ISRAELI SETTLEMENT IN THE GAZA STRIP
Sixteen Israeli settlements have been established in the Gaza Strip, for a combined population approaching 6,000 people. The settlements in the Gaza Strip are concentrated in two main blocs: three settlements along Gazas northern border, Elei Sinai, Nissanit, and Dugit, form the Strips Northern Bloc, and eleven settlements together comprise the Katif Bloc in the southern Strip. These eleven settlements are known as Gush Katif. Gush Katif is located along the southern third of the Gaza Strips coast line, and is near the Strips main water aquifers.
Two settlements are isolated from these main blocs. The first is Netzarim, which lies just south of Gaza City, separating this largest Palestinian town from the Nuseirat, Bureij, and Maghazi Refugee Camps immediately to the south. The other is Kfar Darom, which abuts the Palestinian town of Deir al-Balah, and lies just north of Gush Katif. A third isolated settlement, Morag, lies east of Rafah and along the southern road leading from the Katif bloc to Israel (Morag has been included as one of the eleven settlements of Gush Katif).
As a result of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the Gaza Strip was one of the most densely populated land areas in the world even before Israel began its controversial programme of land confiscation and settlement after the 1967 occupation. Confiscation of land from its Palestinian owners has further contributed to the problem of overcrowding in the Gaza Strip, impoverished farmers deprived of their main source of income, and removed valuable agricultural land from the productive sector of an already weak Palestinian economy.
Israels settlement program has led to an absurdly disproportionate distribution of resources among the Arab and Jewish population in the Gaza Strip. Though comprising one half of one percent of the total population of the Gaza Strip in 1993, per capita, Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip had 73 times more land to live on than Palestinians living in built-up areas outside the Strips refugee camps, and 699 times more land per capita than each refugee camp resident. Settlers consumed nearly 16 times the amount of water.
SETTLEMENT IN THE GAZA STRIP: HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Settlement in the Gaza Strip began at a much slower pace than it did in the West Bank for a number of reasons. Gaza does not possess the historical and religious significance that the West Bank does for Jews. The fierce resistance of the local population to the Israeli occupation during the period 1967-71 discouraged Jewish settlement (only one settlement, Kfar Darom, was established in the Gaza Strip during the first five years of the Israeli occupation) and earned Gaza an enduring reputation among Israelis as a dangerous and inhospitable location. The strategic importance of the West Bank, as well as the greater availability of land in a less densely populated area also encouraged the concentration of settlement activity in the West Bank.
Israel chose instead to surround the Strip with settlements just inside the Green Line and near the Gaza Strips southern border in the Sinai, also taken in the 1967 war. By 1978, 13 settlements, including the beachside settlement of Yamit, were established in the Rafah region south of the Gaza Strip, serving as a buffer zone between the Strip and the Sinai peninsula. In 1972, an estimated 6,000 Bedouin were removed for security reasons from 140,000 dunams of land used for the settlements. Many of these Bedouin were subsequently employed as guards and as agricultural and construction workers in the settlements which stood on their land.
The Labour government established six settlements in the Gaza Strip during its decade in power. With Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation in Gaza quelled by 1971, the lone settlement of Kfar Darom was joined by five other settlements, which included Erez, an industrial zone along Gazas northern border; Netzarim in the central Gaza Strip just south of Gaza City; and Netzer Hazani, Morag, and Katif in the southern Gaza Strip. The five - established as nahals (settlement sites where soldiers perform their military service while preparing the sites physical infrastructure) without economic infrastructure or settled inhabitants during Labours tenure - were placed along the length of the Strip to control the main road to Sinai and provide access to Gazas water table. Many of the Strips later settlements were also begun as military outposts.
Under the Camp David accords signed by Egypt and Israel in March 1979, Israel withdrew from the Sinai peninsula and evacuated the approximately 4,500 settlers in the area in 1982. A new strategy calling for intensive settlement in the Gaza Strip was implemented, aimed at preventing the transfer of any territory of the Gaza Strip and at isolating the main towns of the Strip to inhibit unified political action.
The settlers of the Gaza Strip to some extent identify their project as a historical successor to the Sinai settlements. After the evacuation, 2,500 dunams of land were expropriated from the Palestinian village of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip for the pre-existing settlements of Erez and Nisanit, and for the proposed settlements of Nevetz Salah and Elei Sinai. The latter, literally to the Sinai, was built for settlers in 1983 forced to evacuate Yamit in the Sinai peninsula. Atzmona settlement, founded in the Sinai in 1979, was moved to Gush Katif as Bnei Atzmon in 1982. Ganei Tal (founded in 1978 on 1,200 dunams of land from Khan Younis) and Mitzpeh Atzmona (founded in 1979 on 2,000 dunams of land from Rafah) were founded in the wake of the Camp David signing.
