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The great Israeli
spiral Dynamic car show

Oren Entin

Something strange has been happening in Israel in the last few months. A dichotomy of many years is falling apart, in a process that can change the way that Israel conceives its own identity and agenda. The more extremist minority groups of the right wing settlers, who hold a hardcore blue meme agenda, are separating from their long romance with the main stream of Zionism and strongly denounce and attack the legitimacy of the current regime and state.

The settlers and their supporters, who oppose Israel's imminent Pullout from the Gaza strip and north Samaria, express their protest by using the orange color on clothes and ribbons as their symbol. Spiral-dynamically speaking (of course, none of the groups discussed here is aware of the vMEMEs and the significance of their colors), something quite absurd is happening: The right wing settlers have long been identified with the blue color of the Jewish flag, so much so that many hard-core left wing activists were reluctant to identify with the Israeli flag anymore. Now the settlers have changed their color to orange, while the orange meme, which is identified with mainstream Zionism and a democratic and pluralistic state, have chosen blue ribbons as their banner.

A stranger visiting Israel would be surprised by the amount of blue and orange ribbons tied to cars, bikes, motorcycles, etc. Israel has one of the highest rates of political awareness and activism in the world. That is not surprising at all when taking into consideration the amount of drama, conflict, and the historical and religious circumstances all around the region. Nevertheless, the current situation of the Pullout can be a turning point, with the potential to change the political dynamics of Israeli society. The resistance of the settlers and extreme right wing activists to the Pullout has recently reached new heights never seen before, even in the fragmented Israeli society. Right wing activists voiced their opposition by acts such as hiding what turned to be dummy bomb in Jerusalem's central bus station in order to disrupt the daily life routine of the Israeli society. In addition, they have made well-coordinated efforts to block all the main highways of Israel quite a few times already, sometimes accompanying these blockades with actions such as sabotaging cars by scattering ninjas and pouring oil on the roads.

All of this is just the prologue leading up to the Pullout itself, and these actions are expected to peak on August 15th. Nobody really knows what is going to happen on August 15th, when the Israeli army will begin to evacuate all the Israeli settlements from the Gaza strip and a few small settlements in Samaria. The center of the Israeli political map is swaying between sympathizing with the evacuated settlers and understanding their pain and resentment to giving back land without receiving anything from the other side, to anger about the violent, harsh, and sometimes anti-democratic resistance of the right wing. More to the left of the political map, many Israelis feel no sympathy and consideration for the settlers' human rights, claiming they are not willing to feel compassion for people who felt no compassion for the Palestinians who suffered the consequences of their presence. They say that the compensation money the Israeli government is about to pay the settlers is excessive, and would set the bar too high for any potential future withdrawals, making them too expensive for the state. The green part of the Israeli society is not optimistic at all about the Pullout, as they suspect it will not significantly change the harsh life of the average Palestinian, and that it will not be followed by further withdrawal from the territories Israel occupied during the 1967 war.

Some of the green left-wingers are still active in organizations like “Taayush” and “Machsom watch”, which focus on the human rights of the Palestinians and the Israeli responsibility for their plight and current life situation. The Israeli blue meme, which includes the settlers and the right wingers, including parts of the political center, focus mainly on the rights of the Jewish people in having their own state, claiming the Arabs do not want genuine peace, and giving over third of tiny Israel back to them would be a horrible mistake. The blue meme does not consider the Jewish responsibility to the Arabs living under their rule and their right to self-definition and independence of much importance. Caught in the crossfire between these two camps is the typical Israeli orange meme, which tends to focus more on its middle class life style, salary, kids, and mortgage payments. Those Israelis serve in the army reserve (not happily) and want to live in a modern, orange democratic and progressive state, without all these religious wars and bloody conflicts. So far, this meme has been as silent as it had always been. It does acknowledge that Israel needs to compromise with the Palestinians in order to achieve peace but on the other hand, it watches the chaos and Islamic fundamentalism on the Palestinian side, which makes the orange meme doubt there is a trustworthy partner among the Palestinians, with whom a genuine peace treaty can be achieved.

A large portion of the Israeli orange meme will not even bother to put the blue ribbon on their car to show their support of their own camp. This is partly due to apathy and hopelessness, and partly for fear of damage to their car following reports in the media of damage to cars with blue ribbons (the average orange meme would be very reluctant to sacrifice a car for the purpose of political expression).

