, and still is, concerned, mismanaged from beginning to end. Heads must roll, including that of the prime minister, because the buck stops with him; in fact, it all started with him.

Those members of Knesset who place themselves into the camp of the opposition must unite to bring about the fall of this government. They must act unselfishly, without regard to their political careers and their next seat in the Knesset. If they want to demonstrate their loyalty to Israel and its future, they must put their money where their mouth is; otherwise they will be publicly accused and shamed.