Monday, February 02, 2004

Well, well, well!
While I was struggling to stay awake in those sleepy after-lunch hours during which work should not be allowed, things were happening. Luckily for us, Allison was wide awake and not missing a trick. So Sharon has announced that he intends to move most of the Jews out of the Gaza Strip. Seventeen settlements he says. He doesn’t say when this is going to happen and you have to ask yourself how long he’s going to last in power what with all these corruption allegations. Will he have time to do it?

I’m in favor, but only on the condition that they do it right, so it’s not seen as giving in to terror.

Have I ever told you about the time I did reserve duty in the Gaza Strip? I don’t think I have.

It was the summer of ’87, just a few months before the Intifada started. During my bout there, I finally got the demographic problem.

Rafah horrified me. I’d never seen so many people in my life, just standing about, hanging around, in the streets and alleyways. It looked like prison. And to make things worse, the town was cut in half by a border. Half the town was in Israel, the other half in Egypt. The Egyptian side didn’t look any better than the Israeli side, by the way. We drove along the border in a jeep. I believe you can’t do that today, unless you’re in a heavily armed vehicle, and even then it’s very dangerous. That’s the border they tunnel under to smuggle arms in.

Gaza City shocked me. What a hole! I was used to the West Bank and was particularly partial to Ramallah, which I used to think was a very beautiful city. I haven’t been there for many years, so I don’t know what it looks like today, and I’m not going to check it out. I could very well get lynched. But in the old days, I used to love those big stone houses with their lovely big windows. There was a proud, affluent feel to Ramallah.

Gaza and Rafah looked nothing like that. Gaza and Rafah looked like what I imagined the poorest parts of Africa to be like. I came back a strong supporter of the Peace Now camp.

I also came back with a decided dislike for the Jewish religious settlers I encountered and for what I experienced as the weird, sterile, pretty little Jewish island they were trying to build there, right in the middle of a sea of wretchedness and intense hostility, as if it didn’t exist, as if the area was completely uninhabited, and not one of the most densely populated, miserable, poverty-stricken cesspools in the world.

One day, we had the afternoon off, and we went to the beach - a Jewish holiday resort that was being built at the time by Palestinian workers, near Neve Dekalim. It was very eerie. We were completely on our own there, a handful of soldiers, armed to the teeth. A strange kind of recreation indeed. It felt horrible.

Years later, I remember my satisfaction watching on TV about the development in Gaza City under the PA. They showed modern high-rise apartment buildings, they showed restaurants on the seafront, they showed families enjoying themselves on the beach. The people looked more satisfied. I thought it was great.

But apparently only rich American-Palestinian entrepreneurs and Arafat’s cronies could afford such luxuries. The rest of Gaza was just the same as always, poor and miserable, only now, unlike before, because of the crazy increase in terrorism coming out of PA areas, most of the men were no longer allowed to go to work inside Israel. So in fact, in spite of the appearance of an improvement, things were actually far worse. Ordinary Gazans certainly weren’t seeing any of the money that was being poured in.

* * * * *

As far as I know, we have no ancient historic connections to the Gaza Strip. In biblical times it was home to our archenemies, the Philistines. Even today, only about 7500 Jews want to live there, and as many soldiers have to risk their lives defending them.

Yes, I wholeheartedly support getting out of there. But not like we got out of Lebanon. Not in a way that could be interpreted as a reward for terrorism. Not if it is interpreted as weakness and serves to feed the sick Palestinian propensity for murder and mayhem. We have to be very careful how we go about this.

Update: More discussion about this - The Head Heeb, Segacs's, Brian Ulrich.

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