The Gaza Opportunity

Watching Israelis leaving Gaza, I felt the stirring of a long-dormant chance for peace between the children of Abraham.

The events that have already unfolded-and are currently unfolding-in the Gaza Strip are truly historic. The Israeli government decided to evacuate Gaza of its 9,000 Jewish settlers as part of a unilateral disengagement plan by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Now Israeli soldiers are forcefully evicting their fellow Jews from their homes, and the rest of Israel along with the rest of the world watch in awe and amazement.

This turn of events has brought a slew of mixed emotions. For Israelis, it is particularly painful to watch Jew evict Jew. Amir Mintz was quoted by the Chicago Tribune as saying, "I can't watch it. It hurts. I believe in the disengagement, but they are still my people." Hana Sa'adon, a hair salon manager, said that for her, "This is worse than a terror attack."

For Palestinians, the Gaza pullout has also brought out a host of mixed emotions. Many have openly expressed satisfaction, with no sympathy at all: "Let them taste the bitterness," said Amona Aksham to the New York Times. "No, I can't sympathize with them," she continued, "they didn't sympathize with us."

The intense emotions on both sides are understandable. For me, an American Muslim watching from afar, I see the Gaza pullout as a rare opportunity: an opportunity to bring some semblance of hope to a Holy Land enmeshed in a hopeless, brutal, and bloody conflict.

The Jewish settlers who came to Gaza under government-sanctioned settlement construction over the 38 years of Israeli occupation feel betrayed and violated by the decision of their government to evacuate this land. And it is quite obvious to all who can see that it is extremely painful for the settlers to be forcibly removed from their homes and have their houses demolished.

But it has also been painful for the Palestinians to live under military occupation and to suffer the indignities that have gone along with it, such as the restrictions on their freedom of movement and house demolitions for families of suspected militants and terrorists. In Gaza, 1.3 million Palestinians were crammed into 67 percent of the land, while 9,000 Jewish settlers enjoyed the best 33 percent. It was a terrible injustice.

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