Text: Jonathan Pollard's Letter to Yonatan Bassi

From Yehonatan to Yonaton: A Wake Up Call

Jonathan Pollard - Special to IMRA - July 25, 2004

[May be reprinted with attribution.]

A week ago no one had ever heard of Yonaton Bassi. Now his name is on the lips of every G-d fearing person who loves the Land and People of Israel.

Bassi's name might never have been known, had he not accepted an immoral appointment from Prime Minister Sharon to become the new Head of the Evacuation Administration. As such, Bassi - who is a religious Jew - will be the Chief Liquidator of Gaza and Shomron, responsible for throwing Jewish families out of their homes and liquidating Jewish communities.

In recent interviews (see one below*), Bassi cites many rationalizations as to why he accepted this "painful mission". He claims that it is excruciating for him to undertake this assignment, but nevertheless, after much consideration, he has accepted it. Why? Because he feels that as a religious person he can do this "difficult job" with greater compassion and sensitivity.

I recognize the mentality.

In nearly 2 decades in prison, I have been immersed in a world populated by criminals, among them murderers, rapists, child molesters, and paid assassins. The one thing that hard core criminals have in common is the uncanny ability to rationalize their crimes. They always have some excuse, some mitigating factor, which they feel justifies their having committed some of the most horrendous crimes - unjustifiable from any moral perspective.

Yonaton Bassi's attitude and outlook as the new Head of the Evacuation Administration reminds me of stories that I have heard over the years from some of these criminals. For example, the story of Mark, a man I met many years ago, when he was doing time at FCI Butner. What was his crime? Mark had repeatedly raped his 4-year-old daughter, videotaped the rapes, and sold copies on the Internet.

I once asked Mark how he could do such a thing to his own baby daughter. Didn't he love her? How could he hurt her? Didn't he know that he was supposed to be protecting and defending his daughter, not debasing, humiliating and exploiting her?

Mark looked at me as if there were something wrong with me for asking such questions. Then he patiently replied that of course he loves his daughter. "After the first time it didn't hurt her," he explained, "and after that she seemed to like it."

He went on to say that the money he made by selling the videos was good and his daughter enjoyed a better standard of living because of it-- so what's wrong with that? After all, he said, sooner or later someone was going to teach her about 'the birds and the bees' (sex), " so why not me, who really loves her?"

Yonaton Bassi has his own version of this kind of perverted logic to justify why a religious Jew like himself can accept and carry out an immoral and utterly unjustifiable mission to separate the Jewish People from their homes and their Land.

But Yonaton Bassi is not a hard core criminal. He is a Torah Jew.

Even if Bassi were a secular Jew, ignorant of Torah, it would be bad enough. But for a Torah Jew to voluntarily accept the mission of uprooting Jews from the Land of Israel and of expelling Jews from their homes - this is an abomination and an unforgivable chillul HaShem! There can be no rationalization for this kind of immorality, no mitigating factors, no justification for a Torah Jew to willingly take on such an inherently evil task!

As a Torah Jew, Bassi is legally and morally bound to live and act in accord with Torah. Torah teaches us that the Land of Israel is an eternal inheritance to the Jewish People. It was given to us by the Almighty, to cherish, to cleave to, to honor and to be the guardians of her wholesomeness and her wholeness. Not the opposite!

Bassi claims that there is no choice. That Jews must abandon chunks of our inheritance from Ha'Shem because of demographics. A Torah Jew must ask: HaYad HaShem Teek'tsar? (Is Ha'Shem's Hand too short?) Can it possibly be that there is any problem too great for the Almighty? Does Ha'Shem ask His People to rewrite Torah, to voluntarily renounce parts of our eternal patrimony, because He is incapable of solving the demographic problem? The secularist may answer: "Yes, we cannot rely on G-d." But Bassi is a Torah Jew. A Torah Jew knows that HaKodesh Baruchu, (The Holy One) is HaKol Yachol (Omnipotent).

Bassi also knows that the great Rabbis of our generation have spoken, and that Daat Torah on the matter is known. The reason we ask for Daat Torah is because our existence fundamentally depends upon those who know Torah best. The greatest Torah minds of the generation, including my own revered rav, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Honorable Rav MordecHai Eliyahu, have all come down squarely opposed to the uprooting of Jews from their homes and from our Land. The Rabbis tell us that the Evacuation plan is morally wrong, and a desecration of G-d's name in the Land. A Torah Jew obeys Daat Torah.

How is it that Bassi pays no heed to the Torah authorities? Instead, he cites mortal men, like the Chou-en Lai and the Government, the Knesset, the Justice Ministry and the Army as his highest authorities. Bassi says that he cannot stop the evacuation. That may be true. But that does not mean that he ought to be a part of this chillul HaShem. Daat Torah is clear that neither he, nor any G-d fearing Jew, should be a part of it.

