6/25/2005

New London, Gaza

It's sometimes hard to understand where some of the 'Townhall' folks are coming from.

Last week it was Caroline Glick describing Israel as 'America's Irreplaceable Ally', an argument easily refuted by the simple count of boots on the ground or graves in Govan.

This week it's Cliff May. At the end of a week in which the US Supreme Court produced a judgment of enormous significance in respect of his right to own a home unmolested, his eyes are certainly on homes - the homes of Israeli settlers in Gaza, specifically those the demolition of which has been agreed between the Israelis and Palestinians.

One must be fair, and say it's perfectly possible that the piece was written prior to the decision in 'Kelo - v- New London' was delivered. However, at the end of a litany of already well-recorded official discrimination against Jews in the pre-Israeli Middle East, May says,

"It is within this context that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have now agreed to bulldoze those red-roofed, middle-class houses in Gaza. Will this action pave the way – almost literally – toward peace between Israel and a Palestinian state? Or will it represent just the destruction of one additional Jewish community, a reminder of the past, an omen for the future?"

This is troubling rhetoric. Is May analogising the bulldozing of these properties with an event like the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto? Although one must acknowledge that these homes were built by the descendants of a persecuted people, there can be no escape from the fact that the land on which they are built has never been within Israel's legal borders. Where is the recorded title to the land? Although there may be a profound religious connection to the land, there is not and never has been a civil, secular one other than possibly within the strictures of Isreali law.

Another argument used in favour of such settlements is that of strength in numbers, that they are laagers. Well, that's as may be, except that argument carries little moral force when it is usually used by those who are unsure of their right to be there in the first place, the argument of colonists. As for the anodyne description 'settlers', one would have thought the land on which they were already built was hardly unsettled virgin wilderness.

Perhaps it is for once the people of Gaza who merit American sympathy. In 1967, in an entirely legitimate act of self-defence, Israel entered Gaza and did not withdraw, a decision validated by the treachery of Anwar Sadat in launching the Yom Kippur War. However, Israel's control of the territory should by rights have only been defensive. Where was licence given to build homes on other peoples' lands?

What is the difference between the actions of successive Israeli Ministers of Housing in encouraging the expropriation of private property for the purposes they desire and the decision of the Supreme Court in 'Kelo'? In practical terms, none whatsoever - and one wonders whether any Gazans will shed a tear for Cliff May when somebody's bulldozers roll over his yard.

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