Sunday, November 19, 2006
By Gideon Levy
"The settlements must be returned to Gaza. Anyone who cares about the fate of those living in the Gaza Strip should wish for the re-establishment of Netzarim and Kfar Darom. If I were a Palestinian, I would dream of seeing Dugit and Nisanit resurrected. They could serve as the last human shield for a million and a half residents who now comprise one of the most helpless populations in the world. Incarcerated, without any assistance, they are liable to starve to death. Exposed, without any protection, they fall prey to the Israel Defense Forces' operations of vengeance.
Burying its 350 dead since the summer, Gaza threatens to become Chechnya. There are thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people in Gaza, unable to receive any treatment. Those on respirators are liable to die due to the frequent power outages since Israel bombed the power plant. Tens of thousands of children suffer from existential anxiety, while their parents are unable to provide help. They are witnesses to sights that even Gaza's old-timers have never seen before.
Anyone who does not believe this can travel to Beit Hanun, an hour from Tel Aviv. The trauma is only intensifying there, in a town that lost nearly 80 of its sons and daughters within a week. The shadows of human beings roam the ruins. Last week, I met people there who are terrified, depressed, injured, humiliated, bereaved and bewildered. What can one say to them? That they should stop firing Qassams? But the vast majority of them are not involved in this at all. That they should return Gilad Shalit? What do they have to do with him? They only know the IDF will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions, without them being guilty of a thing. In Israel's dark southern backyard, a large-scale humanitarian tragedy is unfolding. Israel and the world, including the Arab states, are covering their eyes and the last resort, as absurd as it sounds, might be to long for the settlements. The situation is that desperate.
The return of the settlements could also put the lie of the disengagement to a final rest. Perhaps only this can stop us from continuing to successfully spread the fabrication that the Israeli occupation of Gaza is over. There has not been such a prevalent lie since the "no partner" lie. As legend has it, Israel left Gaza, the occupation came to an end, and a liberated and free Gaza is launching Qassams at us in exchange for our generosity. There is no greater lie, yet look at how Israelis, almost all of them, buy it with eyes closed. "Instead of building up their country," the Israelis cluck with their tongues, "the Palestinians fire at us." The truth is completely opposite: Gaza continues to live under an inhumane occupation, which has only relocated its base of operation. The Qassams are a bloody reminder of this.
Brutal and dizzy ideas compete against each other, the defense minister suggests liquidations and the agriculture minister proposes tougher action; one advocates "an eye for an eye," the second wants to "erase Beit Hanun" and the third "to pulverize Beit Lahiya." And no one pauses for a moment to think about what they are saying. What exactly does it mean to "erase Beit Hanun"? What does this chilling combination of words mean? A town of 30,000 people, most of them children, whose measure of grief and suffering has long reached breaking point, unemployed and hungry, without a present and without a future, with no protection against Israel's violent military responses, which have lost all human proportionality.
Proportionality is also needed when examining the extent of suffering in the neighboring town, Sderot. It should be stated honestly: Sderot's suffering, as heart-rending and difficult as it is, amounts to nothing when compared to the suffering of its neighbor. Sderot is now mourning one fatality, while Beit Hanun is mourning nearly 80 dead. Sderot has the IDF and Gaydamak. Beit Hanun has nothing. And this is before saying a word about freedom and the economic situation. Should this console the residents of Sderot? Of course not. But did the futile killing of the people in Beit Hanun contribute anything to the security of Sderot's residents? The events of the past days clearly demonstrate that the answer is no. Therefore, it is a shame that Sderot is not issuing a courageous call: Leave Beit Hanun alone, because as long as people are being killed in Beit Hanun, people will be killed here as well.
Soon Gaza will look like Darfur, but while the world is giving some sort of assistance to Darfur, it still dares to play tough with Gaza. Instead of boycotting the one who is abusing the residents of Gaza, the world is boycotting the victim, blocking assistance that it so desperately needs. Tens of thousands of workers who are not receiving their meager wages because of the boycott are the world's gift to Gaza, while Israel is not only killing them, but also stealing their money, locking them in from all sides and not allowing them any chance to extricate themselves.
What does Israel expect? How have we failed to learn the lesson from the Lebanon war - that the firing of rockets at Israel only stops by reaching an agreement? And why is the world waiting? Instead of mobilizing and immediately sending an international force to protect Gaza's residents and cancel the boycott, the world maintains its brutal grip. On second thought, perhaps the return of the settlements is not such a great idea. But without this, who exactly is going to save the residents of Gaza?"