Moreover, by accepting this immoral mission, Bassi has become an icon for those who deny G-d's sovereignty over the Land. The religiously ignorant and the irreligious now have in Bassi a model of a religious Jew who has sold out. From his model the irreligious infer that all Jews, even religious Jews, will eventually sell out for a price. Sell out what? Sell out their emunah and bitachon, and their belief in the eternal nature of G-d's promises to the Jewish People. (G-d forbid!)

That brings us to the 3 cardinal sins. A Torah Jew knows that there are only 3 cardinal sins for which a Jew must lay down his/her life rather than transgress. They are: Shfeechat Daam (bloodshed; murder); Avoda Zarah (idol worship); and Gilooee Arayot (illicit sexual relations).

Other than these 3 cardinal sins, a Jew is permitted, in a life and death situation, to transgress all of the mitzvoht (commandments) of the Torah to save a life. Why? Because the Torah enjoins us to live by the mitzvoht, not to die by them.

However there is one more case in which a Jew must die rather than transgress a mitzvah. In the case where a Jew is asked to perform an action - any action - in order to deny Torah, the Jew must choose to forfeit his life rather than deny Torah. To illustrate, if a gun were put to the head of an observant Jew and he were ordered to eat a ham sandwich; to save his life he may eat. But if an observant Jew were ordered to perform the same task for the explicit purpose of denying the validity of Torah law, a Jew should rather forfeit his life than agree to deny any part of Torah.

The Biblical story of Chana and her seven sons, who went to their deaths, one by one, for refusing to bow down to a gentile King as a public denial of Torah, exemplifies this principle. The six elder sons refused to bow and were put to death one after the other. The 7th son, the youngest, then stood before the King. The King tried to spare his life. He told the child, "I will throw down my ring. All you have to do is bend down and pick it up; everyone will think that you bowed to me but in fact all you will be doing is picking up my ring. That will be sufficient for me to save your life." The King threw down his ring. The child refused to pick it up. The child chose to go to his death rather than give the impression that he had denied Torah by bowing. His mother Chana remained silent, in full accord with her sons' acts of self-sacrifice.

Is there any question that by choosing Yonaton Bassi, a religious Jew, to be the Chief Liquidator of Jewish homes and communities in Israel, PM Sharon created a situation where a Torah Jew will be blatantly denying Torah? The very nature of the task Bassi has accepted denies the most fundamental tenet of Torah: Ahavat Yisrael (Love of Israel).

Our sages tell us that the three salient characteristics of a Jew are that they are "bayshaneem", "rachmaneem" and "gomlei chassadim" - "humble", "merciful", and "doers of kind deeds". If any of these characteristics are missing in a Jew's character, his lineage is suspect.

How can Bassi reconcile his Torah observance with the diametrically opposite character traits that his new mission as Chief Liquidator requires? Instead of being humble, he must be arrogant and heartless to turn Jews out of their homes. Instead of being merciful, he must be merciless to expel Jews from their land. Instead of being a doer of kind deeds, he must be so devoid of goodness that he does not recognize the evil inherent in what he doing; and so devoid of human kindness, that he may deceive himself by doing evil and calling it good.

Gevalt! Wake up, Yonaton Bassi! Wake up! Your good Jewish soul is in peril!

When a child is born, Heaven decrees all the skills, talents, and characteristics that the child is to possess. It is up to the child to work hard to develop these gifts in order to enjoy them for all the rest of his/her life. Our sages teach us that the only thing that Heaven does not decree is if the child will be wicked or righteous -- that is entirely dependent on the choices that he/she makes in life. You have made a choice, Yonaton Bassi, but it is a murderous choice, a heartless choice, a choice that will haunt you and your descendants until the end of time.

Yonaton, my brother, you have erred in judgment. You have damaged yourself and all of Torah Jewry in the process. But it is not too late to turn back. Not too late to be mitakken eht ha' mihoovaht - to repair that which has been distorted. I urge you, take the mantle that has been passed to you as Chief Liquidator of the Jewish People and throw it back at the Prime Minister's feet. Let not the Jewish blood which that mantle will incurr stain your good Jewish soul.

Yonaton Bassi, a week ago no one knew your name. Take heed, my brother, lest your name become a curse for all generations! Return to HaShem and give up this murderous task! Reclaim your honor and your place among the true believers in G-d's eternal grace. As a Torah Jew, you can do no less!

