Gush Katif

Gush Katif ( _he. גוש קטיף, _en. "Harvest Bloc") was a bloc of 17 Israeli settlements in the southern Gaza strip. In August 2005, the 8,000 residents of Gush Katif were evacuated from the area and their homes demolished as part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.

Geography

Gush Katif was located in the south-west edge of the Gaza Strip, bordered on the southwest by Rafah and the Egyptian border, on the east by Khan Yunis, on the northeast by Deir el-Balah, and on the west and northwest by the Mediterranean Sea. A narrow one-kilometer strip of land populated by Bedouin Palestinians known as al-Mawasi lay along the Mediterranean coast. Most of Gush Katif was situated on the sand dunes which separate the coastal plain from the sea along much of the southeastern Mediterranean.

Two roads served the residents of Gush Katif: Road 230 which runs from the southwest along the sea from the Egyptian border at Rafiah Yam through Kfar Yam to Tel Katifa on the bloc's northern border, where it entered Palestinian-controlled territory, and Road 240, which also runs parallel to the sea approximately one kilometre inland, and upon which the majority of the settlements and traffic were located. Road 240's southern end turned south to reach Morag and continued to Sufah and the Shalom bloc of villages south of the Gaza strip, while its northern end turned east to the Kissufim junction, and served as the main route into Gush Katif. These roads were forbidden to Palestinian drivers.

While Kfar Darom and Netzarim were originally accessed along the main road to Gaza (known as "Tencher Road"), Israeli and Palestinian traffic was separated after the Oslo Accords, and Netzarim was isolated as an enclave accessed only through the Karni crossing and the Sa'ad junction. In 2002, a bridge was built for Road 240 over the Tencher road so as to physically separate the two arteries and allow unobstructed travel for both Palestinian and Israeli traffic.

Demographics

About 8,000 residents lived in Gush Katif, [ [http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/stats_data/gaza_strip_settlements.html Foundation for Middle East Peace, "Settlements in the Gaza Strip"] ] many of them Orthodox Religious Zionist Jews, though many non-observant and secular Jews also called it home. The area also included several hundred Muslim families, mostly of the al-Mawasi Bedouin community, who while technically Palestinian residents, were able to enjoy freedom of movement within the Israeli areas due to their peaceful relations.

History

While the village of Kfar Darom existed in the 1930s and 1940s until the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Gush Katif began in earnest when in 1968, Yigal Allon presented an initiative for the founding of two Nahal settlements in the center of the Gaza Strip. He viewed the breaking of the continuity between the northern and southern Arab settlements as vital to Israel's security in the area, which had been captured the previous year in the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1970, Kfar Darom was reestablished as the first of many Israeli agricultural villages in the area. Allon's idea was ultimately designed with five key areas (or 'fingers,' thus being called by some the "five-finger print") slated for Israeli presence along the length of the Gaza Strip. After the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty and the dismantling of the fifth 'finger' (Yamit bloc) south of Rafah, the fourth (Morag) and third (Kfar Darom) strips were united into one bloc that would become known as Gush Katif. The second finger, Netzarim, was very much connected to Gush Katif until the arrangements following the Oslo Accords, while the bloc on the dunes north of Gaza, which straddled the Green Line, was more a part of the Ashkelon area communities. [http://www1.idf.il/dover/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=22&docid=43198&clr=1&subject=43024&Pos=1&bScope=False]

Throughout the 1980s new communities were established, especially with the influx of former residents of the Sinai. Most of the bloc's communities were established as agricultural cooperatives called moshavs, where the residents from each town would work in clusters of greenhouses just outside the residential areas.

Economy

In the Katif Bloc’s unique greenhouses, a uniquely developed advanced technology was used to grow bug-free leafy vegetables and herbs answering to the strictest health, aesthetic and religious requirements. Most of the organic agricultural products were exported to Europe. In addition, the community of Atzmona had Israel’s largest plant nursery, and with 800 cows, the Katif dairy was the second largest in the country. Telesales and Printing were other notable industries.

The total sum of exports from the greenhouses of Gush Katif, which were owned by 200 farmers, came to $200,000,000 per year and made up 15% of the agricultural exports of the State of Israel.

The combined assets in Gush Katif were estimated at $23 billion.

