Moshe Hagar is an ex-colonel who now heads the religious pre-army academy, or mekhinah, at the settlement of Yatir south of Hebron. Such academies provide a year of study after high school, before army service. The idea is to increase motivation and develop leadership skills. The Hebrew web-page for Hagar’s academy (on a government website) says that its purpose is to encourage students
to internalize Judaism in various planes of life and to prepare them for meaningful army service that includes maintaining both a religious and nationalist lifestyle, and to take upon themselves the personal obligation to make a meaningful motivation during and after military service.
The curriculum, says the site, includes studying “Jewish faith” and musar (ethics).
Last Wednesday, Hagar was interviewed on Israel Radio about the religious right’s protests against the withdrawal from Gaza three years ago. His comments provide an insight into his view of faith and ethics. The key comment:
In the end, the disengagement passed with zero casualties…*
That the disengagement protests passed without casualties would surprise the residents of Shfaram, an Arab town in northern Israel. They’ve just marked the third anniversary of the terror attack carried out in their community by Eden Natan Zada, a far-right soldier who’d gone AWOL in protest against the disengagement. Natan Zada killed four people in Shfaram. (Natan Zada was himself killed by Shfaram residents, who will reportedly be charged with lynching him.)
Two weeks later another disengagement opponent, Asher Weisgan, killed four Palestinians who worked at the West Bank settlement of Shilo. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to four life terms. A report on his sentencing noted:
Weisgan, a settler from Shvut Rachel, said his objective had been to prevent the disengagement from proceeding.
For Moshe Hagar, it seems, the blood of Arab victims was invisible, unnoticed at the time, unremembered.
To be precise, though, the word “casualties” (and the Hebrew word that Hagar used) refers not just to fatalities but also injuries. Hagar has also forgotten the evacuation of Kfar Darom, where
dozens of youngsters barricaded themselves on the synagogue rooftop, and assaulted soldiers and police officers. Many police officers were injured in the clashes.
Apparently, Israelis in uniform also don’t count as casualties when they are injured by members of Hagar’s ideological camp. This is a strange attitude for someone responsible for inculcating Jewish ethics and respect for those serving the country.
To this I should add: First, the fact that the disengagement passed without more injuries and deaths was in part due to a remarkable, and unique, effort to train soldiers to maintain calm and use minimal force in facing protesters. Had, for instance, the police been as well-trained to deal with Palestinian protesters the day after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in September 2000, perhaps no one would have been killed that day. The protests might have sputtered out instead of taking fire as the second Intifada.
Second, in the name of the Whole Land, the anti-disengagement protesters sought to maintain a situation in which a few thousand settlers controlled over a quarter of the Gaza Strip’s land, a situation in which settlers had full political rights while the rest of the Strip was at best a colonial protectorate. No one in the Gaza settlements proposed that in order for Gaza to remain under Israeli rule, the Palestinians be granted the rights of Israeli citizenship, including the right to vote for the Knesset. They wanted to keep the settlements’ peculiar institution of a two-tier political and legal reality. Not only were the protests often unlawful and sometimes violent, they were intended to maintain a racist reality that was an affront to Israeli democracy. (Though all historical parallels are rough, this is the basis for my rhetorical comparison in a previous post between an Israeli stamp adorned with the orange ribbon of the anti-disengagement movement and an imagined American one commemorating the KKK.)
Third, the left erred before the disengagement by not objecting more strongly to the manner in which Ariel Sharon left Gaza – unilaterally, outside of any diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Leaving in that manner, Israel empowered Palestinian extremists and undermined supporters of a political agreement. Clear-eyed people saw that danger, and did not speak loudly enough. Leaving was necessary, but not in that manner.
*Corrected version. The original version of this post mistakenly said “without.”