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Yet another article about disengagement

08/15/2005

Disengagement involves the removal of about 8,000 well-fed settlers from their government subsidized houses in Gaza to government-granted residences within Israel. More air-time, newsprint and bandwidth have probably been wasted on this mini-event than were spent on the expulsion and flight of 600,000 Jews from Arab countries, bereft of their belongings, to be packed into tents on their arrival in Israel, or scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Yesterday, Israel TV Channel 10 started an hourly series of broadcasts that played, over and over, the same tapes of the same empty luxury homes in Gaza. No "tragedy" was evident there, except that they interfered with a perfectly good screening of Dr. Zhivago.

What is more important, involving and interesting: seeing the same empty houses and the same comments over and over, or watching Julie Christie in all her glory, as she was then? Fanatics rambling on about "Greater Israel" and commentators saying "on the one hand this, and on the other hand that" are BORING. Even for a news nut like me, there was no contest. Even George Bush and his dog had to get into the disengagement act with a totally inane interview. The dog was more interesting than his master and gave about as much information. Most Israelis are rightly fed-up with disengagement non-news for breakfast, lunch and supper.

Nonetheless, on the day that the disengagement starts, I would be remiss in my duty if I did not add my own devalued 2 cents. Against the torrent of hyperbole generated by the media, the Yesha council, the government, the Jewish fanatics and the Palestinian Arab fanatics, I can only try to point out quietly, a few obvious facts.

The removal of the 8,000 settlers from Gaza, and their transportation a few kilometers into Israel, is not, believe it or not, comparable to the destruction of the Second Temple, the Holocaust, or the Palestinian Nakba. It is not, despite the determined hype of fanatics, with an assist from the media, going to cause a civil war in Israel, because there is nobody to fight this war and there never was.

Everyone is anxious to get to the top of the mountain of publicity generated over the molehill of disengagement, in order to plant a flag there in the name of whatever dogma suits their political religion.

One of the silliest articles about disengagement perhaps, was written by Ethan Bronner and published in the New York Times.

According to Bronner, Israel is withdrawing from Gaza because of demographic realities and the pressure of the Hamas. There certainly is a demographic rationale for leaving Gaza, but it can't be the reason for leaving now. Israelis could add, subtract and multiply ten or 15 or 20 years ago, and the numbers then added up to an eventual Arab majority just as they do now. It is not as though Israelis suddenly discovered that there are more and more Arabs. Twenty years ago, nobody really envisioned the arrival of a million Russian immigrants either. Moreover, the majority of non-Jews that now exists between the river and the sea is not necessarily a cause for alarm. Romanian and Thai workers, and Russian immigrant non-Jews will not be in a hurry to vote for any Palestinian state. In fact, if demography is the only problem, then Bronner has pointed out the way for "Greater Israel" to succeed: invite 4 or 5 million non-Muslim non-Jews to settle in Gaza.

It is true that Hamas terror was a factor in the disengagement. However, Hamas terror and fear of Palestinian terror also made it politically impossible for Israel to withdraw from Gaza 10 or 15 or 25 years ago. The undeniable fact that Bronner and others ignore, is that most Israelis always viewed most of the Gaza settlements as expendable pawns for peace, and as a means of maintaining the security of the southern coast. It became apparent that there is little hope of getting a peace treaty on reasonable terms, that continual Israel presence in Gaza is extinguishing whatever hope there might be, that Gaza was costing more IDF soldiers and resources than it could possibly be worth in terms of security, and making Israel look bad in the eyes of the world. If Israel remained in Gaza, it would be a magnet for more and more Rachel Corries and a symbol of everything that is wrong with the occupation. It simply wasn't worth staying there any more.

The evacuation of Gaza would not be the end of Greater Israel either. For better or worse, Ariel Sharon seems intent on eventually annexing a part of the West Bank to Israel, and in that he has the consensus support of the majority of Jewish Israelis. Gaza however, was never a central part of Greater Israel. Gaza was briefly part of the Herodian kingdom, but in Biblical times it belonged to the Phillistines. King David and King Solomon it appears, did just fine without Gaza. "It was good for little David, and it's good enough for us."

The Israeli right made a fatal mistake, however, that may well turn the evacuation of Gaza into the end of the Greater Israel movement, and perhaps the end of religious Zionism. If they had chosen to take a stand over Jerusalem, or Hebron, or some other place that is close to the heart of Jewish tradition, Zionism and Israeli history, they could have mustered considerable support for "Greater Israel." They chose Gaza as the symbol of religious Zionism and Greater Israel, and the fact is that nobody really cares about Jewish settlement in Gaza. It was they, the Greater Israel people, who proclaimed that disengagement is the end of religious Zionism and Greater Israel. It was they who insisted that Ariel Sharon has betrayed their cause. It was they who insisted that the evacuation would cause a civil war, and in some cases, did their best to ensure that there would be such a war. It was their rabbis who proclaimed that a miracle would take place to stop the disengagement. The only sign of these foretold calamities and miracles and upheavals that is visible so far, is the ludicrous proclamation of an independent Jewish state in Gaza by a single settler. Even if one or two people perpetrate violent resistance, there will be no civil war, and no miracle is going to take place to stop the disengagement, and no calamity occurred or will occur. The leaders of the Yesha movement are revealed as false prophets. The Greater Israel people signed the death warrant of their own movement by identifying their cause with Gaza settlement, and the evacuation of a few settlements in an obscure part of the West Bank. Disengagement will be over soon. "Greater Israel" as they chose to define it will vanish in a few weeks and nobody will mourn it.
Ami Isseroff
Also this week - PEACE Watch says Good Bye to Bibi Netanyahu - More like "Au Revoir and good riddance." http://www.ariga.com/peacewatch/pv7n9.htm

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