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This time five years ago Israel was preparing to withdraw from Gaza. It was a contentious move, not least for the settlers who were uprooted from their homes on the orders of Ariel Sharon, a man who had previously been a cheerleader for the settlement movement. The scenes of Jewish families being dragged from their homes by Israeli soldiers were heartbreaking, as was the realisation that the graves of the evacuees’ relatives would need to be exhumed.

But even before these gut-wrenching scenes, the disengagement made little sense to me. I’m in awe of the way Israel has always taken tough decisions in the interest of its own security. After all, good leaders are willing to sacrifice their own popularity in the interests of good, and they will look to the long-term as much as the short.

Five years on is too soon to constitute the long-term, but it is still an appropriate time to consider what followed the disengagement. In the immediate aftermath of Israel’s withdrawal Palestinian mobs destroyed the lucrative greenhouse industry that had been left behind, along with the synagogues. Terrorists then increased the rate of rocket fire that rained down on southern Israel.

Emboldened by the sense that it had Israel ‘on the run’ Hamas grabbed power in 2007 and imposed its oppressive ways on the Palestinians, including inhumane control of the aid sent their way. As a result of the Hamas threat both Israel and Egypt ‘blockaded’ Gaza. Thousands of rockets and mortars continued to be fired into Israel. Eventually Operation Cast Lead was launched in response, leading to civilian deaths on both sides of the conflict.

I support Israel’s right and duty to defend itself. I just wonder whether anyone has really benefited from the disengagement. Not Israel, in my view. In my years of taking a strong and supportive interest in Israel I’ve never known it to seem quite so vulnerable and so unfairly vilified. Sadly, as we saw after the withdrawal from Lebanon, and again after the Camp David offer was turned down by Arafat, world opinion does not seem to respond favourably  to concessions from Israel.

On the contrary, the more Israel gives the more the world seems to hate it. To blame the growing regional threats and the increase in the world’s blind bigotry on the disengagement would a huge oversimplification. But I still struggle to see how life has been become anything other than more hazardous for both Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza during the last five years. As a huge admirer of Ariel Sharon I occasionally find myself wondering what he would have made of the aftermath of the disengagement he ordered.

Whatever your view on this contentious issue I hope we all agree that those forced to leave Gush Katif deserve to be looked after properly by Israel. Sadly, a report released this month accuses successive Israeli governments of “absolute and complete failure” in dealing with the uprooted settlers who are said to have become “refugees in their own country”. The community they built in Gush Katif was beautiful and magical, it makes my heart ache to think of how they’ve been treated since they were torn from there.

I’ve never gone along with the blind hatred of settlers, who I fear are in danger of becoming the scapegoats of scapegoats. Many of them had and still have low incomes, which is also true of many of residents of the city of Sderot who got a raw deal from the disengagement themselves in the form of increased rocket fire.

I support Israel all the way as it faces both its regional enemies and the bullying bigots the of wider world. But its seemingly shambolic and negligent treatment of the former residents of Gush Katif makes me angry and sad. They deserve much better.

The above is my latest column for Jewish News. You can read Jewish News online here.

You might also like to watch the documentary Home Game, which documents the final days of Gusk Katif via the experiences of an Israeli basketball team. You can also read here about the community of Netzer Hazani, who were uprooted from their homes and are now striving to rebuild the town.

14 Responses to “When Israel makes me angry and sad”

  1. Lynne says:

    Chassy, it is rare that you say something critical of Israel so I suspect this is heartfelt.

  2. Jonathan Bush says:

    Chas, you are right, but the Gaza Disengagement was far from the first time. One of today’s problems is smuggling through the porous Gaza Egypt border. Had Israel not disengaged from the Sinai in 79, today’s problem could not exist. The pattern is clear:
    Agitate, play the suffering card and blame violence on oppression.
    The West supports feeding the crocodile.
    Israel is pressured to make painful sacrifices for peace
    Loop back to start, because the sacrifice wasn’t real and wasn’t enough.

    • Matt Pryor says:

      Part of the problem is that people have such short memories. The sacrifices Israel makes for peace are quickly forgotten, buried under headlines of perceived injustices committed more recently.

      People who are contemptuous of Israel are never going to be appeased or swayed by the concessions Israel makes. And from the other perspective, if the Israel government can’t stand up for Israel how can other people around the world do so?

  3. Tal H says:

    It was obvious that missiles would start bombing Sderot once Gush Katif is out. It was obvious Hamas would see a victory in this evacuation and shall tighten its hold on the Palestinians. We were all warned but too many chose to ignore and so, we pay the price by having to stay put and not react when our cities are bombed.

  4. Matt Pryor says:

    Thanks Chas for a timely reminder of the *real* ethnic cleansing carried out by the State of Israel.

    All to make the rest of the world happy and to be liked. All they get in return is more hatred and more terror.

    Makes you want to weep doesn’t it?

