Sunday, May 08, 2005

PALESTINIANS AGAINST GAZA WITHDRAWAL PLAN?

JEFF JACOBY IN THE BOSTON GLOBE................

But Jews won't be the only victims of Sharon's plan.

At Tnuvot Katif, a large produce-packaging plant here, I watch for a while as about two dozen workers, most of them local Arabs, get heads of tall leaf lettuce ready for export. More than half of Tnuvot's 127 year-round employees are Arab; they in turn account for about 2 percent of the 3,500 Arabs employed by Gaza's Jewish firms.

During a break in the shift, I ask some of workers if they like their jobs. They shrug.

But when I ask what they think of the plan for Israeli withdrawal, they grow animated. If the Israelis go, they tell me through an interpreter, they'll lose their jobs. If the plant shuts down, they'll be out of work, and if the Palestinian Authority takes it over, they'll still be out of work -- their jobs will go to workers with better connections to the PA's ruling thugs.

''If that's how you feel," I ask, ''why don't you oppose the disengagement publicly? Why don't you tell the PA that you want your Jewish neighbors to stay?"

When my question is translated, the men look at me as if I'm crazy.

''It's forbidden!" replies Randoor, the only one of the workers who would give even a first name. ''We're not allowed to say that!"

I press him: Why not? What would be so bad about saying that Jews and Arabs should be able to live together? But Randoor shakes his head and crosses his wrists, as if being handcuffed.

''They might put us in jail.... they might call us 'collaborators.' "

In the jungle that is Palestinian society, being called a ''collaborator" can be a death sentence. Indeed, the PA's newly elevated security chief -- a cold-blooded killer named Rashid Abu Shabak --
is known in Gaza as the ''collaborator hunter."

Politicians and pundits are applauding Sharon's planned retreat, yet a simple lettuce-packer like Randoor seems to grasp what they cannot: The lives of Gaza's Arabs will not be improved by expelling Gaza's Jews.

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