Friday, August 26, 2005

Making History in Gaza

History is likely to see the Gaza withdrawal as, well, historic. Yet, reasonable minds differ as to why.

Victor Davis Hanson says it's good strategy, both militarily . . .
Sharon's withdrawal policy from Gaza is thus a critical first step of turning the struggle from an asymmetrical war of terror back into a conventional standoff between delineated sovereign states. And that can only help a militarily superior Israel.

and politically . . .
Heretofore the Palestinians have counted on foreign support through fear of terrorism, influence with oil producers, unspoken anti-Semitism and carefully crafted victim status accorded savvy anti-Western zealots. But now they are increasingly on their own, and what transpires may soon end their romance of the perpetually oppressed.

Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer worries that this unilateral Israeli concession is the first step towards the end of Israel.

What follows is the world saying, almost in unison, that the Gaza evacuation is just the beginning of a total Israeli retreat, one Dunkirk to be followed by many more. What follows is Condoleezza Rice declaring that "it cannot be Gaza only," a thrilling encouragement to the Palestinians jeering the Israeli withdrawal with chants of "Gaza today, Jerusalem tomorrow" . . .

What is at stake is whether the world, led by the United States, will demand Arab acceptance of that single Jewish state, or whether the United States will continue to push Israel from one concession to another until one day another arch is erected, this time in Jerusalem itself, commemorating the destruction of history's third and last Jewish commonwealth.


Leon Wieseltier counters that "history is full of precedents that did not come to pass," and argues that we should spare no tears for the settlers.
In the settlement of Netzarim earlier this year, the settlers published a book whose title might be translated as Super-Natural Living: Tales of Life in Gush Katif, a collection of testimonies about the idyll of Jewish existence in Gaza. It is chilling to read, because of its unreality. "The Arabs say to each other, and to their Jewish neighbors, that until the Jews arrived to settle in this region, there was almost no rain. It was impossible to grow anything in the sands. But since we returned here, the rains have started to fall, and the land generously produces its bounty. ... This is without a doubt the fulfillment of the prophecy [in Ezekiel] about the redemption of Israel: 'But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people of Israel.'" There are no mountains in Gaza, but never mind. The settlers in Gaza created a magical world for themselves, an introverted universe of endless miracles. They were indifferent to, or contemptuous of, the decidedly unmagical and unmiraculous effects of their enterprise in the bitter world beyond.

For this reason, when I behold the photographs of the settlers in Gaza uprooted by Israeli soldiers, empathy almost completely deserts me. I seem to have a heart of stone, and I am not entirely embarrassed by it. More precisely, I regard the eviction of the settlers as the appropriate reward for their own hearts of stone. For many other Jews gave their lives and their limbs so that these Jews could grow their holy tomatoes and study their holy texts in this desert. In order to satisfy their individual and collective aspirations, the Israeli civilians who lived in Gaza required the sacrifice of Israeli soldiers in Gaza. In the years of Jewish settlement in Gaza, 230 Israelis were killed there. A substantial number of them were soldiers. Why is the life of a Jew in a uniform worth less than the life of a Jew in a greenhouse? That is stone-heartedness. And yet one hears mainly about the sacrifices of the settlers. Surely the same stirring revival of Zionist agronomy could have been accomplished in the equally arid zones a few miles to the north or the east, in a place called Israel.

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