The Disengagement That Isn`t

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Occupation Views: 5446

During the Gaza disengagement process a Jewish extremist shot dead four Palestinians in the West Bank.

It is rather curious how the Palestinian Authority opted to get engaged in a process that was solely aimed at excluding it, and how the debate has completely shifted from Israel's real motives to internal Palestinian quarrels over post-withdrawal details and definitions.

When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plans to 'disengage' from Gaza and a tiny West Bank enclave, he maintained that his unilateral move was principally compelled by the fact that Palestinians were no partners in peace. They never were, his right wing officials parroted, a reality, they contested, and that most likely will not change in the near future. 

Thus 'disengagement', for the sake of Israel's security, boils down to demographic supremacy, not Palestinian rights. The Israeli narrative was always clear, albeit iniquitous. "Israel was leaving Gaza in order to retain large chunks of the West Bank," the Jerusalem Post summarized the declared positions of Israel's top officials. This concept was originally initiated by the ever-blunt Chief of Staff Dov Weisglass last year, then Israel's top military strategist, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and, according to the Post, Sharon himself.

Those unfamiliar with the situation on the ground held their breath for the ground shaking disengagement. Those familiar with Israel's military and political maneuvers however, must have understood; Sharon is once again toying with land, politics and demographics, yet the same sorry ending is awaiting Palestinians: the lock, the key, the prison guard and the ever familiar scene of Palestinians being held captive at checkpoints. 

True, the settlements were and remain more or less the core issue. Removing 21 settlements from Gaza, 4 from the West Bank and evacuating over 8,000 Jewish settlers is a good thing, it was assumed. But blindly accepting the aforementioned conclusion is forfeiting a very valuable lesson that should've been deduced from the botched Oslo experiment: Israel is very keen on details. 

The odd part is that the Israeli government labored little to give false impressions regarding the real meaning of its army and settlers deployment. Israel did not wish to hide the fact that it would retain control over the borders of Gaza, its land, its air and its water. Equally there were no real efforts made to hide the fact that Israel maintains the right to strike the impoverished and utterly crowded strip at the time of its choosing or that it wished to have total control over anything or anybody that enters or leaves the area. Gaza's 'open air prison' status, gained since the Israeli occupation in 1967, will hardly be affected. 

Nonetheless much is gained. For one, Israel can comfortably subtract Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants from its demographic nightmare, maintaining, for a while longer perhaps, the Jewish majority. The move will also end Israel's futile military quest to subdue a strategically inconsequential enclave, scrapping with such a decision the unfavorable international attention given to its Gaza occupation, the demoralization of its armed forces and the unavoidable loss of life as a result of Palestinian attacks on its settlements. 

So while journalists and commentators engagingly debated the fate of the rubble of the Jewish settlements following the limited Israeli withdrawal, whether the extremists will claim control over Gaza or if Mahmoud Abbas has what it takes to 'reign in the militants,' a more relevant debate was almost completely cast aside: will Israel become less of an occupier after a few thousand settlers are relocated to a less vulnerable spot with their pockets full of cash (nearly a million dollars per family, a cost that will eventually be paid by American tax payers)? 

It's important to recall that Sharon's disengagement was Israel's response to George W. Bush's road map, which was hypothetically approved by both Israel and the PA in June 2003. As 'painful' as the disengagement was, it was Sharon's only dramatic escape from being bogged down by any kind of mutual commitment, by deadlines, by reciprocity and ultimately a dynamic political process. Israel does what Israel sees best. That's the bottom line. 

Meanwhile the Hamas is painted as the bogeyman, ready to strike and strangle Palestinian secularists, the men for not wearing beards and women for not covering their hair. The fact that Israel intended to maintain 'security control' over Gaza and the evacuated parts of the West Bank changes nothing, apparently. Meanwhile, the Separation Wall carries on consuming West Bank land, snaking in to include the illegal settlements, disfiguring the topography, the demographics, everything. As for the occupied East Jerusalem, well, it's effectively not a part of any Palestinian territorial continuity anymore. 

