Without a doubt, the Zionist Occupation of Palestine did not evacuate the Gaza settlers out of good will. The Occupation understood that it would never be able to defeat Palestinians in Gaza, and despite all the Israeli crimes, sieges, and massacres, that the Palestinian resistance could not be broken. Israel failed in its attempts to create internal Palestinian conflict in Gaza. It became a costly and heavy burden for the Zionists and a perpetual source of fear for its soldiers and settlers.
Yet in the midst of the Palestinian âvictoryâ celebrations – led by various political forces, and the media fanfare that included live Arab and international media coverage of every step of the settler evacuation – the Palestinian people look on with frustration, knowing full-well that Israel will make them pay a heavy price for the so-called âdisengagementâ. While in the West Bank the construction of the apartheid ghettos and their gates, the expansion of the settlements, and the opening of new settler-bypass roads accelerates, Gaza is becoming an even larger prison. The image of Gaza workers lining-up in the Erez checkpoint is inscribed in our memory, and the West Bank seems destined for a similar future. Concurrently, Jerusalem is treated as if it was already ethnically cleansed and all opportunities to save it have been extinguished.
Escaping from Gaza has been an age-old Israeli dream, growing in persistence since the first Intifada. Already Yitzhak Rabinâs wished âthe sea would swallow Gazaâ, but it is the current political machinations of the Occupation -â and the increased international complicity with them â that convinced Israel that âdisengagmentâ would not resemble a second âsouth Lebanonâ but instead cut-off Gaza with walls and fences serving as a distraction from the real aims of the Occupation.
This involves first and foremost, disconnecting Gaza from the Palestinian Cause while maintaining stronger and exclusive control over the West Bank. Gaza throughout the years of Occupation has been the flame of resistance, considered by Israel as a terrifying battlefield. Resistance in Gaza was strengthened by the Occupationâs continuous crimes and further catalysed by the dense population of the Strip and the presence of the largest refugee camps that have effectively turned Gaza into one large refugee camp. Today, the attempt to disconnect Gaza is reminiscent of the Camp David agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979, which succeeded in neutralizing Egyptâs role in the Palestinian Cause. The overall blow to the Arab and Palestinian liberation movement facilitated the Occupationâs invasion of Lebanon in 1982, as Israel sought to totally eradicate the Palestinian resistance.
Meanwhile the project of sealing Palestinians into disparate prisons throughout the West Bank is accelerated and will lead to a new reality that will force the people into intensified popular intifada. Fully aware of this, the Occupation wants to deal with the West Bank alone away from the heavyweight resistance in Gaza. It seeks to forge a scenario in which Gaza will be alienated from the struggle for Palestine, tied down by new chains, and reduced to an observer of Zionist expansion as other Arab states have been for years. Or, in the case of continued Palestinian resistance, Gaza will enter into some kind of internal conflict with the Palestinian Authority (which undertook the responsibility of âsecurityâ) while Israeli air missiles would seek to burn the land and the people under the pretense of any action it disapproves of. In this case, Israeli massacres from hereon may not be considered by the âinternational communityâ as crimes, since Gaza will be treated more as a sovereign state than as a hellish prison.
Second, further demographic âengineeringâ, in the Occupationâs equation of a racist âJewish Stateâ.
As the Occupation Minister Mofaz recently stated, the disengagement will make fundamental demographic changes in favor of Israelâs interests. Current estimates show that the number of Palestinians in all of Mandate Palestine is equal to the Jewish presence. By cutting-off the Gaza Strip, the Occupation is able to remove 1.3 million Palestinians from its equation. Sharon in his latest visit to France declared that he plans to bring a million Jews from all over the world to Palestine that can aid the few thousand settlers re-engaged in the colonization of other parts of our country. If these plans are realized, an even larger Jewish âdemographic capacityâ of colonization ad expulsion will be created to secure the goals of the Apartheid Wall. Ghettoized in already crowded residential areas, future Palestinian generations will be denied any living space, facing âvoluntaryâ expulsion, while refugees of 1967 will have no place to return to in the West Bank.
Third, controlling the political direction. As impossible and costly the control inside Gaza was for the Occupation, the unilateral Israeli decision to evacuate settlers has been presented as the only political initiative on the table to the maximum profit of the Occupiers. It has been drawn up after internal Israeli negotiations, regardless of the American or international position, negating any presence of a Palestinian Authority (PA), while disengeneously bypassing even the rhetoric of the American-initiated âRoad Mapâ. Israel has determined how, when, the conditions, and the role of the PA in the âdisengagementâ and thus set the rules that will determine any future ânegotiationsâ. These rules have been completely accepted by the PA, and reaped the praise of the USA and Europe.
This comes as little surprise given the influence of the Oslo agreements on the current political climate, for it was Oslo which attempted to remove the liberating aspect of the Palestinian revolution to turn the Palestinian cause into the project of an illusionary state. The Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence has been changed into a so-called conflict of lands and borders, with even the word Occupation being absent from political circles and recent conferences like Sharm Al-Sheikh and London.
What is next?
In a few weeksâ time, the tears will dry up and the dust over the celebrations of âliberationâ will settle. We will wake up in a new reality with familiar scenarios. Gaza a big prison surrounded by Walls, destroyed infrastructure, high levels of unemployment, a devastated economy dependent on the Israeli economy, social problems and the severe polarization of the political forces that will add to the anxiety and fears for the future of our people. The sea remains besieged, borders, water and electricity under complete control by the Occupation. The West Bank meanwhile, being sliced into a series of miserable Bantustans and surrounded by Walls and gates, with expanding settlements swallowing what is left of the lands. Open-air prisons and ghettos are shaping a reality in which life will be impossible.
In Jerusalem, the ethnic cleansing project that started with the cityâs Occupation continues with the Wall expelling Palestinian presence from their capital. Next month more than 120,000 Jerusalemites will be separated from both, Jerusalem and their people in the West Bank. They will lose their right to reside in the city ( racist laws of the Occupation declared them âtemporaryâ residents since the beginning of the Occupation of the city). At the same time, thousands of Israeli housing units will be added to existing colonies while new settlements are being built in a massive judaization campaign of Jerusalem.
The current phase of the Zionist Project in the systematic plan to uproot the Palestinian people – a policy which began in the last century and persists until today â is about to unleash a new disaster on Palestine through ghettoization and renewed colonization. Re-focusing our struggle under these conditions leads us to consider: How will the PA challenge the realities being carved out by the Occupation? What do the Palestinian political parties and factions plan to do? Is there a national programme to confront this plan and strengthen the resistance? Is there a national programme to mobilize the Palestinian people all over the world? Or do we just wait for another Israeli decision to evacuate a few settlements here and there with the new conditions that come along with it?
In this critical moment, what we ask from our supporters worldwide is not to find ways to make the Israeli project âless painfulâ but to follow the lead of the daily grassroots resistance in the struggle for our freedom and the goals of genuine liberation and justice.