Resident Of Gush Katif Just Before Forced Evacuation

On August 17, 2005, the Israel Defense Forces were forced to vacate Jewish settlements from the southern Gaza strip after a government decison led by the late General and Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.

The Palestinian settlements within the Gaza strip were called “Gush Katif,” roughly translated to the “harvest Block.” On top of the amazing produce grown in those settlements and amazing beaches, Gush Katif was a crucial part of a continuous line of the Israeli population that was meant to keep the Egyptian border quiet and prevent local Arabs from further expansion. 

Ariel Sharon, who had a long history of right-wing Israeli politics on top of an impressive military career, was the last person Gush Katif settlers thought they had to be afraid of. However, in the later part of his first and only term as PM, Sharon began campaigning for vacating the Gaza strip and Northern Samaria settlements. His reasoning behind these surprising policy changes was unclear. Many from his inner circle later claimed that Sharon was simply a man of peace after all the wars he had fought and that peace to him meant giving the Palestinian population a chance to develop sovereign governance in the Gaza strip. 

Other insiders speculate that Sharon was trying to show the U.S. President, George Bush, who was calling for Israel to show their commitment to the Peace Plan, that it was not Israel who was non-committed; rather, it was the Palestinians who kept refusing compromises. Despite all the backfire and uproar from who would usually be his voters, the bill to vacate Gaza was approved by the Knesset, and the job of physically removing the settlers of Gush Katif was left to the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. 

The footage from those days remains a wound that, for many Israelis, is not healed to this day. The act of the Israeli Defense Forces being ordered to remove fellow Israelis from their homes physically was unimaginable and, to many, even went against Jewish law. 

The aftermath of Gush Katif on a national security level was not what Sharon expected or lived to see with his own eyes, as he was put into a medically induced coma shortly after the evacuation due to a stroke. Not long after Israel handed the area back to the Palestinians, a bloody civil war began between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority's Fatah party. P.A. security officials were publicly executed and in the end, Hamas took control and remained there after suspected elections showed they were the preferred leaders for the Gazan population. Today, Gaza remains under the control of the internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas, despite many hopes that a democratic election would lead to more moderate leaders in the strip. 

As for the actual land where Gush Katif stood, residents had left factories, greenhouses, and all the agricultural equipment that would allow the Palestinians in Gaza to continue producing and exporting products that were hailed by European countries as 'being among the best quality in the world. Instead of continuing where the builders of Gush Katif left off, the Palestinians came in right after the evacuation and destroyed the existing structures. What was once an oasis reminiscent of the Garden of Eden surrounded by barren, unforgiving desert was quickly destroyed. Seventeen years later, the 'vibrant green of the Gush' is no more. This reality has only compounded the pain felt by former residents.

Gush Katif residents who were taken out of by force still mourn the loss of their homes and dream of the day they may be able to return once more to what most of them view as part of the “promised land''. Many Israel advocates use the lessons learned from the evacuation of Gush Katif as solid proof that not only do the Palestinians not want to live in peace with Israel, but they don't even want to take care of their people. The produce grown in the area could have sustained the population and even helped them flourish with the high quality bringing in top prices. Yet, it was destroyed for no reason other than following the words of radical Islamic leaders.

A right-wing Israeli newspaper wrote in commemoration of the ‘travesty’: “Even today, 17 years later, our brothers who live in the Gaza Strip, who are hiding in their homes from the threats of the enemy that we fostered, remind us that the deportation from the settlements of Gush Katif and northern Samaria was an unnecessary disaster that levied too high of a price.”

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