The Israeli Post Office has issued a stamp commemorating the settlements of Gush Katif in Gaza – the settlements evacuated by the Israeli goverment in 2005. The stamp shows an orange ribbon, originally the symbol of the furious protest movement against the withdrawal. Today the ribbon is the icon of those who have never forgiven the state for evacuating settlements from occupied territory. Below the images of greenhouses and the little kids happily jumping rope is the biblical verse, “And they shall no more plucked up out of their land…” (Amos 9:15), which in context can be read as a promise that no more settlements will be evacuated. Since the current government is negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, based on the premise that at least those settlements beyond the West Bank fence could be evacuated, this promise stands in contradiction to official policy. The settlements beyond the fence are the hotbed of the orange-ribbon movement, of the people who on one level or another question the legitimacy of the government that issued this stamp. At the bottom of the stamp is a list of the evacuated settlements, including Shirat Yam, one of the “outposts” established without government permission. In short, this is a commemorative dedicated not only to the government’s mistake of establishing settlements in Gaza, but also to a movement that deligitimizes the government for its willingness to think, on alternative Tuesdays, about a potentially rational approach to ending the anti-democratic regime in the West Bank.
What’s next? A U.S. commemorative stamp for the KKK?
Superficially, this looks like a poorly considered commercial effort, predicated on the idea that the orange-ribbon crowd will buy lots of stamps, some to collect, some to mail their letters.
More subtly, it’s evidence that governments are not monolithic. They are arenas of contention and infighting. Even at the top, the Olmert government talks of potential withdrawal while continuing to build in the settlements. Lower down, the bureaucracy is full of officials dedicated to the orange ribbon – officials who help build illegal outposts, who make sure that demolition orders against illegally built homes in settlements are never demolished, who even issue stamps meant to rally the hardline forces against giving up one more house. The postal service serves the outer edge of madness, and now has issued a stamp for letters to that destination.