Thursday, February 28, 2008

Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism by Darryl Li

More than an act of enlightened self-interest -- or, more bluntly, a recognition that “the virus doesn’t stop at the checkpoint”[2] -- the reported animal vaccine shipment is a clue to how Israel is reconfiguring its control over the Gaza Strip. The story of the recent restrictions, when told at all to the outside world, has been conveyed largely through statistics: 90 percent of private industries in Gaza have shut down, 80 percent of the population receives food aid, all construction sites are idle and unemployment has broken all previous records.[3] Journalists and NGOs have rendered individual portraits of ruined farmers, bankrupted merchants and trapped medical patients. But the stranglehold on Gaza is not simply a stricter version of the policies of the past five years; it also reflects a qualitative shift in Israel’s technique for management of the territory. The contrast between Israel’s expedited transfer of animal vaccines to Gaza and its denial of medicine for the human population is emblematic of this emergent form of control, that, for lack of a better term, we may call “disengagement.”


Since its beginnings over a century ago, the Zionist project of creating a state for the Jewish people in the eastern Mediterranean has faced an intractable challenge: how to deal with indigenous non-Jews -- who today comprise half of the population living under Israeli rule -- when practical realities dictate that they cannot be removed and ideology demands that they must not be granted political equality. From these starting points, the general contours of Israeli policy from left to right over the generations have been clear: First, maximize the number of Arabs on the minimal amount of land, and second, maximize control over the Arabs while minimizing any apparent responsibility for them.

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