The Gaza Strip: Myths and Facts - Part I

It is never appropriate to make any kinds of deals or compromises with terrorists or "former terrorists".

Barry Verstaendig

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Myth #1: Disengaging from the Gaza Strip will save Israeli lives.

This is perhaps the most important myth, since logic dictates that no land is worth the cost of extra lives that might be expended in defending it. Those who advocate an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip argue that, if no Israelis are inside of it, it can be sealed off, freeing the Israeli army from having to worry about what is going on inside. It will simply not be Israel's problem; the United Nations and the European Union can worry about maintaining order there once the Israelis are gone. Rather than be bogged down in a quagmire inside of the territory, the Israeli army can merely stay on the border and make sure that nothing crosses over it; it will be much easier to patrol from the outside than the inside.

But history has shown that when the Israeli army has pulled out of territories without a negotiated agreement, they eventually needed to go back in, causing more lives to be lost in the long run. In 1956, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert, both of which were held by Egypt, because terrorists were infiltrating into Israel from the Gaza Strip and killing children in elementary schools. By occupying those territories, Israel cut the Gaza Strip off from Egypt, stopped the terrorism, and ensured that the Suez Canal and Straits of Tiran would be open to Israeli shipping - something the Egyptians tried to deny.

Under American pressure, however, Israel was forced to withdraw from the territories by 1957, only to be forced to re-occupy them ten years later for the same reasons. Had Israel remained in the territories until a peace agreement could be worked out with the Egyptians, the lives Israel lost re-conquering those lands in the Six Day War could have been spared. In fact, the entire Six Day War might have been avoided if Israel would have had a peace agreement with Egypt by 1967.

And there is every reason to believe that Israel will be forced to go back into the Gaza Strip if it leaves "unilaterally" - that is, without a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinian Arabs. For one thing, fence technology has not improved that much since 1956. If Arab terrorists could cross the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel then, there is no reason to believe that they won't be able to (or that they won't have the desire to) now.

Furthermore, S'derot (which is not in the Gaza Strip) continues to endure almost daily missile attacks. It is silly to think that these will stop once the Israelis leave the Gaza Strip altogether; indeed, the probability is that they will increase. For one thing, the terrorists will have nothing to stop them from setting up ever-larger types of rockets, which will eventually be able to reach Tel Aviv.

Also, the Arabs will view their previous campaigns of terror as being successful in getting the Israelis to retreat from Gaza, and they will logically deduce that if they continue to fight and perform acts of terror, then the Israelis will withdraw from even more of what they refer to as "Occupied Palestine." For this reason, it is never appropriate to make any kinds of deals or compromises with terrorists or "former terrorists".

So, when the day comes that Israel has no choice but to re-enter the Gaza Strip, they will have no positions to fight from. Currently, the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip break up the refugee camps and provide an infrastructure for the Israeli army to monitor illegal terrorist activities. Thus, the Israeli settlers who are living in an area that is more dangerous than the rest of Israel are not selfish land-grabbers who are willing to jeopardize their children's safety in order to get homes that are larger and cheaper than apartments in Tel Aviv; they are there (and every government until the current one gave them financial incentives to be there) because, by being there, they are making it easier for the Israeli army to keep the rest of Israel safer. Without them, the individual refugee camps and villages will become one large conglomerate of terrorist activity, and it will become virtually impossible for the army to monitor it and, if necessary, regain control over it.

Right now, 25,000 Israeli soldiers are not risking their lives in Gaza to protect 8,000 settlers. They, and the 8,000 settlers who live there, are risking their lives to protect 5,000,000 Israeli Jews. If Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip unilaterally, then, in the long run, more Israeli soldiers will be slaughtered.

Myth #2: The Gaza Strip was never considered part of the land of Israel.

In the book of Genesis (12:10), Abraham leaves the land of Israel to go to Egypt because there was no food in Israel due to a famine. When there was a famine in the time of Isaac (Abraham's son), however, God tells Isaac that he may not leave the land of Israel. Instead, God tells Isaac to stay within the land of Israel, and Isaac complies by going to the land that would eventually be inhabited by the Philistines.

In the book of Samuel (I Samuel 6:4), we learn that there were five governors of the Philistines, one from each of their five principle cities. In verse 17 of the same chapter, those cities are identified as Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gat and Ekron. Now, if Isaac could sojourn in the land of the Philistines because it was really considered part of Israel, and Gaza was one of the major Philistine municipalities, then it stands to reason that Gaza is considered to be inside the land of Israel. The four other Philistine cities are today inside of Israel's "internationally recognized borders"; in fact, Ashdod and Ashkelon are major seaports vital to the State of Israel's economy.

If Jews have no right to live in Gaza because it is not really part of the land of Israel, then Jews have no right to live in Ashkelon or Ashdod, either. In fact, if Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod were the major cities of the Philistines, then it stands to reason that Philistine territory extended a considerable distance along the coast north and south of those cities. Since Tel Aviv, which was built in modern times, is just north of Ashdod, the implication is that if Jews have no right to live in Gaza because it is not part of Israel, then they have no right to live in Tel Aviv.

In the books of Numbers (Chapter 34) and Ezekiel (Chapter 47), the borders of the land of Israel are explicitly defined. In both books, the southern border is described as extending from the southern side of the Dead Sea toward the Mediterranean Sea. While the identity and exact location of the towns the border is said to pass near is subject to debate among scholars, a more or less straight line drawn from the bottom of the Dead Sea westward toward the Mediterranean Sea runs well south of the Gaza Strip.

The book of Numbers mentions that the border is to intersect the "brook of Egypt" and follow the brook into the Dead Sea. Various conjectures have been given to identify the brook in question, but the reference to Egypt seems to imply some kind of connection with the Nile River, whose delta was much wider before the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The easternmost branch of the river probably flowed considerably into the Sinai Peninsula in ancient times, and that was probably the westernmost extremity of the territory inhabited by the Philistines. Today, a convenient marker between what is traditionally referred to as Egypt and the lands to its east, which include the Sinai Peninsula and the ancient territory of the Philistines, is the Suez Canal. Geographically speaking, the Suez Canal is what is now considered the dividing line between Asia and Africa.

Since the Gaza Strip is clearly considered to be part of the Holy Land by the Biblical sources that spell out its boundaries, many who insist that the Gaza Strip not be considered part of the land of Israel argue that, historically, Jews never settled extensively in that area and never conquered it in Biblical times. However, those who believe that the State of Israel represents at least a partial fulfillment of the Biblical promise that the Jews would one day return to the land and exercise political control over it (in short: those who call themselves Zionists) may find historical justification for the right of Jews to control the Gaza Strip in the fact that God delivered the entire region, all the way up to the Suez Canal, into the control of the Sate of Israel quite miraculously in 1967.

Rather than exploit the resources of the Sinai Peninsula and aggressively settle it, though, the State of Israel, from 1979 to 1982, did something absolutely unprecedented in human history - it returned territory that it conquered while fighting a defensive war in exchange for a peace agreement. That would be akin to the United States returning California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of several other states, to Mexico, since it conquered those lands from Mexico in an offensive war.

[Part 1 of 3]