Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Lawlessness in Gaza
So, Israel's evacuation of the Gaza Strip went ahead on schedule. And now the Palestinians spread out, enjoy their added elbow room, and get down to serious business, right?
So far, the goings-on seem to include quite a bit of looting, arson, and destruction.
Remember, Israel destroyed all the communities that were evacuated, and for good reason; it would have been too painful for Israeli families to see their old homes under new management. But Israel couldn't bring itself to destroy the many synagogues that had been built in the Gaza Strip, and instead, asked the Palestinian Authority to protect them.
Instead, the Palestinian Authority stood by as Palestinians bulldozed the synagogues, looted them, and burned them. Granted, Israel had already removed the Torah scrolls, the prayer books, and anything portable of religious significance. But the synagogues themselves were beautiful buildings, worthy of preservation, no?
Students cut school, the terrorist groups carted out their homemade RPGs and prayed in the settlements' smoldering synagogues, the poor scavenged the settlement carcasses, and the PA police and other security forces watched.
Looters torched synagogues and ripped what they could from what were considered the settlements' sturdiest buildings ... By mid-morning columns of black smoke twisted skyward marking where individual settlements had been.
An unusually candid politician, [Khan Yunis Mayor Osama] al-Farra had no illusions that the PA security forces would contain the curious masses streaming toward the settlements. Surveying the bulldozed buildings and the smoldering fires, Farra noted that "this place needs a lot of work."
As if punctuating his sentence, an Islamic Jihad gunman barely a car's length away aimed his AK-47 at a street lamp. Crack! He missed and fired again.
"That," Farra continued seamlessly, "is a good example. A lot of work indeed."
[Israeli] Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom dubbed the chaotic scenes – which climaxed with clashes between Egyptian soldiers and Palestinian civilians at the Rafah border – and particularly the torching of the synagogues, a "barbaric act."
Bulldozer driver Turki Toman, 54, preferred the term "cathartic." ... He yelled down from his cab, "I feel great; this is the best work I've had in a while."
The employee of the PA Public Works Ministry then volunteered that "I felt even better earlier this morning when I set my bulldozer on the synagogue."
(photo courtesy of TigerHawk)
(photo courtesy of Israel Insider)
What can one say to such barbarity? Have the Palestinians no respect for the fact that, in the regions controlled by Israel over the past sixty years, Muslim holy places have always been respected?
Just to make the point absolutely clear: I can see a point of view that would argue for the destruction of Gaza synagogues (although I wish that they didn't derive such joy from it). Indeed, a PA cabinet secretary, Samir Ihleile, incongruously claimed that the synagogues must be destroyed, to prevent them from becoming Hamas mosques.
Okay, fine. Stipulate that. (Although it would be interesting to see a Hamas mosque in the shape of a Star of David.) Now please explain to me why this was necessary:
Inside the Kfar Darom synagogue, crushed matza mingled with shattered glass and chunks of metal wrenched from their moorings.
A lone green swastika was spray painted on the Neveh Dekalim synagogue. Motor oil and chocolate spread left over from the anti-disengagement activists protests slicked the floors of the synagogues.
Outside the synagogue, police Sgt. Ahmed Abu Mustapha threw up his hands as looters, some of them in uniform, brushed by him. "They got here much faster than we did," he said. "It doesn't matter, it all will be destroyed and there is not much left anyway."
Their blind Jew-hatred aside, the Palestinians cannot, apparently, even protect their own interests:
Egyptian guards, meanwhile, failed for a second straight day to control a rush across the Gaza-Egypt border, which was a formidable barrier when patrolled by Israel. With the Israelis gone, Gazans dug under walls and climbed over barriers to get to Egypt, where they stocked up on cheap cigarettes, medication and cheese. Egyptian forces on Monday fatally shot a Palestinian during the mad rush, witnesses said.The Gaza greenhouses had been, indeed, a large source of income for thousands of Palestinian laborers. Israel did not destroy them on her way out, apparently, because the Palestinian Authority implored Israel not to.
The chaos raised new questions about the ability of Palestinian forces to impose order in Gaza.
[Daniel adds: questions, certainly. New, no...]
The greenhouses, left behind by Israel as part of a deal brokered by international mediators, are a centerpiece of Palestinian plans for rebuilding Gaza after 38 years of Israeli occupation. The Palestinian Authority hopes the high-tech greenhouses will provide jobs and export income for Gaza's shattered economy.
During a tour of Neve Dekalim, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia implored Palestinians to leave the structures intact, even as people scavenged through debris elsewhere in the settlement.
"These greenhouses are for the Palestinian people," he said. "We don't want anyone to touch or harm anything that can be useful for our people."
Just minutes away, crowds of looters in the Gadid settlement overwhelmed hundreds of guards trying to protect the greenhouses. Guards acknowledged that in many cases, they were unable to stop the looting.
"They are taking plastic sheeting, they are taking hoses, they are taking anything they can get their hands on," said Hamza Judeh, a Palestinian policeman.
(And also, it seems, because the greenhouses were bought and paid for, and then donated to the Palestinian people. Who paid for them? Would you believe Jewish philanthropists?)
Will the greenhouses reopen under new management, and again provide jobs for thousands of Palestinians? Only if they're intact!
(Any day now, I expect to hear Palestinians begging for more funds, to be used to repair the greenhouses. Or so they'll say.)
And a final irony:
One of the officers on the scene, Ahmed Hilas, promised journalists the Palestinian Authority will put an end to the chaos in “three to four days.”...and if the journalists in question believed that, then they should have been covering the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge instead.
Please forgive me for belaboring the obvious: if the Palestinian Authority had any control over the mobs, they'd exert it now, to protect the greenhouses at the very least. Promising to end the riots, at the time when they're expected to die down anyway, is nothing more than grandstanding by the impotent.
And yet, people continue to ask if the PA "could not" or "would not" control the rioting. Personally, I couldn't care less. It doesn't matter to me if Palestinian violence and barbarism is due to helplessness or indifference; in either case, they cannot be trusted with anything of value, including their own lives and futures.
Well, at least some Muslims seem to understand:
However, as we've seen today, when Palestinians streaming into liberated Gaza set fire to synagogues there is deafening silence from most Muslims and certainly from the leadership of the American Muslim community. Herein lies the sorry state of Islamic affairs. [...] The Palestinian authority is incapable (or unwilling) to provide security for the abandoned synagogues, the Palestinian people lack the adhab to refrain from destroying a temple dedicated to the worship of Allah, and Muslims in America are indifferent to this destruction because it is occurring to Jewish property.A powerful condemnation, particularly given that it was voiced by a Muslim. We'll see if the idea spreads... and we'll see if American Muslims start to use their freedom, as they do here, to dissent against barbarities committed in their name.
The wholesale destruction of the Jewish synagogues is yet another indication that Palestinians of all stripes, whether Fatah secularists or Islamic Hamas types, do not have the political maturity to construct a civil society. However, it is also a sign that Muslims in America lack the conviction of their religion to condemn sacrilege when it is committed by Muslims against others.
As a prominent author once commented, your freedom is useless unless you use it to free someone else. And the best way to do that is to infect closed minds with the idea of freedom.
The Palestinians could certainly use some new ideas.
UPDATE: And, after all that, some Palestinians continue to argue that the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation, thus justifying further terrorism! (Palestinian chutzpah has reached new heights -- or is it depths?) Dore Gold debunks these claims rather thoroughly.