Closed off, Walled in
Palestinians celebrated as Israel began to withdraw its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip (and from a handful of small and isolated colonies in the northern West Bank). The withdrawal will, it’s true, offer some immediate relief after 38 years of military occupation. At the same time, however, it’s clear that it is designed to serve Israel’s interests, not those of the Palestinians. It will allow the Palestinians of Gaza greater freedom to move about internally, but it will do nothing to resolve their long-term problems; on the contrary, it will leave the territory just as isolated from the outside world – including the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which, with Gaza, were supposed to form the basis of a Palestinian state – and just as much subject to Israeli power.
Vol. 27 No. 19 · 6 October 2005
There is something dispiriting in reading, together in the same issue, the letter by Edward Luttwak and the article by Saree Makdisi. Luttwak stresses the hypocrisy both of Arab states and of disproportionate criticism of Israel while minimising Israel’s responsibility for conditions in Palestine. Makdisi reduces the withdrawal from Gaza to yet one more act of Israeli victimisation, but is silent about the relationship between harsh Israeli policies and Palestinian strategies and tactics before and during the second intifada, including the failure to create a non-corrupt public authority with a monopoly on force. It is not so much Luttwak’s or Makdisi’s rendition of ‘facts’ that rankles – each has hold of real and doleful, if partial, aspects of reality – but their shared taste for single-vantage morality tales and their failure to treat the conflict’s complex history as one of interaction between responsible actors. As a result, neither helps us to move beyond a pathless politics, widespread insecurity and wasted suffering.
Columbia University, New York