March 9, 2005

Israeli Journalist Speaks on Disengagement

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Renowned Israeli journalist Michael Tuchfeld spoke yesterday on the complexities of Israel’s plan for disengagement in Anabel Taylor Hall.

The lecture, which was sponsored by the Cornell-Israel Public Affairs Committe (CIPAC), provided students with an intricate look at both sides of the disengagement debate. Tuchfeld briefly explained the disengagement plan as the complete evacuation of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, as well as four settlements in the West Bank. The result would be an exodus of nearly 8,000 Jewish settlers, as well as the removal of the Israeli military forces which are stationed there, he said.

As chief editor and anchor for Knesset T.V., the “Israeli C-SPAN,” Tuchfeld brought a unique insider’s perspective on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s recent push for disengagement. Sharon’s encouragement of evacuation diverges greatly from his history of discouraging such a plan.

“What happened to Ariel Sharon? He was the father of the settlements, he taught settlers how to build and how to cheat the government,” Tuchfeld explained.

After sharing a personal anecdote about attending a secret meeting between Sharon and early settlers of the Gaza Strip, Tuchfeld questioned Sharon’s sudden turnaround on the issue of disengagement. One theory Tuchfeld noted was disengagement as a political ploy to escape indictment for alleged corrupt campaign funding.

Tuchfeld listed several possible reasons to pursue the disengagement plan. Among them were that the settlements are not officially part of the State of Israel, that they are dangerous places to live, and that it takes a great deal of military power to protect them.

Moreover, changing demographics will soon lead to a flip in the balance of religious groups in Israel.

“Jews will become the minority, and Arabs and Palestinians will become the majority,” Tuchfeld said. He added that if Israel were to evacuate the settlements and cede the contested land, 1.2 million Palestinians would no longer be Israeli residents, and the Jews would keep their majority for another 20 years.

Tuchfeld also addressed the converse side of the issue: he said that not only do the settlements form a barrier between Egypt and Israel, but terrorists would see evacuation as a victory, and would be encouraged to commit more acts of violence.

Jewish settlers have compared disengagement to the forced explusion of Jews from their homes during the Holocaust. Tuchfeld discredited this comparison by pointing out that unlike Holocaust victims, the settlers would get monetary compensation for their homes. Additionally, they “would be leaving their homes for political reasons, because the State of Israel thinks it is the right thing to do.”

After showing a particularly violent video clip of Israeli soldiers attempting to evacuate a caravan from the Gaza Strip, Tuchfeld said that Sharon was acting more like a dictator than a democrat in the removal of settlers.

“Sharon treats settlers as though they are his biggest enemy,” Tuchfeld commented, and later added that “softer” treatment of settlers would undoubtedly better the situation.

Tuchfeld started as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Israel in 1973 and has held several different positions in Israeli journalism.

In addition to yesterday’s lecture, CIPAC has sponsored a number of guest speakers this year, including Rep. Barney Frank and Eli Magid, a former Israeli soldier.

CIPAC President and event organizer Dan Greenwald ’05 thought the lecture was a success. “Mr. Tuchfeld illustrated the complexities of Israel’s political situation. It is clear that with disengagement, Prime Minister Sharon is taking an extraordinary political and personal risk for the sake of peace,” he said after the lecture.

CIPAC member Orly Bertel ’08 agreed, noting that the speech was informative, interesting, and funny. “I thought he gave a complete picture of what the disengagement plan is and the positives and negatives of going through with it.”

Archived article by Julie Zeveloff
Sun Contributor