In Powers’ article, he argues that conspiracy theory is based on the omnipotence of power – the idea that all events that seem to disrupt power are really events created by power to further entrench its control and domination, and to confuse us. According to conspiracy theory, 9/11 was really a CIA operation, to set the grounds for the justification of the expansion of governmental powers at home and abroad. The fact that the U.S. government could actually be vulnerable, and that it may sometimes be acting according to the unanticipated, and develop its policy contingently (even if the Bush administration had hoped for an opportunity like 9/11), is a reality that conspiracy theory can not acknowledge because it would destroy the fantasy of an absolute power that runs the world. In its worldview, a top-down, behind-the-scenes power holder is a single player in world events, and all of us are just pawns. In that sense, Powers’ argument that conspiracy theory is patriotic, seems to make sense. It disappears and disempowers all of us and reinforces the totalizing nature of power.

It’s striking then, reading Soderberg’s article, and her depiction of the Gaza disengagement. For her, the disengagement is a mere trick, done by the big magician (Israel), who is merely fooling the world into believing something false. Disengagement is a plan drawn up by Israeli power in its thirst for more power, Soderberg argues. What’s missing in this account of the Israel/Palestine situation is the fact that it is a conflict, between competing (and not just 2) players.

According to the conspiracy theory, the Palestinians disappear (along with their various forms of resistance and negotiation). Israeli activists disappear, (along with their opposition to the wall and the occupation). World opinion disappears (manifested in a variety of forms, from street protests all the way up to the U.N.). But even Ariel Sharon admitted that Israel is not a single player. The withdrawal of settlers had partly to do with making a border that is easier to guard. The withdrawal is not a master plan designed to further destroy the Palestinians. This would ignore the fact that actual territory was given up, and the same with security over it, and it would ignore the fact that security has been made difficult by a population in resistance. The disengagement must be seen in the context of the decades-long conflict, not a single-minded conspiracy.

The other major reason given by mainstream reporting for the disengagement, seems plausible as well. That is, a demographic strategy. The fluidity, the porousness, the unevenness, and the general confusion over the placement of the border, has created challenges not only for Palestinians (whose grievances are obvious), but for Israel as well. If Israel continues to annex Palestinian territory, it will not only possess new land. It will come across the stateless Palestinian people as well. But Israel does not want to incorporate Palestinians into the Israeli body politic. This incorporation has been taking place due to the search for jobs by Palestinians, by Palestinian-Israeli marriages, and by the birth of a new generation of Palestinian children inside Israeli borders. The demographic situation is changing, and it can jeopardize the existence of a jewish majority which the State of Israel relies upon to remain a jewish state.

There’s no room here for a long discussion of the complexity of the political situation in Israel and Palestine. I only mean to problematize the view that Israel (the U.S., or any power holder) is omnipotent in world or regional affairs, whose actions are preordained and linear. I think power is much more contested, and however overwhelming domination seems and feels, we only further bind ourselves when we allow the strength of our opponents to make us believe that it is presently unchallenged and forever unchangeable. I think Powers’ is correct in saying that “the only conspiracy here is the conspiracy that money and power are more real than our freedom to create the world anew.”