Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a harvest of bitter fruit

Three years after the disengagement from the Gaza Strip it has yet to yield anything but bitter fruit. Certainly, Israeli security has deteriorated alarmingly so on the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, and as for the former residents of the Gaza Strip - it has been a trial worthy of Job. In 2005, many expressed resentment at the alleged compensation packages offered the Gaza Strip refugees, but to date the compensation has yet to be fully paid out. Many are still without permanent housing and if that was not insult enough, now the Gaza Strip farming are reduced to taking the Israeli government to court to live up to its contractual obligations. Arutz Sheva is reporting this:
(IsraelNN.com) Refugees from destroyed communities in Gush Katif have appealed to the Supreme Court to force the government to enforce a pre-disengagement decision to erase refugees' debts to the World Zionist Organization.

The decision to erase debts incurred by Gush Katif pioneers when they established their communities was made by the Knesset Finance Committee in 2004. As with other areas around the country, Gaza communities benefited from long-term loans from the Jewish Agency in order establish farming infrastructure, but when the Sharon Administration decided to pull out of Gaza, it became clear that local residents would be unable to repay the debts.

Because the Finance Committee had supposedly "taken care" of canceling Gush Katif debts to the World Zionist Organization, the Knesset Laws Committee did not enshrine the debt erasure in the 2005 Evacuation – Compensation Law. As a result, Gaza residents were left with little legal protection and saddled with debt for farming equipment and farm land they can no longer access.

According to Anita Tucker, formerly of Netzer Hazani, the debt repayment is an especially sore point for pioneers who built up Jewish Gaza soon after the area was liberated from Egypt during the Six Day War. "When we came to Gush Katif over 30 years ago, the World Zionist Organization gave a package of benefits to encourage agriculture in development areas. We received various essentials to start a farm. I was a farmer in Gush Katif for 29 years. We were in the process of paying back those initial benefits, when the government threw us out of the land, that it had originally encouraged us to develop."

Three years after the government forcibly removed Gaza's Jewish residents from their homes, expellees continue to be scattered in a variety of temporary housing arrangements, and most remain without suitable employment options. Most refugees survive on compensation payouts they received at the time of the eviction.
To raise funds to build a new dairy infrastructure in order to create a post-disengagement source of economic stability, some former Gush Katif communities sold shares in Tnuva, Israel's largest dairy product manufacturer. There is now a foreclosure order for approximately 3 million shekels on that money in order to cover the debts the refugees owe to the Zionist organization.

Depending on your politics and your humanity, you may have very little sympathy for the plight of the Gush Katif refugees but do not think there plight does not have far reaching repercussions on the world stage. Any future land for peace swaps any Israeli administrations may attempt to bargain with will rest on successfully convincing the Israeli citizens of Judea, Samaria, or the Golan Heights to leave their homes and businesses relatively peacefully have been irrevocably marred.

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