Friday, August 19, 2005

On the Gaza Withdrawal

And so the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip continues, and it seems to have been a quicker task than the Israeli government expected. It has not been without difficulties however. From the Washington Post:

Using water cannons and cranes, Israeli forces broke through barricades of tables lashed together with rope, coils of razor wire and a hail of rocks,paint-filled light bulbs and what military officials said was acid thrown by scores of settlers holding out on the roof. Dozens of commandos, climbing ladders and being lowered onto the roof inside shipping containers, took more than three hours to clear the building.
"This was the most difficult place,no question about that," said Gideon Meir, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official who was splattered with paint as he watched the scene. "But in the end it went faster than anyone imagined."
I think the image of Jewish soldiers storming a synagogue is not going to sit well with some significant percentage of the Israeli public. That being said, the Israeli government is doing the necessary thing for security and the hope for peace...but especially for security. Not having to defend illegal settlements will free up the resources of the IDF, and serve notice to the Palestinian Authority that Israel is washing its hands of the region.

I think, as well, that the resistance to removal offered by the settlers and their supporters demonstrates again that religion can motivate people to do dangerous things and to take actions that they might frown upon if others did them. For example, many of the settlement supporters believe that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been promised to Jews by God, and it is a crime against God for the government to remove them by force. This is a dangerous belief, and I wonder whether or not we will see some sort of violent reaction among the most religious of the settlers. It is fortunate and prudent that the Army has not entered the synagogues or homes with weapons beyond batons, for one could imagine something bad happening.

And naturally, much of the outrage about removal compared the Israeli government to the Nazis, a comparison that is unfortunate and simply wrong. It is, however, driven by those twin beasts of zealotry and passion, and is to be expected. Still, it is disturbing to read this:
Just after 3:30 p.m., a group of teenagers poured motor oil and water over the long ramp leading up to the doors of the synagogue. A gray-bearded man emerged a few moments later carrying an Israeli flag, which he set on fire.

"Heil, Hitler!" he yelled, drawing scattered howls from the hundreds of onlookers gathered for the final showdown in Gaza's largest settlement.

I wonder, really, what that man was thinking. I might have reversed the comparison myself, for the actions of the settlers seem more akin to the idea of a natural right to territory that was pushed by the Nazis. They, too, believed that they had a divine destiny to seize and control the 'living space' on their borders. But just as it is wrong for the settlers to equate the Sharon government with the Nazis, it is inappropriate, I think to equate the motivations of the settlers with those of the Nazis.

Religion, sometimes, is a dangerous thing.
(Crossposted by Bostondreamer at FloridaBlues)
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