January 23, 2006

An Appropriate Beginning

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:10 pm by yisraelmedad

As my first choice, I think it appropriate to begin with an end.

Israel “disengaged” itself from the Gaza Strip: the three northern Gazan communities and the entire Gush Katif region.  I think it was a mistake.  What follows appeared in New York’s weekly The Forward under the title Sharon’s Disengagement from Democarcy on May 20, 2005 in a differently edited form.

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DISENGAGING BUT FROM WHAT ?

By Yisrael Medad

Ariel Sharon, Israel’s Prime Minister, succeeded in maneuvering the country into adopting a bold, even surprising, unilateral move he termed a “disengagement process”.  First, the cabinet voted approvingly and then the Knesset voted of 59-32 (although, on the way, he lost his own party’s internal party referendum and fired, prior to the government decision, two ministers to gain his majority). 

Israel is thus to withdraw its troops from the Gaza district, administered by Israel since 1967, as well as from an area in northern Samaria, and will remove during this coming summer all the civilian Jewish population, over 9,000 souls, from their homes in 25 communities. 

Part of Sharon’s marketing sell to Israelis was his insistence that President George W. Bush’s position was that Israel need not totally retreat to the pre-1967 demarcation lines as that would be “unrealistic”.   During his recent visit to the President’s Crawford home, Bush reiterated long-standing American policy negating any expansion of Jewish communities as well as insisting on proceeding along the “roadmap”.  So, whether blocs of communities can remain, will babies be able to be born in them or will they become museum set pieces?

More basically, this policy is a remarkable turn-about for Sharon.  In the first instance, his election campaign, which kicked off in late 2002, was waged against the Labour Party candidate who proposed a…unilateral disengagement from the Gaza district.  Fudging on campaign promises is not new for politicians, but the gap in public accountability Sharon created had even veterans startled.

Secondly, in a strict sense, Israel already had handed over all of the densely Arab populated sections of the Gaza Strip a decade ago and it was only Arab terror that kept Israeli troops in the area.  A total handover of all the former Gaza Strip should not be necessary in order for Israel to comply with the demand for territorial compromise. 

The Palestine Authority media make it quite clear that disengagement is seen by the Arab residents in the territories administered by Israel as a victory for terror.  Sharon, then, has Israel returning to square one with future negotiations always depending on the resulting Jewish dead and wounded from future Arab terror which, they perceive, is the sole instrument to cause Israel to yield.

All indications, moreover, are that Israel will not be disengaging from terror.  The PA’s Mahmud Abbas has been unsuccessful in asserting authority over the mavericks in Fatah, not to mention the uncontrollable Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The missiles, expected to have their range and performance improved (Sharon’s farm is their next target), easily fly over any fence Israel could build.

Demographics will continue to represent, especially in the demand by Arabs of a so-called ‘right of refugee return’, a difficulty.  In fact, one can ask why disengage from north Gaza where no Arabs are living or have lived.  If population density is a factor, why too exit from north Samaria? 

*     *     *

What Israel is disengaging from is a portion of the original area recognized by international law, in the form of the League of Nations mandate, which was to become the Jewish national home.  Gaza for centuries had been home to Jews.  Until its recent destruction, tourists could view the floor of a synagogue in Gaza City. Around the world, on every Sabbath, hymns composed in Gaza in the 16th century are sung.  It was in 1929, when, as in Hebron, Arab rioters managed to ethnically cleanse the area of its Jews, that this contact was forcibly broken. 

Sharon has set Israel on a course of disengagement that is stripping Israel and the Jewish people of it identity and history.  This process is already quite advanced in Jerusalem, where the Temple Mount has been pillaged, its archeological artifacts having been discarded and eradicated.   A country without its past, its culture and history, is soulless.

He has disengaged Israel from fundamental democratic principles in his high-handed manner of ignoring votes against him and in firing independent-minded ministers.  He has instigated a media spin that portrays demonstrators as practicers of a civil war.  Special courts have been established to enable summary tribunals, police have already been acting in a ferociously violent pattern and the state prosecution is promoting a chilling effect on free speech.

*     *     *

Opponents of disengagement suggested a referendum.   Sharon’s disdain for an instrument of true participatory democracy quickly ended that effort.  A non-violent protest campaign is not only a legitimate step but, in the circumstances, a national obligation, to ourselves, our history and to our future.  One man’s presumption should not be permitted, in a democracy, to override too many concerns of doubtful success.

Disengagement is already a diplomatic and security failure.  Further disengagement will be an existential danger to Israel and its soul.

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