"Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn ...
Thy hospitable roofs no more invite the stranger to the door;
In smoky ruins sunk they lie, the monuments of cruelty."
These few lines from the poem "The Tears of Scotland," written by Tobias Smollett in 1746, could be engraved on the sign over the entrance to the land of Gaza after the withdrawal, because smoky ruins as "monuments of cruelty" are an excellent combination through which people today believe they can become engraved in the national memory.
Ruins are normally referred to as "unintentional monuments," usually created under tragic circumstances. Now, some politicians want to create new ruins deliberately, for the sake of the history of the future.
Those who advocate demolishing settlers' homes in Gaza have plenty of arguments. Some of these arguments are economic and others are security-based. One of the "strong" arguments is that it would ensure the settlers don not surreptitiously return to the homes they left. Interestingly, this argument is also being made by some Palestinian leaders.
Dr. Sofian Abu Zaydeh, for example, told Israel Radio that he would prefer for Israel to raze the houses - in part, so that Jews would be unable to stand at their doorsteps in the future with keys in their hands. He is very familiar with the pictures from the 1960s and 1970s in which tearful Palestinians stood outside their homes or the ruins of their homes, with large keys in their hands. After all, the key is the most powerful symbol of the right of return.
And they are not the only ones. Ruins symbolize the longings of Kurds for the homes from which they were expelled in their homeland, Turkey. Ruins represent the memory of the Cypriots expelled from northern Cyprus, and the destruction of the Temple stands at the base of the national memory that gave rise to the Zionist dream and the longings for Zion.
The demolition of the settlers' homes, therefore, cannot be regarded as merely an engineering operation with an economic or political goal, just as the decision to withdraw was not purely a military one. Rather, this issue shakes the ideological foundations in whose names these homes were built.
The demolition of homes touches directly upon the type of trauma disengagement planners seek to leave for the future generations. That is, will Kfar Darom and Netzarim become like Yamit, which was ground into the dust, or like Taba, Neviot and Sharm, which have become Israeli sites under Egyptian control? Will they enter the national book of lamentations or develop into a pilgrimage site for vacationers?
This is not a theoretical question about future commemorations of the Gaza trauma. It is tied politically to the possibility of finding a diplomatic solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - a solution that cannot endure without additional withdrawals from the West Bank, without conceding parts of Jerusalem, and without abandoning other "monuments" made of red roofs and Belgian windows.
The solution will depend to a large extent on the type of memory Gaza bequeaths - that is, the memory that is fashioned in the album of national withdrawal. This includes not only the pictures of clashes between soldiers and settlers, but also the rubble of houses, bits of roof shingles and the power of the "ruin" as recorded in school curricula, song and films.
The huge sums - some NIS 7 billion - allocated to implement the withdrawal and the sometimes illogical largesse the government is displaying toward the settlers, can only be understood in light of the desire to damper the power of the blow - not the personal one, but the national one. After all, when it comes to individual citizens, those who do not hoist any kind of banner, the government and the state know how to be cruel.
But it would be an inexplicable contradiction if, alongside this effort to dull the national pain with money, the government leaves an everlasting monument of ruins. Let the Palestinians take the homes with the red roofs, and spare us the horrors of a new trauma of ruin.
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