The TV images suggested that it's a conflict among young people.
Most of the soldiers, wearing green fatigues but carrying no firearms, are clean-shaven kids of college age. The most confrontational settlers, whom the soldiers have come for, aren't much older. They wear T-shirts and backpacks, and the beards and skullcaps of the religious. The soldiers look stern and impassive as the settlers rant and rage. On CNN, a young Israeli woman is weeping; her orange-and-blue cap reads "New York Knicks."
Israel's abandonment of the Gaza Strip this month is, of course, one more chapter in a long history of turmoil in the Middle East. But from the way it looked on TV yesterday, it's a new generation that's doing all the struggling. Maybe all the older people are just too tired.
On the first day of the Israeli government's forced removal of Gaza settlers, young people -- Jews -- pleaded with other young people -- also Jews -- who had been dispatched to eject them from their homes. There was, perhaps miraculously, almost no violence in Gaza (although a Jewish settler did kill three Palestinians miles away on the West Bank), but there was lots of confrontation. TV likes violence, but confrontation will do, too.
And so the cable news networks seemed to loop the same scenes of mostly passive resistance, as their correspondents intoned about the "emotional" nature of the pullout. Here, a young man with a battering ram breaks in the door of a Jewish home. Over there, young men are being carted off bodily by younger men wearing green. Here again, a young woman in a long skirt is being swept away, this time by a phalanx of female soldiers.
From the look of it, the men went quietly (one even read a prayer book as he was whisked off his feet and hauled to a waiting government bus). The women, on the other hand, seemed to berate and flail against the soldiers who carried them.
The religious subtext was never far from the frame. There were scenes of settlers praying in synagogues, and a shot of them standing atop the dome of one with defiant fists raised. The cameras also caught men ripping their shirts, a traditional Jewish gesture of mourning. At one point, some settlers linked arms and swayed in prayer, and a few soldiers joined them.
The Palestinians, otherwise reduced to the periphery, seemed awfully young, too. A march sponsored by the militant group Hamas appeared to be made up solely of men, and none of them appeared much older than 25. CNN had a live shot of a Palestinian refugee camp near one of the Israeli settlements. As a pack of boys scampered over the hillocks near the Israeli line, the crackle of gunfire could be heard, sending the boys scurrying.
Only when it was time for people to talk did older people get in the picture. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the architect of the pullout, apparently gave no interviews but showed up over and over in file footage on American television. But senior members of his cabinet were all over TV, clearly attempting to explain and justify Sharon's deeply divisive policy as a necessary step toward achieving peace with the Palestinians and securing Israel's borders.
There were fewer talking heads for any other point of view. No one spoke -- or at least spoke calmly -- on behalf of the settlers, and almost no one spoke for the Palestinians. CNN did manage to find a dark-eyed young woman named Diana Buttu -- identified as "legal adviser to the Palestinians" -- who denounced both Israel and the United States for the expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
The most personal and richly evocative sequence of the day may have been captured by Fox News Channel live on its "Fox and Friends" morning program (and repeated throughout the day). As reporter Jennifer Griffin and crew followed from a few feet away, an Israeli soldier smashed in the front door of a house and came face to face with a family of settlers, who gave their name as Gross. Then -- with an unseen producer's voice yelling "Stay with it! Stay with it!" -- Fox's camera caught the family's angry faces and reactions. The father recounted, in New York-inflected English, how his firstborn son had been "murdered in cold blood" not long after the family arrived in Gaza 32 years ago. His distraught wife turned her attention to the soldiers flooding into her living room. "They didn't stop these rockets from falling," she said. "Now they say they are here to protect us. Is there any sympathy in the world? I don't understand this."
All the while, another family member recorded the unfolding scene on his digital camera.
The sequence provided unspoken testimony to the extraordinary access that news crews enjoyed throughout the day and into the night. News cameras seemed to be everywhere, from the inside of homes like the Grosses' to synagogues raided by the army. Despite a volatile situation that easily could have turned violent, it suggested that the Israeli army and government felt they had little to hide and perhaps something to gain from showing the manner in which the evacuation is being handled. Would the Pentagon allow such access in a similar situation involving Americans?
MSNBC offered one brief picture that conveyed a note of finality and perhaps a sense of inevitability about the events of yesterday. As a network camera watched, a settler with tears in his eyes carried off the Torah that had been lodged in the settlement's soon-to-be-abandoned synagogue. Standing by, an Israeli soldier dipped his head in prayer, kissed his hand in a traditional gesture of reverence, and reached out to touch the passing scrolls.