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A lesson in pickling

By Yossi Sarid; Ha'aretz, 14.06.06

In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, they are worried about an eruption of the Merapi volcano, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean. In recent weeks, it has been spewing gases and lava, and the frightened farmers who live at its foot are preparing for the worse. Here, on the other hand, in the early days of summer, the heat is drowsily sending us to naps on dog day afternoons, to each his own dog - the World Cup, the electricity brownouts, Professor Braverman. Not in Indonesia, but here, the earth is moving and the summer skies are darkening, as life in the shadow of the volcano with a coming explosion: these are the days of Pompeii.

This week 39 years ago, the Six-Day War ended and the occupation began. This week, Israel enters its 40th year as an occupier. Is it really so, or has it all been a bad dream? It certainly was - 40 years of nightmare - and still goes on. Sometimes it seems the signs of the end are on the horizon but those are only signs. There won't be an end to this story if the future is to be found in the road map or the unilateral convergence.

From the start, the occupation was exploding with good intentions and was meant to be "enlightened." The inhumane history of the human race does not know of any case of a good occupation that is beneficent to the occupied. But the Jewish mind is inventive. Trouble is, the invention didn't work this time. The occupation is an occupation is an occupation - in all its hard-heartedness, in all its evil. Israel looks in the mirror and finds it difficult to recognize itself.

Is the image that has peered back since 1967 the same as before? It is best to rip out the mirror in rage and smash it just so as not to see the nauseating portrait of how we appear. Are those crazed eyes ours? Has the handsome youth who walked in the fields suddenly turned as fat as a pig? Is that fat one really Yeshurun? He ate a lot of McDonalds, Yeshurun, he ate a lot of pizza, he devoured the land like locusts and left our neighbors mere crumbs. It's a disgusting view in the mirror.

After all the colonialist countries, where the sun never set, long since left their colonies, Israel decided to renew the days of old-time colonialism. Why learn the bitter lesson from the experience of others, if one can learn it oneself, on one's own flesh. So don't stop learning, and the hard way. England and France, Holland and Spain and Portugal - and the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia that once were and are no longer - willingly or not gave up the lands that did not belong to them to save themselves from themselves. And only Israel's force is wasted on protecting itself from itself, as if it had a choice, as if it hasn't been defeated by an assault of its own forces on its own forces.

The fool in his council, the National Security Council, still is mistakenly deluded. Giora Eiland's eyes also clouded over because he looked directly at the sun during the eclipse. The disengagement from Gaza was a mistake, he thinks, and the convergence in the West Bank will only intensify it, because we didn't get and will not get something worthwhile in exchange. That's nonsense, sheer nonsense, vanity of vanities. We will certainly get something in exchange for merchandise that was not goods - and we won't get it from anyone else, only from ourselves, only us, with our own force and our own hands can grant us the most beautiful gift of all for our 60th birthday, a gift that will save lives: to get out without ever to return, and there is no half-exit.

We were not heroes except in albums, because we did not conquer our emotions and instead conquered territories. Now, belatedly, the time has come to rise up like lions, to overcome our emotions, our desire to conquer, and give freedom to the desire to live: Israel, even though it has sinned against itself, will return to being Israel and the IDF will resume being the Israel Defense Forces, and Yeshurun will cease being an inflated storm trooper.

I could have recalled the image of the Palestinian father, trying to protect his son Mohammed from the snipers blinded by the klieg lights: My son, my son, if only I could give my life for yours. And I could have recalled the image over the weekend of Huda, the young girl, crying over her dead family and her voice, heard there on the beach - father, father, where are you - and her father is silent with torn eyes. And I could call up thousands of living witnesses and dead who would testify to their quick ends, which came as shocks. But I choose instead a story from the routine of the occupation, without blood and without tears.

Many years ago, before the first intifada, Palestinian acquaintances from Ramallah asked me for help. They wanted permission to put up a cucumber pickling factory in their town. They asked the authorities and received no reply. I promised to help. Why not? They would invest and employ a few dozen people and make a profit. I turned to the Civil Administration and I was also turned away.

"Are you crazy?" they asked me in the administration, "If they put up their factory, our entire pickling industry will go bankrupt." The occupation isn't even ready to give up pickling.

I understood then; how could one not understand the entire colonialist doctrine as it stood on one foot before me. That is colonialism in all its calculated and malicious parasitism, and so is the story appropriate for these days between negotiations that won't take place and the convergence into blocs that won't solve a thing.

When will we understand that only the 1967 lines are the borders to defend the "Jewish and democratic state" from bestiality? And who, aside from us, really cares if we become bestial? Or maybe we don't care anymore?