Addicted to occupation
- Last update - 09:09 01/07/2005
Addicted to occupation
By Bradley Burston
At first it was all about freedom. The addiction that now goes by the names
"Greater Israel," or "Occupation," or, more commonly, "Our Reality," felt
nothing like a disease at first. It felt, in fact, nothing like occupation. It
Before the first real taste of occupation, 19 years of statehood seemed to
have made Israel into the world's largest ghetto. Choked by recession, slowly
strangling within borders that only barely repelled neighbors bent on the
annihilation of their country, hundreds of thousands of Israelis had survived
the Holocaust only to be facing what appeared to be a new one, in 1967. The
first dose hit like medicine, like manna, like deliverance.
As is true of many narcotics, occupation at first granted a kind of
weightlessness to people who had suffered all their lives from an excess of
gravity. There was a sudden sense of empowerment, of limitless room to move,
of unaccustomed safety.
What no one knew then was what every addict comes to discover, often too late:
You don't have any idea that you're addicted until you face the pains of
We were no different from other addicts. We thought we could stop any time we
wanted. So we didn't. If someone asked questions, wondered about the wisdom of
endless occupation, the heavy users, the pushers of occupation, derided them,
questioned their manhood, called them names like "rachruchi" (softy) or "yefe
nefesh" (bleeding heart), a suggestion that one was less than potent, latently
homosexual, or both.
Like other addicts, our first instinct, when the pangs and the nausea and the
cramps and the searing pains of withdrawal began taking effect, was to
medicate with more of the drug. To settle further. To reoccupy. To fantasize
anew - as the pushers and the heavy users of Yesha and yeshivas abroad had
never stopped doing - about the drug as a means for spiritual enlightenment,
of ultimate fulfillment, of the destiny of man.
And, like other addicts, we were not about to stop until we hit rock bottom.
While we dealt with our addiction, as co-dependents, as enablers, as addicts,
as pushers, the Palestinians were neck-deep in their own version of addiction
Their dependency was every bit as absolute. But theirs was a different drug of
choice. It was violent revenge, the promise of redressing humiliation through
the infliction of punishment, the promise of regaining a sense of manhood
through the brandishing and use of firearms, the belief in the idea that
nationhood can only be - should only be - attained by means of macho displays
The Palestinians, in short, became addicted to machismo, as sold to them by
the drug lords Arafat, Yassin and Rantisi. Just as the Israelis' drug of
occupation was meant to take away the Israelis' chronic fear of annihilation,
the Palestinian's drug of machismo was meant to take away the Palestinian's
chronic pain of dishonor - and, in the bargain, to magically return all
Palestinians to the homes that myth and memory had kept intact.
The drug didn't work as expected, but it had an especially alluring side
effect. As long as the occupation continued, Palestinians need not take
responsibility for anything they did. They taught their children, and
convincingly, that occupation is the great crime of mankind, the abomination
beside which all other acts of man pale.
The Palestinians, thus, became ineluctably addicted to occupation as well. It
is, at this point, the basis of their culture, the cornerstone of their
identity, the explanation and expiation of all their failings.
Have the Palestinians hit rock bottom? Not yet. Have the Israelis? Not nearly.
But, at the risk of being dismissed as weak-willed by my heavy-user brethren,
I confess that rock bottom is where I am.
So this is my first meeting of Occupiers Anonymous. I am new here, and
distinctly uneasy. I have protected settlers in the northern Sinai, in
southern Gaza, and the length of the West Bank. I have occupied Lebanon and
the Golan. I have occupied every territory it was possible to occupy. I am an
occupier, and I want to stop.
In the past, I blamed my failure to stop occupying on the settlers who
manufactured new occupations and on the l eaders who enabled them. I blamed my
failure on the Palestinians who missed no opportunity to misread the Israelis.
I blamed my failure on the terrorists who destroyed any chance of ending the
occupation because their very self- image and power depended on an occupation
But this summer I have decided to begin the 12 steps. God, grant me the
serenity to leave the places I can leave. Give me the courage to stand and
defend the places I should. And the wisdom to know the difference.