Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fool's Farmers

Remember those greenhouse farmers of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip? Well Arutz Sheva does:
The members of the Knesset's Audit Committee heard harrowing stories today from former residents of Gush Katif who continue even now, nearly a year and a half later, to suffer the consequences of being thrown out of their homes and lives.

One of the farmers who appeared at the Knesset today is Dudu Michaeli, formerly of Gadid (near N'vei Dekalim) and now of Nitzan. "I'm one of the very few crazy ones who has decided to jump into the water and return to farming," he told Arutz-7 afterwards, "but the other ones learn from my example and see why it makes no sense. I have 4.5 million shekels [over $1 million] invested in this; do you understand what that means? And yet the government has not provided me with my most basic needs: a permanent electric connection, phone lines, sewage, and the like. How do they expect me to run an international business without a fax?!"

Though he grew tomatoes and organic peppers in Gadid, Michaeli now grows mostly organic tomatoes. "But there are frost conditions here that kill off 20% of the produce," he says about his new location in Zikim, between Gaza and Ashkelon. "Not to mention the Kassams flying all around us. They remind us of the mortar shells we had in Gaza; they're the only thing we were able to bring with us in toto from Gush Katif."

Though Michaeli wants the government to provide him with weather protection for his greenhouses to protect against frost, and to supply better infrastructures so he can run his business, his main concern is the financial compensation that has not yet arrived:

"Most of the farmers have not received their promised compensation from the government for their homes and businesses. Imagine that you sell your home and then you're told that you won't get paid for a year and a half, or more; would you be able to exist like that?"

"The tragedy is," Dudu continued, "that there are five or six of us crazies who returned to work - but because of the government's inaction, there are another 200 who simply sit at home and have to answer their wives and children who ask, 'So what are you going to do today?' These are men who used to managing thriving businesses that brought money into the country, giving instructions to 20 or 30 workers - and now they sit at home."

"Even worse is the waste of resources in another way. Just like I have ten Jewish workers working for me in the packing plant, each of these 200 farmers could be employing another ten people. If just 40 more farmers were working now, another 400 people could be working! What a sad waste!"

The Knesset Members were moved by the stories of Michaeli and the others who came to testify, but it is not clear what they can do to alleviate the problems. Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon (Labor) said that the Evacuation/Compensation Law must be changed in order to help rehabilitate the expelled farmers. Knesset Member Uri Ariel (National Union) is at work on just such an initiative.

MK Ami Ayalon (Labor) said, "This is a problem of the entire State of Israel, and the Prime Minister - who wants to carry out another withdrawal in 2007 - must come here to give explanations. This is pure Chelm."

Forget for a minute the reasons why those farms don’t exist and focus on the compensation packaged brokered by the World Bank wherein the Economic Cooperation Foundation bought those greenhouses, and ask yourself; where did the money go, and why over 18 months later has the compensation not been paid to the former farmers of Gush Katif?


Anonymous said...

Very very sad. I supported the pullout, but with the hindsight, I was wrong. Perhaps they need Bibi back - what seemed like political games the looks like forsight today.

Michael said...

The compensation hasn't been paid because the gov't has it in for the religious Zionists... They're impartial in the way that James "F*** the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway" Baker is impartial.

But Dudu Michaeli is wrong about one thing: This isn't Chelm. The elders of Chelm were fools, but their hears were in the right place, and they were never malicious (at least, not in the stories I've read).

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Shelmazl, I really appreciate your acknowledgement. Now if only the Israeli government would do the same we might make progress. But I wonder why you believe you were wrong.

I argued against disengagement from the beginning. For me, it was easy. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Land for Peace formula has a proven track record as a failed doctrine. The short version of why Land for Peace has failed as more to do with the lack of understanding all the implications of the Palestinian position and underlying motivations rather than any alleged Israeli actions or shortcomings.

When the PLO proposed their Phased Plan in the early seventies, I took them at their word. I have yet to see any substantial change or deviations from that plan which would suggest their commitment to the Phased Plan is/was waiving in any way.

Furthermore, the FATAH/PLO Phased Plan is a doctrine which even an ideological enemy like Hamas, not only embraces it, but aspires to implement it, hence, all those promises of a 10-20 year truce or ceasefire suggestions.

So my original question stands but I would also to ask; knowing all that you know about the disengagement from the Gaza Strip would you still support wide scale withdrawals from the Judea and Samaria?