During the most recent road blockade by the extreme settlers, a group of frustrated, livid orange (with red spots) drivers left their cars and started beating the right wing activists. They did not do so because of the political issue at hand but because they were not prepared to waste an extra hour in traffic jams in the Israeli hot sun after having finished their work day.

The current estimated ratio of orange to blue ribbons on the Israeli roads is about two to one, although the prevailing estimate is that the ratio of public support for the two camps is quite the reverse (two secular/democratic to one settler/right wing.) There are many reasons for this incongruity: The minority group is very ideological, well organized and determined to do just about anything to win, even if it takes breaking laws and tackling the Israeli security forces, which have been protecting them from their Palestinian neighbors for so many years. The settlers actually considered themselves lords of the land for many years, thriving on hefty budgets and benefits from the state of Israel, together with the mainstream support and approval for their contribution to strengthening the Jewish presence at Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

It appears that the violent struggle of the right wing is beginning to take its toll on the rest of the Israeli population and produce the opposite results to what the settlers were hoping to achieve. Many of the orange meme members, who were sympathetic to the settlers just a year ago and never had any sympathy for the Palestinians whatsoever, can not be sympathetic to those who block roads and challenge the legitimacy of the state and the IDF. If this process, of the settlers misidentifying with the state of Israel, continues, it might help to promote the beginning of a change in the dynamics in the Middle East, which was less likely to happen when the right wing and the political and defense systems were engrossed in a long devoted bliss. On the Palestinian side, on the other hand, it is still hard to notice any significant change. There are mainly two large political camps, the camp of the “Fatach”/ PLO (ex-Arafat) supporters, which are more secular and have a little bit more of an orange tinge in their red and blue infrastructure than the deeply religious and extreme “Hamas” movement, which is hard core blue, and strives to run Palestine in a very conservative Islamic way.

The Hamas is against reaching a compromise and cease-fire with Israel and keeps terror alive even in a time of relative quiet. Just like the hard core Israeli right wing, it strongly believes that violence is the only mean of reaching their goals. This dynamics is quite resistant to change; it proved itself in the beginning of the first Palestinian unrest “Intifada” in 1987, in protest of Israel's refusal to acknowledge and address the needs and desires of the Palestinians, as long as they supplied abundant and cheap labor for Israel and obeyed its regime. The Palestinians claim that Israel is pulling out of the Gaza strip unilaterally and without having reached a joint agreement, as a result of almost four years of "El-Akza Intifada", the most recent unrest beginning in 2001, following Ariel Sharon's visit to The Temple Mount.

The main issue the Hamas and PLO disagree about is the means of achieving the Palestinian goals of self-government self-definition in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and whether terrorism and violence are the only way, as claimed by Hamas.

To complicate matters even worse, the Palestinian population is dotted with red pockets of resistance, especially within the Fatach camp and local gangs dominating towns and villages. Bloody feuds among clans and acts of lynching and corruption within Palestinian authorities, including using foreign funds intended to give some relief to the general population for personal use of Palestinian officials, are common occurrences. The Palestinians live a daily struggle for survival in harsh conditions, which are not conducive to forming a cohesive society, united in its struggle for independence.

The Israeli orange meme argues that a genuine peace treaty cannot be achieved unless the elected Palestinian administration enforces its authority on the local gang leaders, preventing them from disrupting the process. Meanwhile, the state of affairs is characterized by perpetual reciprocal violence with both sides retaliating one against the other's acts of aggression. The IDF responds to terrorist attacks by the Palestinians with military aggression, which leads to retaliation by the Palestinians and so the cycle continues.

In my view, if both sides are left to their own devices, free to continue fighting one another, much like two children locked in an endless clash, never letting go of the hatred and pain, nothing will change. The only solution is a genuine, positive, compassionate yet stern international initiative, supported by both the US and Europe. Such an initiative should put the emphasis on healing the blue memes on both sides, and pursued it that working for peace is the only way to co-exist, and any other strategy would lead to their own destruction. Only a global move like that can change the dynamics in the region and make this part of the world a source of inspiration and wisdom, as it used to be in ancient times.

Oren Entin is an Israeli writer and the co-founder of the Integral Israel group.

He is also webmaster of the Hebrew Section of IntegralWorld.Net.

August 2005.

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