Everyone I meet asks me: "What really happened in the Maoz Yam hotel?" First, let's start with the good news: the deportation operation at the hotel proved to all the world that we have the ability to prevent the implementation of Sharon's deportation plan, if we only organize accordingly. If it is necessary to bring so many policemen and soldiers in order to remove fewer than a hundred people, the majority of whom were youth, women, and infants who did not resist, then on D-Day, when, with G-d's help, there will be tens of thousands of resolute individuals in Gush Katif and Samaria, the deportation forces simply will not be able to carry out their evil design.
And now, for the facts: when the Kela Authority (Gaza Absorption Authority), headed by Datia Yitzhaki, asked the hotel owners for permission to renovate the abandoned and rundown hotel, and fill it with new residents, as part of the renovation and populating of the abandoned houses throughout the Gush by Kela, the owners responded enthusiastically. The Ve-Yorashtem Otah ("And occupy it") association of Baruch Marzel and myself, representing the Kela Authority, received power of attorney, and were authorized for everything connected with the populating, renovation, and operation of the hotel. The conditions in the hotel were very difficult. In the first month, brave families from Samaria and Hebron lived there, together with young volunteers, without electricity and with only a bit of cold water. The Kela Authority was in charge of everything connected with the renovations, and the Ve-Yorashtem Otah association made all the arrangements for food. More and more families and singles slowly arrived from different parts of the country and learned to live together as a cohesive community.
We were aware from the beginning that the security forces planned to take over the hotel, in order to situate the deportation forces in such a strategic position (in the middle of Gush Katif, with access to the sea). They offered a fortune to the hotel owners if they would agree to lease the hotel to them. The courageous hotel owners, however, preferred to lease it to those faithful to Eretz Israel, and not to the deportation forces. The legal settlement in the hotel upset all the government's plans. Not only could they not position their headquarters there, the place was turned into a concentration of the determined opponents of the Sharon plan. The deportation forces understood that, legally, they had no possibility of expelling us from there. They were left with only a single way: initiating provocations and a campaign of delegitimation against the inhabitants of the hotel, in the hope that the latter would provide them with a pretext to take over the hotel, before anyone realized what was happening, and by force.
And the provocations came. This began motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) two weeks ago, when the people of Israel heard on the radio that "extreme right-wing activists from Maoz Yam attacked Arabs from Muassi and injured them." An examination proved that the opposite was the case. A group of about ten Jews, guests for Shabbat, was walking in the direction of Shirat Hayam. On the way they were attacked by dozens of Arabs with clubs and stones. The scoop was that "a person bit an attacking Rottweiler" - the Jews defended themselves and chased away the attacking Arabs. The way that the incident was presented in the media, as if it were the Jews who had attacked the Arabs, and not the opposite, was done with the clear aim of besmirching the inhabitants of the hotel.
And that was only the beginning. Every day people heard all kinds of strange reports from the hotel until the impression was gained that its inhabitants were really dangerous. The tours that we gave the media - to show them that we were busy with the new kindergarten, the kitchen, the establishment of the study hall, and the wine and cheese evening to connect with the residents of Gush Katif - were all to no avail. According to the reports in the media, Maoz Yam had become the Number One danger in the State of Israel. Screaming headlines in the newspapers spoke of the "Masada of Gush Katif," without there being any basis in reality for this. Anyone who read the newspapers and heard the news could think that we were preparing biological and chemical weapons in Maoz Yam, if not an atomic bomb.
And then came the provocation that led to the storming of the hotel. The army destroyed dozens of abandoned houses close to the settlement of Shirat Hayam. The pretext for the destruction was that the security forces "feared that the Jews would take over these houses and fill them with opponents of the disengagement." This happened, of all days, on the day of the funeral of the two youths from the southern Hebron hill country who were murdered by Arab terrorists. Instead of the army demolishing the houses of the Arab terrorists who murdered these youths, or going in pursuit of the launchers of Kassam rockets, the Sharon government sent the army to engage in a provocation against the national camp, knowing that such a hillul Hashem (desecration of the Name of G-d) would not pass without a response, and that Jews would return to the location to try and rebuild the ruins.
Thus began the story of Tal Yam. That very night the activists in the field decided to rebuild the ruins of the abandoned structures and call the site "Tal Yam," in memory of Tali Hatuel, may the Lord avenge her. The youth preferred to take over an abandoned house in the 'Muassi', at a distance of a few hundred meters from there.
When the Arabs in the next house organized for a pogrom against the Jews, began to throw rocks at Jewish girls walking on the road, and even injured one in the forehead (did anyone broadcast the pictures of the injured Jewish girl?), the army was supposed to intervene, to restore order, and even to remove the Arabs from there in order to protect the lives of the Jews. But because the authorities wanted the situation there to deteriorate, the army stood by and did nothing. The youth responded as any true Jew is supposed to respond in such a situation: they defended themselves. Perhaps too enthusiastically, but this was still self-defense. But we heard in the media that "lawbreaking Jews are throwing rocks at the poor Arabs."
