The Middle East press on Gaza disengagement.

What the foreign papers are saying.
Aug. 17 2005 12:01 PM

Leaving Gaza

The Middle East press looks at Israel's withdrawal.

As Israel's government began emptying the Gaza Strip of its Jewish settlers on Wednesday, Israeli newspapers offered a blow-by-blow account of the evacuation itself and of its impact on Israeli society. In contrast, the Arab press highlighted the longer-term consequences of the disengagement and what it might mean for the future of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Ha'aretz described the removal of settlers from the largest Gaza outpost, Neveh Dekalim, where there were reports of violence: "Police scuffled with a large crowd, as the smoke from burning garbage rose into the air. Protesters fought with police officers and threw eggs and water bottles at them." However, the paper also reported that 832 families out of the 1,550 registered as residents in Gaza had left their homes by midnight Tuesday, the deadline for their voluntary departure, though many nonresident protesters had infiltrated the area. Some 15,000 police were deployed to deal with the settlers, and the paper quoted an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as saying opposition to the disengagement had failed and that nearly all the 21 Gaza settlements could be evacuated within 48 hours. On its Web site, the Jerusalem Post offered a detailed breakdown of the developing situation in each settlement.

Advertisement

In an editorial, the Jerusalem Post, which leans politically to the right, said that the settlers' removal was "painful" and that police and soldiers would "knock on the doors of … citizens who have withstood almost five years of terrorism only to be evicted by their own government." The editors were agnostic on the merits of the withdrawal, expressed sympathy for the settlers, but also insisted they not resort to violence: "Indeed, though our enemies are rejoicing at the suffering of the settlers, they will rejoice even more if we decide to tear ourselves apart." Columnist Rami Khouri, writing in Beirut's Daily Star, was unmoved by the settlers' plight. Describing them as "dangerous predators," he noted, "[P]ress depictions of the Gaza settlers' 'emotional pain' at being sent back to … Israel lack both credibility and relevance. Forcing a thief to stop stealing is not an act that should be depicted as inflicting pain on the criminal, but rather as forcing the criminal to abide by the law."

The Arabic press mostly looked beyond the details to measure the disengagement's implications. A commentary in Bahrain's Al-Wasat (via Mideastwire; free registration required) described Israelis as divided into two groups on the issue: one eager to be rid of the demographic burden of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the other regarding disengagement as "a symbolic defeat of the Zionist project."

Indeed, the real story of Gaza is how each side interprets disengagement and what it means in the coming months. A Hamas spokesman summed up his organization's take on the settlers' departure in an interview with Al-Manar, the TV station of Lebanon's Hezbollah: "It's a victory for the resistance, and for the Palestinians." Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar told the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat: "The resistance must move to the West Bank to drive out the occupation. We will not take the Gaza Strip and flee to a state of calm and tranquility while the Zionist enemy continues to detain thousands of our sons, and while it occupies the West Bank."

Another London-based Arabic-language paper, Al-Hayat, quoted the head of Israeli Military Intelligence as saying he expected a resurgence next spring of terrorist attacks in the West Bank, which he described as a "time bomb." The paper also described the banners put up in Gaza City, reflecting the different moods of their political sponsors. Whereas the Hamas banners stressed militancy, those put up by the Palestinian Authority, which is engaged in a struggle for power with Islamist groups for control of liberated Gaza, pointed in another direction: "The people liberate; the people build," one banner read, in an obvious effort to downplay Hamas' taking sole credit for Israel's pullout.

The PA-Hamas rivalry will likely play itself out in elections, and Palestinians are keen to avoid internecine fighting that may undermine their credibility in anticipation of possible future Israeli withdrawals. The Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported that Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei set Sept. 29 as the date for the third round of Palestinian municipal elections. He also announced that teams had been set up to deal with the property left behind by Israeli settlers. Both issues are tricky for the PA: In order to avoid expected losses against Hamas, the authority brazenly postponed legislative elections planned for this summer until early next year. The municipal elections will partly make up for this. There is also a fear among Palestinians that the corrupt PA will distribute the settlers' land to its own leading members. Qurei's effort was designed to show that the leadership was dealing with the matter responsibly. He surely knows that abuse of the property will damage the PA's electoral fortunes.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.