Of Israel’s total exports abroad, Gush Katif exported:
*95% of bug-free lettuce and greens
*70% of organic vegetables
*60% of cherry tomatoes
*60% of geraniums to Europe.

The Economic Cooperation Foundation, which is funded by the European Union, agreed to purchase the greenhouses for $14 million and transfer ownership to the Palestinian Authority, so that the 4,000 Palestinians employed to work in them could keep their jobs. Former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, contributed $500,000 of his own money to the project.

When the IDF left Gaza, thousands of Palestinians looted the area, and 800 of the 4,000 greenhouses were left unusable. [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/hothouses.html] [http://editorial.gettyimages.com/source/search/details_pop.aspx?iid=55391677&cdi=0] [http://editorial.gettyimages.com/source/search/details_pop.aspx?iid=55392180&cdi=0]

Palestinian attacks

Although the Gush Katif settlements and the roads leading to it were guarded by the Israeli Army's Gaza Division, settlers were still vulnerable to attacks.

During the First Intifada (1987-1990), which broke out in nearby Gaza, the residents of Gush Katif were on the forefront of the violence and were subject to frequent stoning of traffic among other incidents.

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada (2000), Gush Katif settlements were the target of thousands of violent attacks by Palestinian militants. More than 6000 mortar bombs and Qassam rockets were launched into Gush Katif, causing mostly property and psychological damage with very few fatalities, but heavy shock and fear. Most of the ground attacks were infiltrations and shootings. In one of these attacks, three Palestinian children, aged 14, 12 and 8–10, infiltrated a settlement and tried to stab Jewish children.Fact|date=August 2008 There were also attempts to infiltrate by sea.

Palestinian attacks on Israeli vehicles traveling on the Kissufim road were very common. In one of these attacks, in May 2004, Palestinian militants killed Tali Hatuel, who was eight months pregnant, and her four daughters, aged two to 11. In another, a school bus was bombed, leaving two dead and several maimed children.

Many of the ground attacks on Gush Katif were thwarted by the Israeli military.

Controversy

Gush Katif's location within the greater Gaza Strip was for many a source of controversy.

Its location was initially the main reason for its founding, as an Israeli civilian presence was important for cementing control of the area so as to prevent any future invasion from Egypt or its use as a staging area for fedayeen attacks, and indeed this rationale was echoed following the 1967 Six Day War by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff [ [http://www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Jewish+Education/Eye+on+Israel/Current+Issues/Peace+and+Conflict/Disengagement/2.+History+of+Gush+Katif++Gaza+Strip.htm] ]

As Israeli-Palestinian conflict ensued, the security argument included that an Israeli presence prevented heavy bombardment of long-range Katyusha rockets on Israeli towns such as Sderot and Ashkelon (as indeed happened, after the disengagement), and served as an outpost for intelligence gathering and preemption against suicide bombers and other infiltrators. This arrangement, however, proved to be less and less useful as attacks on Israel proper using rockets and mortars started well before the Israeli withrdawal from the occupied Gaza Strip.

Many advocates of settlement in Gush Katif view it as part of the Land of Israel and thus subject to a theological injunction for settlement, and some also assert a right of return to Gaza, as Jews had been living there for over 1600 years until they were moved out by the British during the 1929 Palestine riots. [ [http://www.gushkatif.com.au/] ]

However critics of Gush Katif pointed to some of the same arguments as reasons to discontinue settlement there. Especially as Palestinian attacks intensified to unprecedented levels during the al-Aqsa Intifada and the Israeli military presence increased proportionally, the bloc was seen by some as being an unnecessary theatre of confrontation that acted as a drain on the IDF's resources, especially in extreme cases such as Netzarim in which during certain periods of intense violence on the roads was only accessible via helicopter. The increasing security measures taken by the IDF including checkpoints and restrictions on Palestinian travel, as well as the creation of extended buffer zones near settlements were also seen as negatively impacting the Palestinian population's human rights. Other critics pointed to the occupation of part of the Gaza Strip's land by the settlements for a small population, relative to the extremely dense Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. Despite Gush Katif's having been constructed on barren sand dunes, it was also criticised for blocking access to 1/3 of the Strip's seashore from cities such as Rafah and Khan Yunis. For example, Palestinians were forcibly banned from the beaches near Israeli settlements and forbidden to use Gaza's coastal road in these areas.

