I have not been able to write an entry on the disengagement until now because the emotions are so fresh. My support for the disengagement has not waned–I still believe it is the necessary move, a proper and just one. It is the moral thing to do, considering the nearly half-century the Gazans have been occupied by one power or another. And yet it is very hard for me to wave the flag of disengagement while people are being dragged out of their homes, and while many in the world, such as the New York Times, do not have the dignity to lay down their ideological gauntlet and respect the pain of Israel’s decision. Such triumphalist behavior disgusts me, and should disgust anyone who values the fragility of human life.
The settlers are right in some respects: this really is a transfer. The argument is made by some that the settlers are living “illegally” and therefore their expulsion is just, but such simplistic argumentation does not take into account the history and reality of the region (Jews legally own the deeds to land in Jordan and Syria, but are bared from claiming it since selling land to Jews is punishable by death in those countries and the Palestinian Authority too; On the other hand, many Arab villages in Israel expand illegally, sometimes exponentially–and while there certainly are reasons for this, including the hardships encountered by both Arab and Jew to build in Israel, it still is technically illegal). Taking these into account, Jews should be allowed to stay on their land in Palestine just like Arabs are expected to be allowed to stay on their land in Israel. Instead, Palestine will be Judenrein.
But is this a defeat of the Zionist dream? I don’t think so. Zionism is an ideology that principally re-defines what it means to be a Jew. Historically, Zionism and the creation of Israel is on par in importance with the founding of Rabbinic Judaism and the creation of a stable Jewish diaspora presence. In the later case, Jews went from Judeans (hence the name Jew), living in a certain place according to certain codes of behavior, to Jews, living according to rabbinically rulings abstracted from those same territory-based codes. Essentially, this was a move from territory to Torah.
Zionism came to reverse this shift. And, just like rabbinic Judaism adapted the ideas from the past, Zionism too includes within it schools of thought that take more or less from Judaism and Jewish tradition.
In this regards, leaving Gaza is only another factor contributing to the formation and consolidation of this new phase in Jewish consciousness. I find hope in the trend among some of the national religious camp to re-engage with the rest of Israeli society, and hope secular Jews develop initiatives of their own. This is not a battle between Jews and Israelis–it is a first step towards a new time of Jewish identity. And, though I am pained to the depths of my soul by the pain and loss experienced by the “disengaged” former residence of the Gaza Strip, I believe good will come of it.
This is also the beginning of the most serious test the Palestinians have ever faced. It will be the first time they will ever truly be able to call themselves a national people–never before was there an independent territory called Palestine. Never before was there the chance for the Palestinians to really run a State. I agree with Zian Asali that “For the transition to succeed, it will be necessary to give Palestinians grounds to feel that the Gaza disengagement is the beginning of a process that will lead to independence and statehood.” What they do with it will be up to them, just like what the Jews will do with Israel will be up to us.


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