It's unfortunate that Palestinians are dignifying the Israeli move by willingly 'cooperating' regarding the post-disengagement fate of Gaza, rather than drawing international attention to the foreseeable reality of the Occupied Territories. The fear of a Hamas takeover has in some ironic way unified Israeli and PA concerns. 

Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat told foreign journalists in Jerusalem of a visit he paid to Sharon a year and a half ago, according to UPI. "We want to be your partner in this," Erakat appealed to Sharon. "Please. Weigh the consequences of what you call unilateral steps. We don't want Palestinian extremists to stand up in Gaza and say this is the result of suicide bombers and Qassam (rocket attacks)." 

What Erekat had seemingly forgotten is that the legacy of blood espoused by successive Israeli governments in Gaza should've been of a greater, more urgent concern than the fear of an inflated Palestinian interpretation regarding driving the Israeli military out of the wretched enclave.

What has also been conveniently omitted by the official Palestinian account is that had it not been for their people's steadfastness and all acts of resistance and sacrifice since the first hours of the Israeli occupation some thirty eight years ago, Israel would've never for a moment pondered leaving the cheap, yet scenic and marvelous Gaza settlement resorts. 

So what if the Palestinians march in victory and inscribe the names of fallen fighters on the decaying walls of Gaza, celebrating their sacrifices and courage? Is it the fear that the popularity of Hamas might win it a few extra seats in the upcoming elections? Is it because the PA can claim no credit, not for its persistence nor for its political achievements? 

Regardless of what Israel has aimed to achieve by disengaging from Gaza, and regardless of how Palestinians wish to interpret such a move, Gaza is still an occupied land, constituting barely 4.5 per cent of the overall Occupied Territories of 1967. Gaza's fight for freedom is still intrinsically linked to the Palestinian suffering and struggle in the West Bank, in Jerusalem, and the fight of millions of Palestinian refugees demanding recognition of their right to return. 

So, while the disengagement has successfully engaged international media and has created quite a stir within internal Israeli and Palestinian politics, it is poised to change little on the ground. Only within the framework of a complete military withdrawal from Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Territories, in accordance with international law and based on mutual agreements by both parties, shall a real solution evolve. Other than that, it's politics as usual.

Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist. A regular columnist in many English and Arabic publications, he is editor-in-chief of and program producer at Aljazeera Satellite Television.

He is also the editor of the anthology: "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion."

To buy "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion" CLICK HERE

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation
Views: 5446

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Older Comments:
Obviously Hudd d'Aelia missed the boat again and ignored the points. Lets just say that if you are muslim, you are called to war - well at whomever is near you even if it is a different muslim sect.

*SIGH*, lets try again
If you aren't trying to fight with one of the non-muslim countries, you are in the middle of a civil war (Sudan) fighting with your neighbours (Iran-Iraq), bombing your own countries (Saudi Arabia, Lebanaon, Iraq, Iran), fighting with the Russians (Chechenya), Indians (Kashmir), Americans (Afghanisthan, Iraq), Israel (Palestine, Egypt, Lebanaon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia), Thailand (muslim sects), Austrailia(Indonesia), China (chinese muslim province).

Need I continue?

MS M FROM US said:
It's too bad that people like H. d'Aelia are so ashamed
of who they are that they need to be so defensive all the
time. Israel deserves credit for taking the high road and
making a huge step toward peace. Those who had to
be evacuated for the Palestinians to move back in are
just like people in your family -- surely you're smart
enough to know that all people regardless of their
religion feel pain the same way? Where's all that
"Islamic Compassion" that you claim you have? You
and others use your dissatisfaction with your own lives
to spew anger and hatred. You rejoice at the pain of
others instead of empathizing. And, I'm surprised that
Islamicity lets your comments be posted -- I thought
Islamicity had rules about not insulting others beliefs
and here Hudd D'aleia makes these ridiculous,
unilateral statements about Jews and Zionists. If this is
the purpose of being Islam -- just to hate others (and
you certainly feel free to put that it writing!!) then who
needs it? If all you're going to do is offend others and
complain about "THE WEST" and Jews and how bad
everyone is who isn't Islamic, than do it on one of the
many websites devoted to hate-spewing - this site
should be for furthering understanding and not for
venting your personal anger .
at the world.

