Tuesday, July 19, 2005


My good friend Griff alerted me to this Barbara Lerner column in NRO, in which she criticizes Sharon's Gaza withdrawal as, among other things, "bad for America."
Our enemies know...we are handing Gaza over to Hamas, an international terrorist organization of global reach and ambition that is one of America's deadliest enemies. We think Hamas only attacks Jews. They know that Hamas is a main recruiting agent for Arab jihadists, not just from among the 2.4 million Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and from the much larger numbers of Palestinians scattered in strategic enclaves throughout the region and the world, but for other Arabs too. We think Hamas sends all these jihadists only to Israel. They know Hamas sends a never-ending stream of them to Afghanistan, Chechnya, the Balkans, Kashmir, Lebanon and, most critically for us right now, to Iraq.

Reading this article, as with the vast majority of right-wing commentary on Israel-Palestine, you'd never know that Israel has maintained a brutal military occupation since 1967, and that it has been steadily expropriating Palestinian land for Jewish "settlement". That would seem an important bit of knowledge to have were one to reasonably assess the situation. Of course, Lerner is not interested in anything like that.

First, let's be clear on why Sharon proposed the Gaza withdrawal. It certainly wasn't to "jump start" the peace process, which Sharon has consistently shown nothing but contempt for, just as he as shown contempt for the very idea of, and done everything within his power to frustrate the creation of, a Palestinian State. The Gaza withdrawal is being done primarily if not solely to give cover to Israel's consolidation of control over large areas of the West Bank, including, importantly, the land around Arab East Jerusalem. A simple cost-benefit analysis told Sharon that maintaining 8,000 Israeli Jews in armed camps amidst 1.3 million Palestinian Arabs was just not feasible in the long term. Pulling out of Gaza enables him to represent himself, with the aid of extremely compliant U.S. news media, as a courageous compromiser, even as he moves to ramp up settlement activity in the West Bank.

It is unfortunately true that Hamas stands to benefit the most from the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Some of the blame for this belongs of course to the corrupt and ineffectual Palestinian Authority, but a larger share belongs to Israel itself. Throughout the second intifada, Sharon targeted the PA infrastructure rather than concentrating on the people committing the actual terrorism. That is, even as he was demanding that the PA control violent Palestinian elements, he was destroying their ability to do so. There's also the inconvenient if not insignificant fact that the Israeli government supported Hamas in its early days as a potential counterweight to the nationalist PLO. Nice plan.

Juan Cole has more on the Gaza withdrawal.

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