We are witnessing these days the largest show ever produced in Israel and perhaps the entire world. Large army forces, conscripts and reservists, and a substantial part of the police have been mobilized to dismantle a few settlements numbering about 7,000 residents, plus a cast of several thousand backup players who are now starring in the lead roles of the absurd theater being broadcast nonstop and live on all the television channels in Israel and the world.
This is a well-directed play. The tears flow like water and the supposed rivals embrace and fall on each other's shoulders, like a Latin soap opera whose main characters make declarations of love peppered with venomous hatred. The professional lamenters weep and shout slogans aimed at shocking the Israeli people, employing an endless reservoir of symbols of the Holocaust and destruction. Even intellectuals and writers, known as proponents of morality, mobilize to aggrandize the collective mourning.
It also appears to be the most expensive production ever. The compensation for evacuating, the construction of mobile homes and temporary housing, the loss of thousands of workdays -- who knows how many billions the tear-jerking show will ultimately cost.
However, it is not merely a show for the purpose of entertainment. We are witnessing an educational production par excellence. It is not that someone wrote the script in advance, but ever since the production's planning stage, all of the players knew their parts -- a combination of strict roles with wide margins for improvisation. And the educational aim of this huge production -- both from the perspective of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the settlers and their supporters (they did not even need to coordinate this in advance) -- was not just to create an evacuation trauma in the Israeli public, but also to demonstrate to everyone that Israel is incapable of withstanding additional evacuations. That is, if the state's maximum resources needed to be mobilized to evacuate about 7,000 people, there is no chance of evacuating 100,000-200,000 or more.
An additional result achieved by the production was to portray Sharon and the State of Israel as "heroes of peace" who are granting a unilateral gift to the Palestinians and now expect them to reciprocate by dismantling all of the terror organizations in accordance with the Road Map, a mission that is more or less comparable from an operational perspective at this stage to evacuating tens of thousands of settlers from the territories. For this reason, this dramatic way of evacuating the Gaza Strip was chosen. After all, if a different method had been selected, simpler and more efficient, there would have been no cause to evacuate.
The settlements in the Gaza Strip depend almost entirely on Israel for providing their basic needs, and even the most fanatic settler knows this very well. The God of Israel does not supply them with electricity and water, and does not even provide manna from the heavens. The products of the greenhouses need transportation and marketing systems, and the cars and tractors require fuel.
Therefore, if the intention had really been to dismantle the Gush Katif settlements with a minimum of trauma and confrontation, in addition to ensuring rational compensation and decent housing arrangements for families and communities according to their reasonable preferences, it would only have been necessary to announce the final date for evacuating and to assist these evacuees in any way possible. After this final date, it would have been necessary to apply a hermetic blockade of the entire territory, with no one allowed to enter or exit, except for settlers who decide to leave. In particular, the transfer of all essential services and goods, including telephones, would have been halted. All this would have demanded just a 10th of the forces that were mobilized and would not have required the grandiose production being presented to us.
But then, who would have needed an evacuation?
Baruch Kimmerling is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among his recent books are Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians (Verso, 2003), Immigrants, Settlers and Natives (Alma and Am Oved, Hebrew, 2003), and The Palestinian People (Harvard University Press, 2003) with Joel S. Migdal.
Other Articles by Baruch Kimmerling
Pullout of Gaza: Its Real Meaning by Baruch Kimmerling