Nothing makes for great television like flags and barbed wire, police helmets, and shields. Add in the background of today’s events in Gaza — Jews removing Jews from a settlers’ synagogue — and the drama deepens. In some aspects, the images have become routine: Anti-globalization protesters clash with security officers at so many meetings of multinational organizations that it’s hardly treated as news. What’s different is that the clashes in Kfar Darom are about people simply refusing to move.
This is not a new tactic, for the settlers, for others in the Middle East (it was on display in the Rachel Corrie incident, and the siege of the Church of Nativity a couple years back). It’s a time-honored technique for the disaffected everywhere, the last ditch defense to government power: Sit down, stand still, refuse to cooperate. One can quibble with the reasons for each protest — the settlements violate international law and, as Ariel Sharon has pointed out, their Palestinian neighbors live in abject poverty — but there is something stirring about people refusing to be bought off or scared away by the man.
It’s interesting to see how American Jewish organizations are handling the disengagement. The Anti-Defamation League is supportive, and has a list of rebuttals to “misstatements” about the pullout, like “The disengagement from Gaza is a capitulation to terrorism.” The ADL’s response: “Israel is disengaging from Gaza out of its own long-term security and political interests. It is not a response to Palestinian terrorism.” The American Israel Public Action Committee, or AIPAC, emphasizes the costs borne by the Israelis, including the fact that, “Dozens of graves will be removed from Gaza cemeteries, including ‘children killed by terrorists.'”
As for political costs, those are likely to be paid mainly by Sharon, who will probably face a fractured Likud party after disengagement, and an early election. As usual, Haaretz has a sharp analysis of the situation Sharon faces, viewed as he is as a traitor to the settlements he once encouraged. “It did not take Sharon 37 years to realize the folly of this policy,” Amir Oren writers. “It took him 73 years to become prime minister, to finally make it to the top of the heap (except for President Bush), with no platoon leader above him, but still anxious to leave the trenches and go on raids, raise hell, damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead, or back.”