17 August, 2005 Gaza: As Jewish Settlers clashed for a second day with the Israeli soldiers sent in to insure their evacuation from Gaza, none of them seemed to comprehend the extreme irony created by their struggle to remain in their homes.
As part of the Road Map for Peace, Israel is removing some 9,000 Israelis from 21 separate settlements in the Gaza territory, which it seized after victory in the “Six-Day War” of 1967. The territory is schedule to be turned over to Palestinian authority some time next month. The deadline for settlers to leave voluntarily expired on Monday, and after a two-day grace period, the Israeli army moved in to forcibly remove those who remained.
While soldiers carried them to awaiting buses, some of the settlers yelled angrily at the army personnel, while others merely wept. In Neveh Dekalim, the largest settlement in Gaza, around 1,000 hold-outs barricaded themselves into the synagogue, and there were reports that one woman set herself on fire to protest the forced evacuations.
“How can they come and remove me and my family from our home?” one unidentified Israeli woman screamed at nearby reporters. “We have lived here for twenty years,” she wailed, pointing to her home, which stands on the ground where Palestinians lived for some 2,000 years before her.
“What right do you have?” Gideon Harel demanded of four Israeli soldiers, as they carried him to a bus waiting to take him to temporary housing. “What gives you the right to take us from the land God gave us?” That the land’s previous owners—whose ancestors had lived on the very same plot for more than 400 years—have spent the past 30 years in a squalid refugee camp in Syria, never seemed to cross Harel’s mind.
And none of the group of 30 women, wearing signs around their necks that read only “victim”, seemed aware that they were the second group of people to be forcibly removed from the area in the past 40 years.
“You won’t be able to look at yourself in the mirror,” Avi Zidin said quietly, addressing the Israeli troops who were helping him remove several boxes and suitcases. “How could you, knowing you’ve robbed a person of his home like this?” Zidin’s son wasn’t as calm, as he protested the family’s removal. He was taken away more forcibly by Israeli soldiers after reportedly throwing acid on them.
Ahmed Abdullah, a Palestinian man in his late fifties, watched the events unfold on a small, 1970s television in the one-room, stone house where he and eight members of his extended family live. “I know just how that man feels,” Abdullah—whose cousin was shot dead by Israeli soldiers two years ago, and whose youngest son killed himself in a suicide attack—said of Zidin.