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Disillusion with “Disengagement"

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Date Published: 
November 01, 2005

An internet search of the words “disengagement” and “Gaza” yields over 600,000 hits. Yet there is so little published information about the genesis of this unilateral Israeli action or its intended result. Upon re-election in February 2003, Sharon stated vaguely that his new government would remove Arafat and “end terrorism.” Since Israel had killed nearly 1500 Palestinians the year before, many wondered what he would do. The same year the US government attacked Iraq and sent congress requests for $9 billion in “loan guarantees” for Israel and $1 billion in additional direct aid. Prime Minister Blair worked to convince Bush to advance the “road map for peace” to allay fears among Arabs and Muslims about double standards in dealing with Iraq and Israel. (Israel sent a sharp rebuke on this to the British government late in March 2003.) Events moved rapidly as justifications for the Iraq War were exposed as lies. In May 2003, the Israeli government—reassured by US diplomatic, economic and military support—“accepted” the road map, which included 14 conditions that Sharon assured the Knesset had US support. Later, Sharon probably worried that the US, facing international pressure and repercussions from the Iraq War, would drop support for the conditions. Facing many domestic crises and scandals, his government was propelled toward a new initiative—albeit a mere tactical maneuver. Sharon explained in a speech in December 2003: “The process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The unilateral steps which Israel will take in the framework of the Disengagement Plan will be fully coordinated with the United States.” De-development The media machine is now turned to show sympathy for the settlers in Gaza. But these are a fanatical minority—8000 compared to a total of 450,000 Jewish colonial settlers in the West Bank. Further these settlers engaged in gross human rights violations and controlled 20% of the land of Gaza strip, holding 1.3 million Gazans hostage. Yet Bush supports the 450,000 settlers in the West Bank and supports the Wall built on Palestinian Land. The meaning of the disengagement from Gaza is thus a large open air prison with Israeli Guards on the outside in Gaza and a further de-development and destruction of Palestinian life in the West Bank. Bush’s gifts to Israeli colonization projects were “balanced” by his arrogant statement that the “Palestinian people can build their own future in accordance with my vision set forth in June 2002.” Palestinians are not to have freedom and self-determination, not to exercise their basic human rights, but to have a “state” run by a “new leadership” that fights any forms of resistance to colonial occupation. Sharon reiterated in May 2004: “I believe we must change the current situation, a situation which necessarily leads to a political vacuum. It is clear to me that … dozens of political [peace] initiatives will be drawn up often, from all over the world. Today, we are already forced to repel such initiatives, which share the idea that Israel must reach an agreement while terror is still going on.” Dov Weisglass was clearer in October 2004: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process…Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda…” Sharon in fact still believes: “You don’t simply bundle people [Palestinians] onto trucks and drive them away. I prefer to advocate a positive policy, to create, in effect, a condition that in a positive way will induce people to leave.” That is the strategy in operation in the West Bank as the latest smokescreen—the “Gaza disengagement—has unfolded over the past two years. The Zionist concept of “redeeming,” and “cleansing” the land is the process of confiscating the land from the Palestinians and transferring it to the Jewish National Fund and Israel Land Authority. The JNF’s website purports that it is “the custodian of the Land of Israel, on behalf of its owners, Jewish people everywhere.” Sharon has not changed his principles: maximum land for Jews and minimum remaining Palestinians. He fought for these principles in 1947-1949 when his unit massacred the villagers of Kibya across the Green line, when he developed the colonization project after 1967, and when he spent billions for Jewish-only colonies on Palestinian land in the 1980s. Promoting “democracy” To complete the Zionist project, there needs to be Palestinian homelands to imprison and control the dense population centers of the West Bank and Gaza. These consist of cantons with Gaza as a model, perhaps later connected by tunnels and overpass roads, made viable by international charity or supported by providing cheap labor to Israel in “industrial zones.” The Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza where natural and economic resources exist are the Jordan Valley, Western and Eastern Water aquifers, Jerusalem (tourism), and maritime areas of Gaza (Natural gas). Israeli leaders call them important “for security.” Sharon got assurances from Bush to retain them. While the world is distracted by Sharon’s “bold gesture” and by bickering between war criminals and egotists like Netanyahu and Sharon, colonization continues in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the segregation wall squeezes more hungry Palestinians further into ghettos. US government policy has promoted “manageable” conflicts in the Middle East while claiming to act as a “broker,” and to “promote democracy.” For 57 years, US policy has aided Israeli colonization and propped “friendly” oppressive Arab rulers. Now, neo-cons in the Bush administration have implemented their agenda, articulated in the 1990s, to strengthen US/Israel partnership in hegemony over the Middle East (which included toppling the Iraqi regime). The “road map” and the “disengagement” from Gaza are pieces in this grand strategy. Understanding these forces is important in building support for a human-rights-centered activist agenda. This by necessity includes all efforts to affect reversal—not a tactical readjustment—of the Zionist colonial project, a return of refugees to their homes and lands, and development of a society with equality. Like with South Africa during apartheid, we must continue to push for divestments, boycotts, lobbying, and media work to force a human rights agenda—the only real road map to a durable peace. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mazin Qumsiyeh ( is the author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle. He is also a member of the steering committee of the US Campaign to End the Occupation.