pulling out amona 298 88.
(photo credit: AP)
The modern Jewish state has so far avoided what brought down its biblical forbears: civil war.
Yes, there was the sinking of the Altalena in 1948 and an attempt to storm the Knesset in 1952 after the passage of the Reparations Agreement with West Germany. There were some violent rallies in the wake of the Lebanon war, and there were the murders of peace activist Emil Grunzweig and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Still, modern Israel saw nothing like the war in which the entire tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out by the rest of the Israelites, or the bloodbath between the warriors of David and Abner, or the violence between the Hasmoneans and the Hellenizers, or the clashes between the Zealots and their opponents while the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem.
In terms of its scope and damage, Wednesday's clash heralds no civil war. In terms of its instigators, however, the war is already afoot, and in terms of their prospects, they already have lost.
From the viewpoint of the religious youngsters who dominated the rioters in Amona, Ehud Olmert is Rehoboam, King Solomon's unworthy heir whose fateful response to the people's plea for a relaxation of his father's heavy taxes was: "My father flogged you with whips, but I will flog you with scorpions."
The weapons at play Wednesday in the hills of Benjamin were not whips and scorpions, but billy clubs and stones. Stones much like the ones with which those biblical rebels murdered Rehoboam's tax collector, Adoram. That rebellion was so successful that Solomon's kingdom was instantaneously, and irrevocably, split between Judah and Israel.
Curiously enough what is at stake now is remarkably similar to what was at stake then, when the Israelites of Samaria challenged Jerusalem's authority and tested a newly arrived successor's sway and resolve. The only difference is that this time the ruler represents not two of 12 tribes, but a decisive majority, while the rebels represent so small a minority that even its own leaders no longer claim to represent "half the nation," as they habitually had until last year. In fact, last summer they even failed to gather the several hundred thousand demonstrators they once would easily mobilize for mass rallies.
As many of its own supporters grimly conceded in the aftermath of the Gaza pullout, the settlement movement's tragedy has been its gradual takeover by not-one-inch Orthodox messianics. On Wednesday, once mainstream Israelis looked through their tears and beyond the waving fists, screeching outcries and bleeding faces that filled their TV sets, most of them could not see among the Amona rioters anyone they know even indirectly. Three thousand people is a lot of rioters, but considering that they were predominantly high school kids, and that - other than MK Arye Eldad - one was at a loss to find even one secular person among them, the inevitable conclusion was that this is not a mass movement that is even remotely in a position to defeat the state.
Yet the rioters' problem is not only in their limited following but also in their ideological integrity. As super-patriots for whom the Jewish state's survival is a supreme value, it is remarkable that they do not understand that twisting the state's arm and denying its majority's will undermines the Zionist enterprise itself.
Just what happened in the field Wednesday deserves to be thoroughly investigated, as National Union MKs Eldad, Effi Eitam and Benny Elon rightly demand. Who did what, when, how and why matters here greatly. However, there is in all this also an element of emotional blackmail, a manipulative effort to divert the public's attention away from the rioters' limited following and irresponsible tactics.
The National Union said Wednesday that the cops' beatings of its MKs marks the beginning of our democracy's end. Did they suggest this rationale when Arab MKs were attacked by border policemen while obstructing the construction of the anti-terror fence? They didn't, and rightly they didn't, because demonstrating against the elected government's policies is one thing, and physically undoing them is another. Mounting the bulldozers at Amona, as Elon did, was just that kind of affront, and as such embodied not the heroism Elon would like us to see in it, but the anarchism that his archenemies who occasionally attack the fence espouse.
Yes, police should take stock of the blood they drew, but the Right should assume responsibility for the broader picture; its leaders at best failed to prevent, at worst inspired the mass deployment of minors, stockpiling of stones and brazen attacks on troops that resulted in near fatalities. To admirably promote their cause, they must make do with demonstrating and avoid obstructing. If they still opt for obstruction, they should know they are tinkering with civil war, and civil wars come at a price, a price the Right cannot pay and the Jewish state cannot pocket, but which Jewish history can be counted on to exact.