Israel is out of Gaza, and Palestinians have a chance to show how they establish orderly government and an orderly society. Up to now, the demonstration has not been too encouraging. The lynching of Moussa Arafat, the burning of synagogues, the destruction of green houses and the mobs crossing into Egypt are doing more harm to the future of Palestinian hopes than was done by all the destruction of houses by the Israeli Army. Where were the Palestinian security forces? It seems they were contributing to the mayhem. Palestinians claim that the security forces were involved in the murder of Moussa Arafat.
Mahmoud Abbas had stated in an interview:
We are ready to control the whole security situation. We will notallow anybody to rush into the settlements. We have to preserve the establishments. Only the private houses were destroyed [during Israel's evacuation of the settlers].
It seems he wasn't so ready.
Herculean efforts have been made to somehow blame the Israeli government for not destroying the synagogues. First, false rumors were spread that the Palestinians were willing to accept responsibility for synagogues, if only the Israeli government would ask. The Israeli government did ask, and they were told in no uncertain terms that the Palestinian Authority would not accept responsibility:
The Palestinian Cabinet called on Israel to destroy the synagogues left behind after the evacuation of the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip colonial settlements, after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the Jewish synagogues there shall be preserved and not demolished, thus maintaining an Israeli Trojan Horse that might delay the withdrawal of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), scheduled for September 15, from the coastal strip.
The Palestinian cabinet in a statement issued following a meeting in Gaza City on Tuesday "demanded that Israel demolish the synagogues in the settlements, or move them." It said this was "because there is no justification for these synagogues to remain there."
This was the first admission of failure and moral bankruptcy by the Palestinian Authority. A major element of the final settlement that the Palestinians want so much must be the ability of the Palestinians to guarantee the safety of holy places and access to holy places. They admitted they couldn't do it. As these synagogues no longer had any religious articles in them, they probably were not "holy places" in the strictest sense. However, that is true of many buildings and locations in this country that are considered "holy places." Politically, the synagogues were "holy places" because they were a sensitive issue, regardless of what the Israeli High Court might rule, or what Israeli religious law might specify. Whether the settlers were illegal or legal, they had a right to worship according to their conscious. Nobody checked if every Muslim and Christian holy place got a building permit, and nobody claimed that churches built by the Crusaders should be razed because they were invaders. When the Israeli government took control of the West Bank and Gaza, it was a point of pride to ensure the preservation of Christian and Muslim holy places, no matter in what circumstances they were built. It is difficult to imagine a people so filled with hate that they were unwilling to preserve these empty buildings as proud symbols of their deliverance from occupation and deference to the faith of others.
The synagogues, with tasteful memorial plaques, could have been turned into community buildings, and the plaques could remind the Palestinians of their "victory" over the occupation.
Ha'aretz, in one of its fine editorials, then insisted that the government should destroy the synagogues.
It is impossible to argue in the defense of the government that it failed to see the writing on the wall and did not clearly expect the mass Palestinian assault on the empty synagogues in Gush Katif. It is also impossible to argue that the state failed to act in advance to prevent them from being torched....
The Chief Rabbinate even instructed the government on how to strip the buildings of their sanctity, and its instructions were followed to the letter. Everything was expected, and even the High Court of Justice gave its approval. But at the last minute, the decision-makers abandoned reason.
Most of the members of the cabinet were afraid to be seen by the public as having gone against the words of the rabbis. They preferred to blame the Palestinians for the destruction of the synagogues rather than have some blame them.
If the Chief Rabbi says it is OK, and Ha'aretz says it must be done, then who am I to argue? Nonetheless, Haaretz was wrong. They won't listen to me, but they should have listened to Silvan Shalom. What Haaretz failed to say, is that everyone in the government realized that given the extremist agitation, anyone who voted to destroy the synagogues was signing their own political death-warrant, and very possible signing their own actual death warrant.
Silvan Shalom had said, "Jews don't destroy synagogues." Silvan Shalom is not a great rabbinical authority, but he is an astute politician. He, and everyone else, including the editors of Ha'aretz, should have understood the precise significance of that vote.
Right-wing extremists are already demonizing Sharon for giving up the settlements in Gaza. A pulsa-di-nura ultra-orthodox voodoo ceremony designed to ensure his death was already performed. The destruction of the synagogues would have been just what they were waiting for. Every extremist rabbi in the West Bank would have condemned every minister who voted for destruction of the synagogues to death according to Jewish law. No doubt Ha'aretz would write fine and self-righteous obituaries for Mr. Sharon and his colleagues.