In Neve Dekalim, the administrative centre of the Gaza Strip settlements, stands Yeshiva Yamit, named after the Yeshiva which had to be abandoned with the evacuation of the Sinai. A sculpture inside the Yeshiva was built as a monument to the settlements of Yamit, depicting demonstrators on the roofs of their houses protesting against the withdrawal, surrounded by sheets of broken glass.
The Likud government pursued an advertising campaign aimed in particular at religious Jews to further Gaza settlement, emphasising the beauties of the Gaza coast line. In 1982, the Jewish Agency published brochures which described Gaza as the Hawaii of Israel, and called upon the Israeli government to settle 100,000 Jews there. By 1985 an additional 12 settlements had been established.
The total area of the Gaza Strip is 365,000 dunams (140 square miles). Before the signing of the Oslo Accords, settlements covered 37,000 dunams, 168,000 dunams were lands cultivated by Palestinians, 56,500 dunams were areas settled by Palestinians, and 103,500 were dunes and barren land. The Israeli government has directly confiscated or otherwise remains in control of 42 percent of the land of the Gaza Strip following its redeployment in 1994. This section includes information regarding some of the cases of land confiscation the PCHR has documented since the signing of the Oslo Accords.
On 15 October 1994, Mohammed Oda al-Astal of Khan Younis was informed that land he owned which was needed for an Israeli government road building project had been declared state land. On 20 June 1995, Israeli contractors, backed up by Israeli military forces, demolished four greenhouses, a structure containing an electric motor, and a water well on his property. Al-Astal, who has documentation proving his ownership of the land, challenged the confiscation in Israeli military court. On 16 August 1996, the Court ruled that the land in question was owned by al-Astal and was not state land. Al-Astal has received no compensation for the damage to his property, estimated at U.S. $50,000.
On 13 September 1994, Israeli authorities wishing to confiscate a 360-metre by 8-metre piece of land owned by the al-Najjar and al-Laham families of Tel Ijnan, in the Muwasi area near Khan Younis, began work on the land, destroying several trees on the property. The land was wanted for a new road between Neve Dekalim and Kfar Yam settlement. After the intervention of the Joint District Co-ordination Office (DCO), work on the land stopped. On 13 June 1995, the Israeli authorities returned to try to open the road. Clashes took place between the landowners and the Israeli authorities, and shots were fired in the air. Israeli military and civilian vehicles subsequently began to drive on the land. Israeli forces returned 17 September 1995 to conduct further work, but left after clashes with Palestinians. The al-Najjar and al-Laham families have never received a confiscation order for this land from Israeli authorities.
In February and April of 1995, the al-Darawshe family, from the al-Qarara area near the Israeli settlement Netzer Hazani, were informed by the Israeli authorities that 20 dunams belonging to the family had been declared state land. Some 20 individual families belonging to the al-Darawshe extended family had been living there. On 20 June 1995, an Israeli bulldozer accompanied by an Israeli military force arrived and bulldozed the land and the families homes.
On 7 May 1996, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded two people during protests against confiscation of Palestinian land near Rafah. Three days later, further clashes ensued when 40-year-old Ibrahim Shalouf confronted Israeli bulldozers as they began to clear crops on his agricultural land. The soldiers shot Shalouf in the back and shoulder with rubber bullets. His family threw stones at the soldiers, who responded by opening fire and wounding four people. Soldiers and settlers also beat an elderly woman in the field.
On 26 September 1996, as clashes between Israeli military forces and Palestinians broke out throughout the Occupied Territories, Israeli bulldozers, backed up by Israeli military forces, cleared an area which had been declared state land. The land was an area of approximately 60-70 dunams, and was located in the northwest of Gush Katif, beside Netzer Hazani. The land has been joined to the settlement.
On 28 May 1997, IDF forces closed a road near Morag settlement and attempted to take the surrounding Palestinian land. A peaceful sit-in was organised to protest the land-grabs. The protesters removed the fencing from around their land and began to plant olive trees. The situation escalated, leaving two Palestinian civilians wounded by live ammunition, and an elderly man dead from a heart attack triggered by inhaling IDF tear gas.