*ADDENDUM: Arutz7 Interview with Yonaton Bassi - July 19, 2004


Yonaton Bassi, of the religious Kibbutz Sdei Eliyahu in the northern Jordan Valley, has been appointed to head the newly formed Evacuation Administration. His position will be parallel to that of a government ministry's director-general. Arutz-7's Haggai Segal spoke with him today:

Q. Are you at peace with the Prime Minister's disengagement plan?

A. ... I'll tell you what the Prime Minister told me. He said that this job can be undertaken only by someone who, on the one hand, feels the great pain of the terrible uprooting of the people from their homes, but who on the other hand feels that there is no other alternative. I think that in this matter, this definition applies to me as well.

Q. Why do you think the Prime Minister has turned to you for this painful task?

A. You'll have to ask him, but it is certainly a painful mission, possibly the most painful there is. I therefore had to deliberate between turning it down and leaving the work to someone else, or taking it upon myself - with a heavy personal price, especially given the circles in which I live - knowing that I might be able to make it easier for the people involved... I spent several days of deep introspection on this matter, and I came to the conclusion that in these matters, one must not think only of himself, but rather take the broad picture into account.

Q. You are a senior member of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, a member of Kibbutz Sdei Eliyahu, and it may well be said that the religious kibbutzim are the glorious settlement enterprise of Religious Zionism of the 1930's, 40's, 50's, maybe even further -

A. - also the 60's and 70's.

Q. - yes, also the 60's and 70's, and even in Gush Etzion (Judea) you have some Kibbutzim. So how then can you become the chief liquidator of a parallel settlement enterprise?

A. First of all, eh, I'm not the chief liquidator [nervous chuckle], I would like to correct this. We will not deal with evacuation; the name Evacuation Authority is not a good one, and we'll change it. Our main job will be to try to provide the best solutions to all the families that will have to decide between various alternatives: do they want to continue to be farmers or not, do they want to move to a community in the Negev or to somewhere else, and the like. We will try to give each one the solution that's best for him. The [entire disengagement] is of course being coordinated by people other than me, such as Gen. Giora Eiland, others from the Justice Ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, and they are dealing with legislation, military issues, and others. Our job is just to deal with the hardest and most painful part of all, and that is the people themselves.

Q. In other words, your job is to encourage the people to leave of their own will, in exchange for compensation?

A. Not to encourage; we will turn to them -- we won't force them to negotiate with us, but we'll rather propose that they talk with us and we'll try to figure out the best alternative.

Q. Allow me to return to this once again. It's true that you were never a member of Gush Emunim [the original settlement movement for Judea, Samaria and Gaza, formed after the 1973 Yom Kippur War - ed.] but you were certainly educated on the principle that 'where the Zionist plow passes, that will mark our border' - and here we see that not only is this principle is being broken, but that you are among those promoting and advancing this trend, even if out of admirable motivations.

A. I believe that this public discourse on what I would call "geography or demography" is a long one, and it's certainly not upon me to complete it, though I am part of the Israeli public that is deliberating over it. If the State of Israel concludes that in order to be a Jewish and democratic state, it has to peel off a very large Arab population, it also must bear the heavy pain that follows. This is of course not a decision that I made, but rather the government, and I know that I won't even be able to begin my work until the Knesset passes a law regarding the compensation and the various regulations, etc. ... I assume this will pass sometime after the Knesset's summer recess. Until then, I will merely serve as a coordinator of some type for all the many government offices that are already dealing with this.

Q. You certainly must have thought about the possibility that most of the residents will not agree to take compensation, but will rather opt to remain in their homes.

A. I'll tell you what I think they're doing already. I think they're doing what Yaakov Avinu [the Patriarch Jacob] did when his brother Esav was on his way to greet him. Yaakov prepared in three ways: Prayer, Gifts, and War, i.e., he took several different approaches. On the one hand, they are preparing, legitimately, to do whatever they can in the framework of the law to resist this plan, while at the same time they are also dealing with the alternative. I think they will be smart if they do both at the same time, so as not to harm themselves.

Q. Do you mean, and perhaps the Prime Minister discussed it with you, that those who don't agree to leave on their own might not receive compensation at all?

A. There's no such thing. I don't think anyone has even thought of such a possibility.

Q... Isn't it clear to you that this disengagement will lead to other disengagements in Judea and Samaria, along the lines of, "Today Gush Katif, tomorrow Ofrah"?

A. I personally think that there is nothing that strengthens the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise more than when we relieve and reduce the very heavy demographic pressure. But of course it could be that I am wrong. I don't think there is anyone who can say what will happen as a result. Chou en-Lai, the Prime Minister of China in the 70's, was asked his opinion on the [18th century] French Revolution, and he said that not enough time had passed for him to judge it. When you're in the middle of a historic process, it's hard to see it from a broad perspective. I would guess that whoever gives it a historic perspective now, does so based only on his own outlook.

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