I have no doubt that the current Israeli government has no interest in maintaining or supporting religious Judaism. If anything, it is fully in the government’s interest to demonize and marginalize the religious from the larger Israeli community. Only the religious have the commitment to stand in strong opposition to any half-baked idea or plan to crave up the Israeli state. There is an interesting dynamic at play here. While Israel is the world’s only Jewish state, all the Israeli administrations after Begin have been most uncomfortable and quite apologetic for being the world’s only Jewish state. It’s like the Jewish character of the state embarrasses them.

For example, take the most recent campaign to lure foreign tourists to Israel. Ads of beaches, semi-naked gorgeous women, nightclubs, hip music. Ask yourself this; why does the government think a potential tourist should choose Israel over say the Caribbean? In Bermuda, there is far less chance of imploding and it has all the above.

There is only one thing about Israel which makes it totally unique from the world community and that lies in the nature of the state’s very Jewish character. Simply put; it is the Holy Land for at least two other large groups of potential tourists. So why not showcase it and sell it? Why try to downgrade it, change it, hide it, or when all else fails - apologize for it?

re: Gush Katif

What I think needs to come out is who actually received the money? Has the World Bank transferred the funds to the Economic Cooperation Foundation, and if so, has the ECF transferred the money to the Israeli government for distribution?

I remember reading a couple of months after the disengagement that a proposal was put forward whereby the farmers of Gush Katif would have their compensation packages downgraded due to the destruction of the greenhouses by the Palestinians. I have no idea if that proposal died a well earned death but what is incredibly clear is that the refugees from Gush Katif have been SOL ever since the withdrawal.

Michael said...

The Gush Katif folks have been SOL; that's just a fact, and it's what your original post was about.

I think that the gov'ts of Israel have been embarrassed by the religious Zionists more than anything else. These are a group of hardworking, industrious folks who really want to actually build the country (while the Israeli left hires paly construction workers to do the building...), and make it a place worth living in, where Jews can be Jews, of all stripes, and anyone else is welcome.

I think, however, that Israel as a collective entity is reacting to the world's anti-semitism the way that people frequently react to bigots and bullies: it ducks, averts its eyes, and hopes the problem goes away. I remember a time in college, at a bull session, when I just turned away and ignored blatant anti-semitism, because no one there knew I was Jewish. I wouldn't do that now. It's time for Israel to grow up, too.

Unfortunately, recent gov'ts have taken that embarrassment and translated it into policy, resulting in an unconscious "Maybe they'll like me if..." attitude that leads only to more bigoted demands and double standards.

Personally, I think that the State needs to de-secularize, reinstitute the Shabbat laws, require kashrut (except for non-Jewish owned businesses, and completely private institutions), and, as you said, start publicizing all of the amazing, unique, historical reasons for people to come here (whether as olim or tourists).

I also think that the Gush Katif evacuees are owed their comp packages, with interest. Now.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Michael, since I am all over the comments, its interesting you bring up Shabbat laws. Years ago (13-14 years ago) the provincial government in Ontario threw out its version of the Shabbat laws to allow full Sunday shopping. At the time, I was a big fan of ditching the prohibitions of a day of rest as it would make my life far more convenient if I didn't have to rush around trying to get all my shopping done before the big shutdown.

But instead of making my life easier, as I thought it would, I was forced to come to the startling conclusion that instead of rushing around 6 days, I was now spending 7 days rushing around.

I cannot count the number of gatherings that either went ahead without all invitees present and accounted for owing to work obligations or were cancelled out right because of no clear consensus of a common day.

I made a conscious decision to take a day back but I can't help but think my society is definitely a little poorer as a community for not having a common day of rest.

Michael said...

"But instead of making my life easier, as I thought it would, I was forced to come to the startling conclusion that instead of rushing around 6 days, I was now spending 7 days rushing around."

And now you see the Jewish people's greatest contribution to the world: A day off.

After the French revolution, the revolutionary gov't tried to alter the "day of rest" from one-in-seven to one-in-ten (remember, these were the folks who brought us the metric system!). People didn't buy it; there was too much rushing around, and no time to recharge. They had to go back to observing Sundays.

One of the best things about Israel is the very quiet atmosphere on Shabbat. Every Saturday, even in a half-Russian, highly secular town like Karmiel, businesses close, there's less traffic, people hang out with family and friends... it's a day for resting, visiting, praying if you want to. It's something that people need, and it's something that helps to unite us: religious or not, we all value the day of rest.