The curse of Gaza

By Yossi Sarid
After more than 40 years, "cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease," what good is one more "Warm Winter"? Even a thousand swallows from the rumpled sleeves of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will not make a spring. It happened in the winter of 1969: Ariel Sharon, then a major-general on active duty in the Israel Defense Forces, invited Pinhas Sapir, then finance minister and kingmaker, to tour the West Bank with him. Sapir asked me to come along, and I did. Sharon, for his part, tried to win us over with the marvels of occupation, the mirage of Greater Israel. We spent a whole day in the territories together, and at the end, the frightened guest told his excited host: Today we hold the territories, tomorrow they will hold us. And to me Sapir whispered in terror: This man is dangerous, he will be the end of us, causing us a great deal of trouble.

Decades later Sharon, too, began - only began - to understand: Israel may have disengaged from Gaza, but Gaza has not disengaged from Israel; it pursues and clings and refuses to let go. Yasser Arafat is long dead, but his curse lives on: We are still drinking the seawater of Gaza, cursed water, salty and dirty - you can neither swallow it nor vomit it out.

When Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and the Philistines laid siege to the house in order to kill him, he fled far away, carrying on his shoulders the gates of the city, and the two posts, bar and all. Samson was not the wisest of Israel's judges, but he was the burliest, a favorite of muscle-loving Judaism, and even when he had been blinded and his locks had been shorn, his courage did not disappear. We too are strong and blind and our hair is not what it used to be. But we, in our flight, did not carry away the gates; instead we locked them, leaving 1.5 million people behind bars. And so we will die with the Philistines every day anew.
Now, in retrospect, some claim that the disengagement from Gaza was a bad deal. Regret is now the bon ton. But there is nothing to regret. It is easy to imagine what would have happened in the Land of Hamas had 8,000 Jewish settlers still been stuck there, in the crossfire. Thousands of soldiers would have had to protect them, every man as he went out, every woman as she went in, every grandmother and grandson on their way to yoga. As for Sderot, it was bombed by the bastards before and it is bombed now, and the settlers in their safe rooms would not have sheltered Gaza.

The disengagement was actually a step in the right direction, but it was a small, belated, crooked step. Belated, because we waited for the occupation to go bad and fall into the hands of Hamas like a rotten fruit; small, because you cannot separate those which are attached, the West Bank and Gaza; and crooked, because it was wrong to disengage into a situation of abandon, without any kind of agreement, without handing the territory over to an Arab, international or mixed trusteeship.

The feigned regret is meant to thwart the great withdrawal that Olmert promised and has already changed his mind about. Not only is there no such withdrawal on the horizon, but even the outposts are now being cleansed and legitimized. Ehud Barak and Haim Ramon are the chief purifiers: they beg the land robbers to evacuate the scene of one crime so that they will be allowed to commit legal crimes elsewhere. Any highway robber would leap at the chance.

Only a few weeks ago the prime minister said that without a Palestinian state, "the State of Israel is finished." One must hope that he is wrong, as he was wrong for 40 years while he dug tunnels into darkness. But there is more than one way to "finish" a state. The surrender of a government to ideological crimes is also something that "finishes." How foolish the negotiations now seem, those peace talks that are supposed to be done by the end of the year; how ludicrous are Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and George W. Bush and his Condoleezza Rice.

The curse of Gaza is as powerful as death: if the entire occupation is a tragedy, the occupation of Gaza is its essence: 360 square kilometers, some 1.5 million people, 1 million refugees, and the responsibility is all ours. From the beginning there were those who warned us of the curse, and not only Sapir; even Moshe Dayan used words of caution. It did no good. The euphoria is contagious, the war rolls on, and a wise people is a foolish one. In the Zionist enterprise's march of folly, Gaza stands out as a major milestone, a signpost of weeping. The foundation stone of our tears.

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