Anonymous you are very entertaining, I can tell you that. You have some "good" points, like giving back the whole region, by you saying that you agreed on the fact that Israel is on stolen property, since they would give BACK! Bully for you! I appreciate that. Beautiful! Israel and US is not the source of our distress, but our religion? Man, you think with the wrong organ, because these statements couldn't come out of a brain the size of a peanut. So, according to you we are occupied by Islamists? Israel and US are Muslims? Then how come that they practice the religion of war? The examples you gave about certain trouble areas in Muslims countries proove exactly that: Aggression against Muslims. Israelis and US government are led by very special people, better known as 'retarded' that are manipulated by the most ignorant and racist people in the world: the WASP's & the Zionists.
We know our religion teaches peace, does yours? Obviously not, look at the massacres Israel did in her short history, look at US's massacres, together they have killed over their combined existence not merely 6 million people, but more like 60 million. Israel and US governments propagated the politics of hate and the practices of killing the innocent in order to terrorize entire nations in submission to their evil plans of exploiting the world. Rest assure, Islam is here to stay and grow. It will not be subjected to westernization or liberal reformation, forget it, Islam is unique and in itself an incommensurable treasure it's not for trade, don't even dream about it,pal,Islam is the best thing happened to mankind, those that possess it will rather die before giving it up, you can bet your life on it yourself. So, my confused fellow, 1.2 billion Muslims will not forego their Islam for Judaism, you must be pipe-dreaming if you thought that your little stupid comment will make Muslims turn Jews en mass, or Christians for that matter. My response to you is: ISLAM FOR EVER! INSHA'ALLAH!

It is a shame that no matter what the palestinians get, someone will be against it. If the whole region is given back, this writer will be against it. Give it some thought and realize that it is not with the Israelis or Americans or the western governments that you are unhappy with - it is your religion and your way of life. If you aren't trying to fight with one of the non-muslim countries, you are in the middle of a civil war (Sudan) fighting with your neighbours (Iran-Iraq), bombing your own countries (Saudi Arabia, Lebanaon, Iraq, Iran), fighting with the Russians (Chechenya), Indians (Kashmir), Americans (Afghanisthan, Iraq), Israel (Palestine, Egypt, Lebanaon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia), Thailand (muslim sects), Austrailia(Indonesia), China (chinese muslim province). I can go on. It is amazing that at every cornor of the earth there is so much discontent, hatred and bitterness. You cannot even be happy with yourself. I have been to a muslim country and never saw so much hatred to your own brothers from another country. Pakistanis are treated bad in Saudi and Kuwait. Indonesian women are ill-treated in the same countries. 9/11. London bombings by muslims. Spanish bombings by muslims. WOW!!! SHould I continued? How so will you accept a non-muslim country like Israel if you even hate your own brother? Black muslims hate middle-eastern muslims. Rich muslims from middle-eastern countries think you are higher than muslims from poorer countries. WHy don't you all give up your hatred and live in peace. Most westerners are peace-loving people. DOes your religion teach peace? Apparently not? Go to this site and check out the atrocities in the name of your religion.

I think it makes sense

At least by underestimateing the control the palestinian's hold on themselves we have gained some of our land back....Soon maybe Insha'Allah we will have ALL of Filasteen back!

Alf Mabrook. InShaAllah the next step is the return of All Palestine and getting red of the Israeli presence and the establishment of a system the secures justice for all, Muslims, Christians and Jews and all the creatures (not just humans) that would live under that system.