by Gerry Foley / September 2005 issue of Socialist Action
In mid-August, the Israeli government deployed its soldiers to remove all the Zionist settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank. The operation
was played up in the Israeli press and the Western big press as a tragedy for the Jews.
For example, on Aug. 15, Haaretz, the main liberal Israeli daily, showed a picture of soldiers and religious settlers embracing and weeping over the
dismantling of a synagogue in Gaza. “Human interest” stories abounded about the sorrow of Jewish families forced to abandon their homes and their dreams.
Right-wing Jewish settlers denounced their removal as comparable to the Nazi’s forced evacuations of Jews. Excited rightist youths poured into the settlements to try to block the Israeli army.
It was an astonishing display over a very limited disengagement of Zionist settlement from stolen Palestinian lands. It concerned 8000 Zionists living
in fortified enclaves among 1.4 million Palestinians from whom they had forcibly taken most of the available water and arable land in the territory.
The 8000 Zionist settlers in the Gaza were offered compensation ranging from $150,000 to $400,000. But the 3200 Palestinian workers who had toiled for the settlers for years at one third of the Israeli minimum wage got no compensation, although their underpaid labor undoubtedly produced a large part of the value of the settlers’ property. Another 700 foreign workers from outside the Middle East were paid very low wages, although somewhat higher than the Palestinians, and got no compensation.
Thus, in all, a number of non-Jewish workers equivalent to half that of the settlers lost their jobs without compensation. For them, the Zionist rulers had no sympathy. That indicates their values but it also indicates the economically parasitical nature of the settlements.
Israel “security” operations in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Intifada have made at least 90,000 Palestinians homeless, 10 times the number of
Zionist settlers displaced from their homes. These people got no compensation.
Jonathan Steele, writing in the British Guardian of Aug. 19, pointed out that “in Rafah alone, according to figures from the UN relief agency UNRWA, the rate
of house demolitions rose from 15 per month in 2002 to 77 per month between January and October 2004. Parts of Rafah now resemble areas of Kabul or Grozny. Facing Israeli army watchtowers and the concrete wall that runs close to the Gaza Strip’s boundary, rows of rubble and ruined homes stretch for hundreds of yards.”
The dislocation of Palestinians was carried out with a brutality out of all proportion to the force used against the settlers. For example, on Aug. 17,
Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now” interviewed a Palestinian who had watched an Israeli bulldozer crush Rachel Corrie, the martyred American protester who stood up against the destruction of Palestinian homes. Samah Nasrallah (translated by her husband, Khaled Nasrallah) stated: “At that time, my brother called us to come to the garden as the tank and bulldozer have
been coming to our home. At that time, Rachel has been standing in between our home and the tank, which has been around 200 meter far and over land, and she was holding a microphone, talking, with an orange vest.
“She was talking to the tank driver, telling him, ‘Stop, stop. There’s children inside the home.’ At that time, the driver of the bulldozer didn’t stop and to continue moving toward her.”
Now the Palestinian Authority proposes to build apartment buildings on the territory formerly occupied by the Zionist settlers, in order to house Palestinians whose homes were destroyed by the Israel army.
Many of the opponents of the withdrawal from Gaza denounced it because they said that Israel had gotten no treaty from the Palestinians. But this overlooks the fact that the Oslo treaties of 1993 supposedly recognized Palestinian sovereignty in the territories Israel conquered in 1967. Of course, these treaties were never fully implemented by Israel, but still no new treaty was necessary.
Moreover, the Zionist rulers have gotten guarantees from both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt that they will prevent operations against Israel by Palestinian militants. Egypt has agreed to station 700 troops on the border to prevent the movement of fighters and weapons into the Strip. In that regard,
it is taking over a job formerly done by the Israeli army.
To be sure, given the pressure of Arab nationalist feeling on them, it is dubious how effectively the Palestinian Authority forces and the Egyptians can suppress the Palestinian fighters who want to attack Israel. But the ability of the Israeli army to combat any such attacks and retaliate against them will not
be weakened but rather strengthened by the withdrawal of the Zionist settlements. It will gain maneuverability.
The Zionist authorities have made it clear that they will not hesitate to send their army back into the Gaza Strip any time they consider it necessary to
“combat terrorism.” So, Gaza may well remain a shooting gallery.
The Palestinian population of Gaza, of course, hopes that the withdrawal of the Zionist settlements will remove the pressure of the Israeli military on them. That explains the signs of popular rejoicing reported in the major press. However, the Arab media have made it clear that the Palestinians expect little real benefit from the withdrawal of the settlers.
The website of the Arab nationalist TV channel Al-Jazeera noted Aug. 16: “Israel has indicated it will retain control of Gaza’s skies and territorial
waters, which would effectively prevent any real transformation to genuine independence.
“‘How could the Gaza Strip possibly be independent as long as Israel remains in control of our skies, waters, borders, and economy?’ Gaza lawyer Raji al-Sourani told journalists in Gaza this week at a meeting with civic leaders during which the post-withdrawal era was discussed.”
Al-Jazeera quoted Palestinian militants as saying that the withdrawal of the settlers was a victory for the Palestinian struggle. Certainly, if it were not for
the resistance, the Zionists would never had carried out this retreat. However, it is a dubious victory. It is notable that an Al-Jazeera poll of its viewers
showed that only 16 percent thought that the withdrawal was a victory, whereas nearly half thought it was a “maneuver.”
The hard core of the Zionist settlers is inspired by fundamentalist religious notions that they are following a Divine command to occupy the entire land
of Palestine and that its non-Jewish inhabitants are an inferior breed who have no rights that need be respected. But that does necessarily mean that their
leaders have no concept of political tactics. They waged a campaign against the withdrawal that failed.
Polls show that a solid majority of the Israeli public support the Gaza withdrawal. The tactic of the mainstream Zionist politicians now is apparently to make the withdrawal look so traumatic that it can serve as an argument against further concessions to the Palestinians, such as withdrawing settlers from parts of the West Bank. This hypocritical pretence must be exposed.
In fact, since the proposal for the Gaza withdrawal was first announced last year, thousands of new houses for Israeli settlers have been built in the West Bank. And construction continues on the infamous “apartheid” wall—which isolates West Bank Palestinian communities and separates the people from their fields, places of employment, medical clinics, and family members.