Earlier this year I shared a 2004 Jerusalem Post interview with Arnon Soffer, the architect of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. It was a painfully sobering read, not least for his chilling predictions of Israel’s post-disengagement reality:
(When) 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day…
If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.
I thought of this article today as I read another piece about Gaza: a famous 1956 eulogy given by Moshe Dayan for a young kibbutznik named Ro’i Rotenberg, who was killed by Gazan Arabs who had crossed over the border into Israel.
At the start of his eulogy, Dayan offered these astonishingly candid remarks:
Do not today besmirch the murderers with accusations. Who are we that we should bewail their mighty hatred of us? For eight years they sit in refugee camps in Gaza, and opposite their gaze we appropriate for ourselves as our own portion the land and the villages in which they and their fathers dwelled.
Not from the Arabs in Gaza, but from ourselves shall we require the blood of Ro’i. How did we close our eyes so as not to see the goal of our generation in its full measure of cruelty? Did we forget that this group of young men and women, which dwells in Nahal Oz, bear on their shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza, gates on the other side of which are crowded together with hundreds of thousands of eyes and hands that pray for our weakness, that it may come, so that they may rip us to shreds – have we forgotten this?
This we know: that in order that the hope to destroy us should die we have to be armed and ready, morning and night. We are a generation of settlement, and without a steel helmet and the barrel of a cannon we cannot plant a tree and build a house. Our children will not live if we do not build shelters, and without a barbed wire fence and a machine gun we cannot pave a road and channel water. The millions of Jews that were destroyed because they did not have a land look at us from the ashes of Israelite history and command us to take possession of and establish a land for our nation.
(Translation, Michael Shalom Kochin, 2009)