Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Shocking Conclusions From Inquiry Over Gaza Expulsions

by David Bedein

An Israeli soldier keeps watch at a machine gun post atop a guard tower overlooking the Jewish settlement of Netzarim and surrounding Palestinian lands inside a small army base contiguous with the settlement, several kilometers inside the Gaza Strip on Oct. 26, 2003. An Israeli government commission has released a report criticizing the government for its handling of the last pullout of settlements from Gaza. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

JERUSALEM - Four years and two months have passed since Israel expelled Jews from their homes in the Katif district of Gaza and from Jewish communities in Northern Samaria, after which the government bulldozed their homes and property, an official Israel state commission of investigation nto the Israeli government's handing of these deported Jews has issued its interim report.

The Israeli government investigation commission has concluded that the Israeli prime minister must take all practical steps for immediate and decisive action. “The state’s handling of the evacuees was tainted with failures. The obligation and stated purposes of the Israeli government was not implemented, and not enough was done for the majority of the evacuees,” states the interim report, that was filed so to allow the government to meet its obligations. According to the commission, headed by retired Israeli justice Eliyahu Matza, the treatment of the evacuees ought to have been made a national undertaking. “The treatment of the evacuees ought to be again placed at the top our national priorities, in action and not merely in declarations. This is the duty of the state, that in an effort to advance political and defensive aims has harmed a wide public. The state must hasten, it is a matter of human rights, of common human decency, of Jewish ethics.”

According to the summary report, only 250 families have begun building their permanent home, of the 926 plots that were allocated to the expelled families. The report states that some of the evacuees cannot begin building “because they lack the ability to fund the construction, since their money has been spend on their daily outlays, due to having failed to find employment. This problem concerns between 100 and 250 families that are undergoing severe economic difficulties, and it is worsening as long as they continue to reside in transient housing facilities.”

The commission also noted the worsening employment levels: whereas before the evacuation unemployment was nearly nonexistent, unemployment today stands at 16.2 percent - twice the national level. “The evacuation has directly brought about the high unemployment levels. The state must intensify its efforts to solve the employment problem, and if need be also resort to unconventional solutions,” the commission stated. Former judge Matza added that the interim report does not note those responsible for the failure and that this would be undertaken in the final report: “the report concerns an ongoing event, not merely something of the past, and it is therefore very compact and pragmatic.”

Israeli Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said at the event of the report’s release that “beyond all disputes, those who have been paying the price so far are those who have been removed from their homes, and most of them have not yet found permanent housing.”

The context of this report is that the government of Israel did everything in its power in the initial stage of the expulsion process to reassure public opinion that the Jews who were expelled from their homes were being taken care of - despite the petition to the Israel High Court of Justice by a bipartisan group of sociologists who brought overwhelming date to the court that the government of Israel had no real plan for resettlement of people from 26 communities that were being decimated.

The Israeli government at the time, under the leadership of then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, hired a top flight PR agency that blared a commercial, every hour on the hour, that "there is a solution for everyone being relocated."

On August 20, 2005, in the midst of the expulsions. Sharon's top advisor, Dov Weisglass and then Housing Minister Yitzhak Hertzog made presentations to the Conference of Major American Jewish organizations, in which these Israeli officials assured that the people being expelled would all have homes waiting for them, with ample funds to support them. Following these reassurances, a number of American Jewish groups spread the word that every family expelled from Katif was going to receive a grant of $400,000. In addition, Israeli government minister Shimon Peres assured Israeli public opinion that the American government was granting $2 billion to cover the expulsion and resettlement costs.

The investigation has put to rest any notions spread by Weisglass and Hertzog that people expelled by Israel were taken care of, while Peres's assurance of $2 billion coming from the U.S. government never came to fruition.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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