Gaza In Theory and Practice


"I tell myself, hey only fools rush in," Sammy Hagar sang back in the twentieth century. But even the leadfooted Arab-American rocker (whose struggle against David Lee Roth for Van Halen's lead vocals enacted the conflict between Arabs and Jews in an even more tragic microcosm) could not have predicted Avi Farhan, the Libyan-born Israeli settler who is vowing to stay on in his home overlooking the Mediterranean—even if that means becoming a citizen of the Palestinian Authority.

To give an idea of how complicated Farhan's story is: If the government of Israel succeeds in evacuating him in August, this will be the second time he's been uprooted from a settlement; he led a famous protest after getting the boot from the Sinai in 1982, and by his own description settled in Gaza at the urging of then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Nor do Farhan's Nile-to-Euphrates religious Zionism and fondness for mouldy talking points about the Land Without A People make him a model of Peace Now-style love 'n' understanding. But like Abraham Simpson, he's got something you Harvard boys haven't got: life experience. This is from an interview with Laila El-Haddad (in which Haddad, autopiloting a few talking points of her own, unwittingly reveals the crux of the matter):

All I want to do is remain, as a Jewish settler, in Eli Sinai in Gaza, just like Palestinians who live in the Um al-Fahem in Israel.

Um al-Fahem is a Palestinian village. Eli Sinai is an illegal colony built on occupied land.

We are a village, too. The word "settlement" is merely a lexicon—just a figure of speech. It just means settling down in one place. It's not the way the world is saying—that we conquered the territory. They made it into a negative word. Um al-Fahem is a settlement just like Eli Sinai.

But Israeli settlements are racist by their very nature—only Israeli Jews can live there. Palestinians from Gaza cannot live there.  On the other hand, you can live in Um al-Fahem.

I can't even walk by Um al-Fahem—I'll get shot.

Theoretically speaking…

So except for the whole getting-shot part, it might work out. Farhan claims to have plenty of "friends in Gaza," he knows his own situation better than anybody else, and hell, plenty of great things have started out as theories. The policy of evacuating and razing settlements is a particularly dismal example of a government assigning itself to solve a problem it created. Unlikely as it is that Farhan will be able to live in peace (or live at all) under a PA government, he deserves some credit for putting self-interest (and his vision of turning the strip into a new "French Riviera") ahead of the need to avoid "provocations" on either side. Good luck to a man who proves how inventive people can be when beachfront property is at stake.