In Yediot Ahronot, Ray Hanania spoke out against the anarchy, terrorism. and burning of synagogues. However, this article that is so commendable in many ways, claims that the burning of synagogues makes the Palestinian Arabs as bad as the Israelis. This is not correct. For despite the threats by lunatics and extremists and periodic rumors, the Muslim holy places are well guarded and looked after. It is hard to imagine a Jewish rabble trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Unfotunately, a rather gross attempt to rewrite history yet again has begun. Hanania wrote:
It seems there is a viciousness on both sides. The settlers are Israel's more extremist and violent segment of society and they viciously argued that what they owned should not remain for fear that Palestinians might live in them."
Beware of vicious settlers? Maybe, but the record shows that the Israeli government decided to keep the settlements intact:
Posted 4/8/2005 5:47 AM
Israel will not destroy Gaza settlements
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel will leave settlers' houses in Gaza intact after its summertime pullout, a senior official said, choosing environmental and international factors over settler feelings of anger and insult because Palestinians will take over their homes.
So why were the houses destroyed?
Here is what Al Jazeera wrote:
PA wants Gaza settler homes razed
Saturday 16 April 2005, 22:14 Makka Time, 19:14 GMT
The Palestinian Authority wants Israel to destroy the homes of departing
Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip to make room for high-rise housing to ease
crowding, a Palestinian minister has said.
Housing and Public Works Minister Muhammad Shtayya said Israel should raze the
homes of 8500 settlers set for evacuation from July and remove all rubble.
We can find the same news in several other journals. It is clear that the PA wanted those homes destroyed. It is a matter of historical record. It has nothing to do with settler "viciousness." And here is an explanation of why the PNA wanted to destroy the houses:
... The Occupied Gaza Strip is 365 km2, and has an estimated Palestinian population of 1.3 million, living on 55 km2 of built-up land, making the Occupied Gaza Strip the most densely populated place on earth. In twenty years, the population of the Gaza Strip is expected to reach 2 million Palestinians.
Israelís colonization of the Gaza Strip was carried out in a horizontal fashion: Israelís colonies take up approximately 20 percent of the land of the Gaza Strip and house a mere 7,300 settlers in 2,800 houses. These 2,800 houses will not be able to meet the housing demands of the burgeoning Palestinian population. Instead, the land upon which the colonies sit can be used to build high-rise apartments to house more people while simultaneously freeing land for investment purposes to rehabilitate the Palestinian economy.
The above is from an FAQ at a Palestinian authority Web site http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=2&id=1014
This same Web site also states:
The Israeli government has taken a unilateral decision to demolish the structures in the colonies, including houses.
That is another historical invention for in the Guardian and a dozen other places we can read that Condoleeza Rice got Israeli agreement to destroy the houses.
Rice reveals deal on Gaza homes
Conal Urquhart in Jerusalem
Monday June 20, 2005
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, announced yesterday that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed that the homes of 8,000 settlers in the Gaza Strip will be destroyed when they have been evacuated later this year.
Three months have not gone by, but already the revisionists are busily at work, relying on the ephemeral nature of human memory, and the fact that people often believe what it is expedient to believe.
The International Herald Tribune summed up the situation in Gaza in this cartoon:
The lynching of former security chief Moussa Arafat will no doubt be blamed on Israel somehow as well in future histories. The lynching is a triple tragedy. First it illustrates graphically that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has no control over the situation whatever. Second, since their own security forces participated in this lynching, there is scant hope that they can ever use those forces to assert the authority of central government. Finally, it illustrates better than any opinion poll findings that the rank and file are fed up with Fatah corruption and do not trust the PNA to do justice.
With their own hands, the Palestinians burned their own future when they burned the synagogues. Sooner or later, Israelis and Palestinians will have to decide the fate of Hebron and East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These towns all include sites that are holy to the Jews. If Israel were to withdraw from Bethlehem for example, angry mobs may tear through Rachel's tomb. It would probably be impossible for any Israeli Jews to visit there, as it was during the time the West Bank was occupied by Jordan. Can anyone imagine an Israeli government that would risk the political repercussions of desecration of Rachel's tomb or the tomb of Abraham in Hebron?
As long as it exists, the anarchy in Gaza will make it impossible to conduct any meaningful negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority, because the anarchy announces that the Palestinian leaders will be powerless to ensure implementation of their part of any agreement.
More than that, when they murdered Moussa Arafat, the mob may have murdered their own society. Without the rule of law, it will be impossible for Palestinians to build a state or to care for the elementary needs of their people. If the Palestinians are to have a future, the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian people must make the restoration of order their number one priority.