Gaza evacuees vow 'total chaos'

Activists are planning to jam roads across the country and hold mass protests.

gaza pullout protest 88 (photo credit: )
gaza pullout protest 88
(photo credit: )
Fed up with what they call "betrayal" by the government, thousands of Gush Katif evacuees have broken off talks with the government on a variety of issues and are planning a mass struggle beginning next week to force the state to dramatically improve its efforts in caring for their well-being. Organizers of the Forum for those Injured in the Disengagement, as they are calling it, are making plans to jam roads across the country, hold mass demonstrations in front of prominent politicians' homes, seal off caravan communities in Nitzan and other towns, pull their children out of school, and generally "create total chaos," according to Forum leader Yoram Musavi. "Until today we were good children. That's over now. We're not going to be good kids anymore," Musavi said. "It wasn't God who evacuated Gush Katif, it was the State of Israel. And like it took them out, it needs to take care of them and until then we are going to make total chaos." In response, Government Spokesman Ra'anan Gissin called the timing of the protests political. "It's election time, what do you want?" Gissin said. "The administration that's taking care of it is going out of its way to help, and some of [the evacuees] have a particular axe to grind and it's them that are behind this march." The decision to hold mass demonstrations represents a significant change in the tactics of the Gush Katif evacuees who have quietly negotiated with the government over the last six months on many issues concerning their future. However frustration has been mounting recently over what the evacuees say is the government's failure to deliver on a number of promises it made to them before and after the disengagement regarding compensation packages, temporary and permanent housing options, employment assistance, land for farmers, and social services. The Forum is demanding that Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appoint a committee of people from outside of the government to deal with the Gush Katif evacuees from now on, saying government representatives have been unresponsive to their needs and have instituted numerous bureaucratic hurdles which have impeded their efforts to rebuild their lives. They are also demanding the government amend the Disengagement Law to provide greater compensation for lost businesses. "We're going to demonstrate until the government understands that we are serious and they stop playing with us like they played with us until today," Musavi said. "If it takes force, we'll use force because doing it nicely hasn't worked." The decision to "struggle" against the government came after representatives of the Committee of Gush Katif Settlements walked out of a Tuesday meeting in Nitzan with the directors-general and other high-ranking officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the Housing and Construction, Education and Agriculture ministries, and the Disengagement Authority. The evacuees were upset that a request from the government to provide social workers for the more than 1,000 Gush Katif teenagers had gone unheeded. "Fifteen hundred people that were in Gush Katif are not working, the farmers haven't returned to working in the farms and that is really hard," said Construction and Housing Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuav. "They need to get land and they need to build greenhouses and they need to receive the compensation packages, and so the stress really boiled over in the meeting." "When you take people out of their houses and their community, it's a big crisis," Abuav said. Around 30 percent of Gush Katif evacuees still do not have temporary housing solutions, and only a handful have settled on land to build permanent homes, according to figures provided by the Gush Katif committee and the Disengagement Authority. Additionally, only 18 of 220 farmers had received land to plant new crops and around 1,500 of 2,100 people who lost their jobs as a result of the disengagement were still unemployed, the Gush Katif committee said. There is a large discrepancy in the numbers issued by the Gush Katif committee and the Disengagement Authority regarding how many families have received the financial compensation packages promised them under the Disengagement Law, and the amount of compensation which is being disbursed. Moreover, an analysis released by the Gush Katif Committee to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday showed that if the housing and employment situation remains as it is, the average Gush Katif family will have only around NIS 250,000 remaining from their compensation with which to build new homes when the time comes. In interviews in Nitzan on Thursday, evacuees described their financial and psychological condition as deteriorating. Compensation money they had received which was to be used to build houses was going towards paying rent and utilities and feeding their families, many said. "Making ends meet is getting harder every day," said Yichiam Sharabi, 60, a father of five who grew hot peppers on 14 dunam of greenhouses in Gadid. "By the time we get the land to build our homes, there won't be any money left." Sharabi, who left Gadid with his family on time and never protested before in his life, said he would join the struggle starting next week despite his distaste for politics. "Why not? We have to do something," Sharabi said. According to Guy Natanel, 33, from Nissanit, the people of Gush Katif were pushed to act out of desperation. "We have no money, no air, and nothing to start with, and even what was promised to us hasn't come or is coming very late," Natanel said. "We're broken, and that's why we're going to struggle."