The delegitimation campaign reached its peak on the day of the "lynch." All the media broadcast pictures of Jewish youth presumably attacking a poor Arab youth. Today - after the publication of the full picture on the Internet - it is common knowledge that there was no lynch, and that the "poor Arab youth" was an eighteen-year-old Arab who endangered the lives of the Jews there by the wild throwing of rocks. The Arab attacker himself admitted in an interview with Israel Radio's Avi Yisakharov that he was hit in the head by the butt of a soldier's rifle. This soldier (who acted in this manner in order to stop the Arab attacker, who was said to be holding a knife) also hit him in the ribs and the face. This was his main injury, and only afterwards were stones thrown at him, that caused the secondary injury. Several hours after he was listed as "critically injured," he was already seen standing and laughing with his friends, and he had miraculously become very lightly wounded.
Real "lynches" did occur during those same days, in other places: activists of the extreme left who demonstrated against the fence injured a soldier, and took out his eye; police in Ramat Gan brutally beat an innocent demonstrator and barbarously tortured him by putting their fingers in his nostrils and pulling his head backwards, when his hands were tied, and other such instances. It is clear why these events received no media coverage.
The staged pictures from the "lynch" at Tal Yam served their purpose, and were the pretext for the storming of the Maoz Yam hotel. No one bothered to ask how the total mess at Tal Yam provided the sanction for the storming of Maoz Yam, two kilometers away, but this is a marginal question. What troubles me is that the national camp leadership, in and outside Gush Katif, fell into the "divide and rule" trap that Ariel Sharon set for us, believed the smear and delegitimation campaign, and instead of coming to the aid of Maoz Yam, engaged in their favorite sport: breast-beating and condemnations, and allowed the authorities to illegally occupy Maoz Yam. This must not happen again. It is obvious that in a few weeks the Sharon dictatorship will organize for all of Gush Katif a delegitimation campaign similar to what they did to Maoz Yam. Who knows what the dark minds in the GSS (General security services - the "Shin Bet") are preparing for us? Will some GSS operative disguised as a Gush Katif settler shoot, Heaven forbid, some government minister or a soldier? Will a GSS operative disguised as a settler from Gush Katif try to carry out some attack on the Temple Mount? It's difficult to know, but the delegitimation campaign against Gush Katif is on the way.
As regards Tal Yam and Maoz Yam, engaging in charges and accusations within our camp is pointless now. We all made mistakes. Yes, we, too. But it is important to understand that even if Tal Yam had never existed, and the inhabitants of Maoz Yam were all moderate and mild-mannered families, then, too, the authorities would have arranged provocations in order to defame the inhabitants and storm the hotel - first, because the strategic location is important for them; and second, they do not want a concentration of Eretz Israel loyalists in Gush Katif who are infused with the faith in our ability to cancel the decree.
And here we come back to the good news: the expulsion operation at the hotel proved to all of us that it is not at all simple to remove people from their homes. If the army had to bring thousands of soldiers to expel about a hundred people, most of whom were women and children, then the solution for our victory lies in numbers. Our power is in our numbers. Now we must concentrate on bringing tens of thousands of people to Gush Katif and Samaria. During the uprooting of Yamit, the heads of the army told Rabbi Neriah, of blessed memory: If only you could bring an additional 20,000 people here, we could inform the government that we are incapable of implementing our task. Therefore, Gush Katif must prepare for the absorption of masses of people. Every family in Gush Katif must engage in a "family doubling operation": setting up tents and huts on their individual lawns and host for the entire summer the grandfather and grandmother from Rehovot, the cousins from Petah Tikvah, the grandchildren from Kfar Maimon, the cousins from Ofakim, and the good friends from Tel Aviv and Raananah. The tens of thousands of other people who don't have relatives in Gush Katif will camp out in the public areas: the beaches, the schools, the community centers, and the like. It's true that it's not the most pleasant thing to break our daily routine. But what is preferable? To break out of our routine for a few weeks in order to save home and life, or to live our routine lives until August 15, and then to lose everything?
As in every dictatorship, the security forces seem very intimidating. But the truth is that this government fears us. It tries in every way to break our spirit, because they know that if we only organize properly, we have the ability to triumph. And so, now is the time to continue to act, with even greater energy, in the four areas that, with G-d's help, will bring victory:
* strengthening the inhabitants of Gush Katif, so that they will continue to plant and be steadfast, and not agree to sign to accept compensation.
* to continue to call upon soldiers not to obey the illegal and immoral deportation order: the tens of thousands of soldiers who will remove their uniforms on D-Day and join the residents of Gush Katif will, with G-d's help, be the surprise of the summer.
* to strengthen and encourage the youthful roadblockers, who will insure a total system breakdown in the country on D-Day.
* to organize to absorb the masses in Gush Katif and Samaria.
We will work together, we will organize, and, with G-d's help, we will prevail. On August 16, when the Prime Minister will announce, to the entire world, his resignation and the cancellation of the deportation plan, the entire people of Israel are invited to a festive meal of thanksgiving to the Holy One, blessed be He, in the Maoz Yam hotel.
Nadia Matar is a leader of Women in Green and heads the Executive Committee of The Kela Authority