Monday, August 15, 2005

Disengagement Thoughts

So, the long-awaited disengagement is underway. Now that the moment has arrived, I feel strangely underwhelmed by it all. In theory, it is a beginning. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will no longer have Israeli settlements in their midst, no longer be confronted daily with the specter of government-supported colonists many of whom look forward to the day when Palestinians are reduced to a minority even there. The Israeli government may undertake further withdraws, seeking to retreat within borders more secure both militarily and demographically than those they presently seek to defend.

Yet today it is far from clear whether peace between Palestinians and Israelis is much closer at all, and in fact, it may start moving further away. On the one hand, there is the danger of a Hamas takeover in Gaza, which coupled with any sort of decline in the present political situation could lead to the area's becoming a de facto terrorist enclave. With their own local North West Frontier Province just a few miles from Tel Aviv, Israelis may long for the slovenly governance of Yasser Arafat. Meanwhile, for many Israeli militants, disengagement represents their government turning its back on the religious concept of Greater Israel, and already the battle is on as some place the realization of their religious vision above the nation in which they claim citizenship. It is certainly possible that Hamas's Israeli soulmates, no longer confident they can eventually push the state in their chosen direction, might continue and intensify the violent tactics they have previously deployed against Palestinians around them, and that if the Israeli military continues to interfere, that body which once protected and served their interests will become a target for more than just harassment.

Only time will tell the course events will take, a course that has much to do with the popular interpretations placed on events and political will within a democratic society and the much more clandestine yet forceful political manuevering of a society which has in recent decades known little beyond corrupt gang rule. What will not change, apparently, is the perception of the conflict in the American media, where from what I've seen CNN seems intent on portraying the pain of the settlers being evicted and the noble quest for peace by Israel with nothing significant said about how those settlers got there, a process which involved much more forceful evictions not so long ago. And, from that perhaps, comes the one certainty I have in all this, for this week it is the settlers who are losing out, and while sociological factors render their actions different, the most militant among them are no different in spirit from the Palestinian terrorists who make them the good guys in the eyes of many who see a struggle between good and evil defined nationally rather than the complexity of two societies which seem sentenced to perpetual fear and bloodshed. With such an agenda being thwarted, one can root for the disengagement, even as one fears mainstream Israeli society might be creating the beginnings of an enemy within to go with those without.


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