Sep 26, 2005
The Palestinian population, humiliated and mistreated for thirty-eight years, let their joy burst out after the last settlers and the Israeli armed forces evacuated the Gaza strip. Now the Palestinians have to take over a heavily devastated territory. When the settlers and the army left, they destroyed almost everything: houses, facilities and plantations.
Everything except twenty synagogues constructed in the settlements, which were emptied but deliberately left in place by the Sharon government. Just a year before, this same government said it was proposing to demolish the synagogues during the evacuation.
This was a provocation on Sharon's part, for it was clear that the Palestinians were going to take on the only symbols that remained after the Israeli occupation, even if they were religious places. Those Israeli politicians who defended leaving the synagogues in good condition hoped "the entire world would discover the infamy" of the Palestinians.
The Israeli government said it adhered to the principle of the "preservation of holy places." This principle seems to run only one way. At the time of the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948, numerous mosques were destroyed by the Israeli army, which chased the biggest part of the Palestinian population away while conquering the land. This episode is recalled in the Israeli daily paper Haaretz (The Land), in a chronicle on the "war of holy places." "Of around 140 village mosques abandoned as a consequence of the 1948 war, a hundred were entirely demolished. The 40 that remained were in an advanced state of abandon and degradation or were utilized by Jewish inhabitants for usages for which they weren't intended.... A big mosque in the midst of a moshav (a cooperative farm town) in the mountains of Judea served as a warehouse and garage for farm equipment.... When the inhabitants of a western Galilee moshav wanted to 'expand,' they attacked the remains of the village mosque in the middle of the night with a bulldozer and entirely demolished it."That is to say, those who take on synagogues are just following this lead, with one difference: in 1948, the destruction of mosques was a decision carried out by the Israeli state.
Daily life in the Gaza strip, one of the most densely populated zones in the world, remains marked by poverty, unemployment and the situation of semi-apartheid that successive Israeli administrations have maintained since 1967. Ariel Sharon may have freed himself from the "burden" that Gaza represented for the army and the country's finances, but his policy consists in consolidating the settlements on the West Bank and isolating Palestinian zones behind high walls, including East Jerusalem. This is far from the free and sovereign Palestinian state the population aspires to, and which the government of Sharon continues doing everything to prevent.