Gaza and the Orange Shirt Protests
Or the Middle East Made Simple
These are the people of Gaza:
Even in ordinary circumstances, Gaza is a mess— a crowded slum with nearly a million and a half people crammed into a tiny portion of the strip, living in grinding poverty. Children’s health statistics have been plummeting. Gaza used to be much nicer, but the Arab-Israeli conflict cut it off from its natural markets and recreated it as a vast bidonville. In recent years the Israelis have turned it into a sort of jail and have razed Palestinian dwellings at a time when there is not enough housing for them. A lot of Gaza residents are refugees from the 1948 war when Zionist forces kicked them out of their homes and exiled them from Palestine.
These people for some odd reason want to steal what little land the Gazans have:
They have made these nice colonies in Palestinian Gaza:
The problem for the Israeli government is that the 8,000 rightwing Zionist colonists in Gaza were very hard to protect from enraged Palestinians protesting the creeping theft of their land and resources. Moreover, the steady colonization of Palestinian territories captured in 1967 was increasingly unacceptable to Europe and might bring economic sanctions that would be very bad for the Israeli economy. Gaza is not exactly prime real estate anyway. What Sharon really wanted was Jerusalem and as much of the West Bank as he could get (the Israeli government has put 400,000 Israeli colonists into the West Bank and around Jerusalem). And he wanted to forestall the emergence of a Palestinian state for decades or forever if possible. So he came up with the idea of making a very minor sacrifice of 8,000 Israeli colonists in Gaza so as to get all the other things he wanted.
The withdrawal of colonists from Gaza helps mollify the Europeans and maybe even has a good effect in the Muslim world. It gives Sharon enormous breathing space to accomplish his other, expansionist goals.
The withdrawal of colonists from Gaza, however, enraged the rightwing Orange Shirts in Israel. Withdrawal is opposed by about a third of Israelis. Some of these people are properly termed a sort of southern Mediterranean “fascist” in the 20th century meaning of the term (Franco, Mussolini). Although they phrase their concerns in the language of Israeli security, what they are really about is invading other people’s lands and homes and stealing them, just as Franco did in Morocco or Mussolini in Ethiopia.
Thousands of Orange Shirts are attempting to march on Gaza but have been blocked by Sharon’s security forces and denounced by a majority in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.
One big problem with Sharon’s feint is that the Israeli military has brutalized Gazans since 1967 and left the place without much governmental or police capacity. The Israeli decision to support the fundamentalist Hamas back in the 1970s and 1980s against the secular nationalist PLO has backfired big time, as Hamas has become the major political force in Gaza, and is much less willing to compromise with the Israelis than the PLO. Some will point out that some Gazans engaged in terrorism against Israel. This is true. Some will argue that the terrorism has nothing to do with the Israeli occupation, colonization and brutalization of the Palestinians. This is not true. Would the Palestinians have been better off with Gandhian tactics? In my view, yes. In recent years, Sharon has pursued a policy of just murdering Hamas leaders in an effort to destroy the organization. That is, he had them killed with no due process even when they could as easily have been arrested. Some idiot game theorist political scientist told Sharon if he could kill 1/4 of the leadership he could make the organization collapse. Of course it was not true. Some leaders of Hamas who had spoken of a “hundred-year truce” with Israel were rubbed out.
So now gunplay has broken out between Hamas and the PLO in Gaza as each jockeys to control the strip when the Israelis withdraw.
In fact, of course, the Israelis are not really withdrawing. They are just removing the colonists. The Israeli military will go back into Gaza and reoccupy it, just as it has done in the West Bank. The only way to avoid doing that would be to achieve a genuine peace with the Palestinians, giving them their own country, ending their exile into statelessness, and making them satisfied that they have a future. Since Sharon’s removal of the Israeli colonies is actually designed to frustrate those goals, he is dooming us all to decades more trouble in the Middle East.
And just so everyone remembers that this stuff comes out and hits the United States, I recommend you look again at my posting on Sharon, Jerusalem and al-Qaeda.
For why an irresponsible Congress is putting you in danger, see Among the Believers in Slate.