Outside of Israel, I wonder if anyone is paying attention to the "Disengagement" (in Hebrew, hitnatkut) from Gaza. If they are, it probably looks like a long-overdue concession from the recalcitrant, rightist Israeli government to do the obvious thing and remove settlements from occupied territory. Here, though, it looks and feels very different. Jerusalem is festooned with orange banners and ribbons decrying the "national suicide" and predicting that disengagement will bring more terror. For most people, life is going on as normal. But for a sizable minority, it is anything but -- and they are the people hanging the banners. So it's on everyone's mind, and in everyone's backyard.
These photographs were taken during the last week of July, in the Gush Katif settlement bloc in Gaza. Gaza is now officially closed to non-residents, after thousands of right-wing Israelis had poured into the area, and a few extremists had turned abandoned hotels into fortresses of defiance. The army has clamped down, we are told, and most Gaza residents are preparing to leave. Others, though, are preparing to fight.
No one really wins in the disengagement, though everyone gets something. On the Palestinian side, some much-needed territory is gained, and some more freedom of movement is likely to be allowed within Gaza, now that the Israeli army is no longer patrolling and setting up roadblocks. On the other hand, everyone knows that the disengagement is meant to earn points with the international community and thus enable Israel to hold onto more land in the West Bank, which matters much more than Gaza. And Gaza itself will be walled off on all four sides by Israel. Depending on your political perspective, this is either a necessary security measure (the separation barrier has indeed stopped terror attacks, not because terrorists can't climb fences but because what the barrier really is is a panopticon: every inch of it is watched by cameras, and central command intercepts all who try to cross it) or the creation of a bantustan.
Ordinary Israelis gain a bit more. Their sons no longer have to lose their lives for the sake of a bizarre, and mostly pointless, ideological commitment. (Unlike the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, Gaza was never part of Biblical Israel and has little strategic value.) Their tax dollars can be spent on more pressing needs. And the wearying moral costs of this part of the occupation can be let go.
The people who lose most are the settlers themselves, many of whom moved to Gaza for economic or social reasons. I have little sympathy for the politically-motivated ones, but no one can deny that the Gaza Jews are being treated unfairly. They're not receiving adequate economic compensation, and some have still yet to be told where they are being relocated by the government. Moreover, since the disengagement was precisely the plan the Labor party ran on in the last election, and since Sharon ran in direct opposition to it, it seems reasonable that a Likud voter might now feel betrayed. Imagine if George Bush nominated a liberal, pro-choice judge to the Supreme Court -- wouldn't the American Right feel they had been snookered?