TCS Daily


The Gaza Withdrawal Syndrome

By Ariel Cohen - October 28, 2005 12:00 AM

JERUSALEM - As body parts from Wednesday's homicide bombing, which killed five and wounded over 30, splattered over the streets of the coastal town of Hadera, it became painfully clear for many Israelis that the recent retreat from Gaza was for naught. The trauma of the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will haunt this small country for years to come. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is severely challenged inside his own Likud party and may lose re-election in spring 2006. He is blamed for ordering full retreat from territories captured in 1967 without getting anything in return besides trying to placate Washington and Brussels.

Before Israeli control, Gaza had been occupied by Egypt and was used for years as a bridgehead to launch conventional and terror attacks against the nascent Jewish state. Despite Sharon's peace rhetoric and promises of further unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, Hamas, Fatah's Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Islamic Jihad are pressing victory, proclaiming their own "road map": the West Bank Intifadah is next. Jerusalem and the rest of Israel, thereafter. No recognition, no end of terror.

Some of the harshest pictures of the results of the Gaza retreat were not Israel Defense Forces and cops removing their own from their homes of three decades. Instead it was the sight of synagogue buildings left behind in Gaza burned by the Palestinian mob the day after. Hamas leaders turned remaining Gaza synagogue buildings into mosques, where they prayed for the destruction of Israel.

The hate crime of synagogue burning - just like rockets fired on civilians -- is nothing new. The practice, prevalent in Europe for centuries, was enthusiastically embraced by the Nazis in Europe. During the 1938 Kristallnacht, most German synagogues were smashed, and over 300 Jews murdered, a prologue to later horrors.

In the 1941 pro-Nazi riots in Baghdad, which occurred during the religious holiday of Shavuot, synagogues were destroyed and hundreds of Jews massacred. In 2003, Al Qaeda and its affiliates targeted the ancient synagogue on the island of Djerba in Tunis and the two Turkish synagogues. Dozens of Jews and non-Jews perished. The Djerba Jewish community was founded after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C. and lived peacefully on the island for over 2,000 years.

Religious hatred inspired by jihadi Islam is a part of a broad conflict unfolding between radical Islam on the one hand and Christianity, Judaism, the Bahai faith, and Buddhism on the other. There are also violent rifts between radical Islam and its moderate variety, and between extremist Sunnis and Shi'a. The destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime in 2001 was another example of the kind of violent intolerance that radical Islam preaches.

Gaza withdrawal did not bring security. In recent weeks, Sasson Nuriel, an Israeli businessman was kidnapped by the Ramallah Hamas cell, headed by the son of the local police chief and adviser to the Palestinian Interior minister. Terrorists videotaped the victim Al Qaeda-style, took him to the local garbage dump, and brutally murdered him. The victim employed several of the perpetrators; they knew him personally.

Radical Islamist clerics justify these barbaric acts. Speaking this week at a seminar in Teheran entitled "World without Zionism", Iranian president Ahmadinejad said that Israel was the product of an ideological war between the "Arrogant World Order" and the "Islamic rule", and that the Jewish state had to be wiped off the face of the Earth.

The Palestinian Clerics Association's Sheikh Mohammad Ali said last month, that when "...even an inch of Muslim land is occupied, Jihad is a personal duty, a religious obligation incumbent upon everyone." Since the entire land of Israel is considered "occupied" by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terrorist organizations subsidized by Saudi Arabian sheikhs and the Iranian government, the stage is set for continued violence.

Ariel Cohen is a Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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