  5. Israelinurse says:

    What pains me is that I remember only too well how 5 years ago the world patted us on the back and assured us that if there was any future trouble, we would have international support for our actions of self defence after our withdrawal from Gaza.
    All we got was condemnation.
    I for one will try to make sure that we do not make the same mistake of believing the sugar-coated platitudes of the international community in the future.

  6. naomi says:

    despite the formation of the hamas ministate, i still think sharon was right. gaza is a headache in or out of israel, it’s not like there wouldn’t be problems there if israel had not withdrawn.

    i also have little sympathy for the settlers. gaza is not a place historically tied to jewish people, so why did they go there?

    but mostly it comes to tzipi livni’s justification – we want israel to be democratic, and we want it to be a jewish state. it can’t be both if the occupied territories are annexed, because arabs will outnumber jews, so the only long term answer is a two-state solution. leaving gaza was a step towards that.

    • Leonie says:

      I agree that Gaza is a pain in the ****. I think when it came into Israel’s hands there were 750000 people and now there are double that (because of the health care the population got under Israel death-at-birth rate went down to almost zero. When I gave birth in Ashkelon, many of the other women were Arabs from Gaza – another sign that if Israel’s into ethnic cleansing, she isn’t very good at it). Begin tried to make Gaza part of the deal with Egypt (ie Egypt taking it) in 1977-8 but Sadat wouldn’t have it. It’s all in the past now but it isn’t true that there’s no Jewish past. Gaza has a rich Jewish past:

  7. AG says:

    The pain and suffering that was caused to the settlers is alarming and terrible, however in the same way that Palestinian cities are flyered before raided, the people would have been warned that they were to be evacuated, and again as we have seen fomr the avrious briefings before the floatilla incident and also in the film re-enactment (see the Israeli film “disengagement” – or rather don’t it’s terrible..) the soldiers would have been instructed to treat their Jewish Israeli brethren with as much respect as possible..

    Surely if Israel was still holding onto Gaza it would be more trouble than it was worth – even if the best cherries in israel did come from Gush Katif…

    Sharon once said, that it was imperative to remove Gaza from Tel Aviv and by withdrawing, we did just that, (slowly) paving the way towards a Palestinian state alongside a democratic Jewish state – fulfilling both dreams of Palestinian Nationalism and Zionism.

    שגילעד יחזור עלינו

  8. Richard says:

    I also try to imagine what Sharon would make of today. I am also sure that had he not been struck down things would not have disintegrated like this and he would still be PM.

  9. MonkZy says:

    Thank you for the two links at the bottom of the post. I am glad to see people from the former settlements are beginning to make new communities inside Israel. I think Israel made the right move in 2005, although it is incredibly sad to see people displaced from villages and towns they had dwelled in for over 30 years. The looting that followed the expulsion was not called for, many people had made investment in the greenhouses in order to provide work for the over 4000 Palestinian people employed at the farms before the expulsion of the Jewish farm owners. Nearly 1/4 of the greenhouses were left unusable after the looting was over.

    I am uncertain how to gauge the level of hate the world harbours towards Israel. I do not think the Israeli government disengaged from Gaza in order for the world to love them, they did it in an attempt to forge peace. The subsequent missile attacks seem to show their efforts were thwarted, and the war continues. I guess peace will always be a slow process, possibly endless. While efforts are made to create peace we will have more progress.

    This too will pass.

  10. evaM says:

    Inside documents of the Free Gaza Movement seized in the recent flotilla expose considerable discrepancies between its strategy and tactics and its public stance. The documents prove, among other things, the attempts to conceal the aid to the Hamas administration since Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation in the US.”

    It needs to be read by as many as possible”!!!
    Galloway mentioned often the slimy B….

  11. Jill says:

    I completely agree with you Chas. The Gush Katif people have been treated abominably, not just by Israel but by American Jews who have spurned their efforts to seek help from them.

    There is always hope of course – I hope I’m not sounding glib here, but the trauma of being uprooted – and for the sheer uselessness of that uprooting – is something I don’t think many people will be able to move past for a long time.

    But if they can at least get some land then new building will lend hope to new lives. There are some wonderful opportunities in that area and I hope they can take full advantage with our help and with the help of the Friends of GK.

    As for the Hamas “people” using those homes for training camps – well that is all they are capable of – destrcution and murder. But ooooh, that’s soooooooo cool, innit?

  12. Jill says:

    Matt P, I really don’t think references to “ethnic cleansing” are warranted or helpful.

    It was a shocking error of judgment in a sea of errors but until every single Israeli -including the idiotic Lefty types – unite against the Muslim hordes in that area and understand Islam for what it is, the govt will keep making these errors.

    I agree with you about the weeping, but more for the fact that the hunger to compete with America by the French and its alliance with the Arabs has led to this horrible mess.
    Jew hatred and overnweening (French and EU) ambition has brought Europe to its knees and it will always hate Israel – for fighting back, or for surrendering, doesn’t matter which.

    (Not sensible people, Chas, of which there are many, but suckers up to Islam do not fall in that category.)

    Ooh, tired. Night, all.

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