Evacuation

On August 13, 2005, the Gush Katif region was closed to non-residents, in keeping with the plan to evacuate the Katif bloc. Though effectively violating the Disengagement law which most residents viewed as highly immoral and illegitimate, most settlers did not voluntarily leave their homes or even pack in preparation of the eviction. On August 15, 2005, the forcible evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements began. On August 22 2005, the residents of the last settlement, Netzarim, were evicted. In essence, many residents returned to pack the contents of their homes and the Israeli government began the destruction of all residential buildings. On September 12, 2005, the Israeli Army withdrew from each settlement up to the Green Line. All public buildings (schools, libraries, community centres, office buildings) as well as industrial buildings, factories and greenhouses which could not be taken apart were left intact. On that day, thousands of overjoyed Palestinians (with the approval of Palestinian Authority officials and police) took part in the ransacking, vandalism, and destruction of the synagogues. "The Israelis destroyed our homes and our mosques. Today it is our turn to destroy theirs,” said one man in Netzarim. Originally, the Israeli cabinet had planned to destroy the synagogues and yeshivas as well, but on the previous day, the government caved in to pressure from religious Jewish organizations and reversed its decision. [cite news|url=http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050911/ap_on_re_mi_ea/israel_palestinians_18
title=First Israeli Army Convoys Depart Gaza |author=JOSEF FEDERMAN/ |pub=Yahoo! |date=September 11, 2005
] [cite news|url=http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1489529,00050004.htm |title=Palestinians set Gaza synagogues on fire |author= |pub=Hindustan Times |date=September 12, 2005]

Settlements in Gush Katif

* Bedolah בדולח (lit. Crystal)
* Bnei Atzmon בני עצמון
* Gadid גדיד (lit. picking of palm tree fruits)
* Gan Or גן אור (lit. Garden of light)
* Ganei Tal גני טל (lit. Gardens of dew)
* Kfar Darom כפר דרום (lit. Village of the South)
* Kfar Yam כפר ים (lit. Village of sea)
* Kerem Atzmona כרם עצמונה
* Morag מורג (lit. Harvest scythe)
* Neve Dekalim נוה דקלים (lit. Palm tree Oasis)
* Netzer Hazani נצר חזני
* Pe'at Sade פאת שדה (lit. the edge of the field)
* Katif קטיף (lit. harvest, picking of flowers)
* Rafiah Yam רפיח ים
* Shirat Hayam שירת הים (lit. Song of the Sea)
* Slav שליו(lit. Quail)
* Tel Katifa תל קטיפא

The Gush Katif settlements were concentrated in one block in the south-west edge of the Gaza Strip and were surrounded by fence.

In addition to Gush Katif, there were three Israeli settlements on the north edge of the Gaza Strip (Elei Sinai, Dugit and Nisanit), and another near its center (Netzarim).

See also

* Gaza strip
* Israeli settlement
* Religious Zionism
* Occupied territories
* Israeli-occupied territories

References

Further reading

* [http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/gaza_strip_1999.jpgMap of Gaza Strip, showing settlements]
* [http://www.katif.net/ Gush Katif official website] (Hebrew), [http://english.katif.net/ English version]
* [http://www.gushkatif.net/ Virtual Tour of Gush Katif]
* [http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/stats_data/gaza_strip_settlements.html Gaza population figures]
* [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/gaza_settlements.html The Gaza Strip] "Jewish Virtual Library"
* [http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/ny-wogaza0816pg,0,4631540.photogallery?coll=ny-worldnews-toputility Photos: Gaza Withdrawal] Newsday.com (104 photos)
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6224-2004Jul22.html Jewish Settlements, Outposts Expanding Despite Pledges] Growth Most Striking in Gaza Strip, Report Says, By John Ward Anderson, "Washington Post" Foreign Service, Friday, July 23, 2004; Page A26

External links

* [http://www.yadkatif.com Yad-Katif - Gush Katif Memorial - Videos, songs and thousands of photos]
* [http://www.katifund.org/English/ Gush Katif Committee established after the disengagement]


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