At Netzer Hazani settlement near Deir El Balah city, on 15 June 1997, settlers surrounded 70 dunams of Palestinian land with barbed wire while a bulldozer guarded by armed settlers flattened it. Palestinian citizens congregated in the area to stage a peaceful sit-in, and a settler fired a pistol at Mohammed Ismail El Salaqwi, wounding him in the foot. The two sides engaged in negotiations, but on 2 July, Israeli settler again attempted to bulldoze. Approximately 150 Palestinians arrived on the scene to stage a peaceful sit-in, when military re-enforcements arrived and employed tear-gas and rubber bullets. Palestinian citizens began throwing stones, and Israeli soldiers employed live ammunition with fatal consequences for Maher Abdul Minaeim El Assar. El Assar was shot in the hear by a live bullet. The sides then resumed negotiations.WATER DIVERSION
The scarcity of water in Gaza, due among other factors, to Israeli diversion of the most important source of surface water (the Wadi Gaza) for the sole use of Israel, is further aggravated by Israels settlement policy.
While Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip are prohibited from digging wells, Jewish settlers face no such restrictions. Jewish settlers in the Strip have at least 35-40 wells in the settlements, generally dug at depths much greater than those of Palestinian wells. These wells and the more powerful pumps used by settlers draw water away from Palestinian wells. Furthermore, Palestinian farmers are subject to water quotas not imposed on their Jewish counterparts in the Strip.
The Israeli government subsidises water consumption among Jewish settlers such that Palestinians in Gaza pay on average four times what settlers pay per unit of domestic water, further encouraging higher rates of consumption among Israeli settlers. Israeli settlements have been built above the Gaza Strips most significant sources of drinking water; Israels diversion of Gazas water resources for Israeli settlers and residents of Israel proper has left Palestinians with less and inferior water. Whereas the domestic water supply in Palestinian areas has been so contaminated by salt water from the nearby sea that it is no longer potable, tap water in Israeli settlements is of a substantially higher quality.
SETTLER AND SOLDIER VIOLENCE AGAINST PALESTINIANS
As noted above, incidents of violence and intimidation perpetrated against Palestinians by Israeli settlers are carried out with virtual impunity. Similarly, Israeli soldiers stationed at checkpoints and military bases in that portion of the Gaza Strips territory which remained under Israeli military control following redeployment in May 1994 continue to harass and threaten Palestinians passing through or living in this territory. This section includes information regarding some of these incidents which PCHR has documented since the signing of the Oslo Accords. The incidents included below are by no means a comprehensive listing of acts of settler and soldier violence against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and have been included in order to give the reader a more tangible indication of the nature of such incidents.
In November 1993, settlers in the Gaza Strip rioted for three days after the killing of a settler from Kfar Darom and the wounding of a prominent Rabbi associated with settlements in a West Bank ambush. Settlers from Gush Katif shot and wounded at least four Palestinians, and injured a further 30. They set fire to ten greenhouses, destroyed one house, and closed the main Gaza City-Rafah road with burning tyres. The IDF declared a closed military area in order to allow for Palestinian schoolchildren to safely pass Kfar Darom settlement to their homes in Deir al-Balah refugee camp. Shortly thereafter, on 1 December 1993, a 7-year-old boy was shot in the head during clashes between settlers and Palestinians in Bureij Refugee camp.
On 3 November 1994, Ali Mahmud al-Astal, a 40-year-old farmer from Khan Younis who works in the Muwasi area, was riding his donkey cart from the Muwasi area to Khan Younis with his sons Sami, aged 12, and Najwa, aged 9. When al-Astal was about 300 metres from Neve Dekalim settlement he saw a settler car and moved to the side of the road. When the car reached him it stopped and a settler in civilian clothes got out. The settler put a gun to al-Astals head and order him to stop. After al-Astal asked the settler what he wanted in Arabic, the settler replied in Hebrew that he didnt understand. The settler took two boxes of guavas which were sitting on al-Astals cart, dumped them on the ground, and smashed them. The settler then beat al-Astal in the chest with his rifle butt. After knocking al-Astal to the ground, the settler left.
On 18 June 1995, Wasfi al-Astal, a 45-year-old farmer, was driving near Ganei Tal settlement with his son Hazim, aged 6, and his daughter Salwa, aged 12, from the Muwasi area to his home. When he passed near the Israeli checkpoint beside Ganei Tal settlement, two settlers in a car ordered him to stop. One settler had a handgun and the other an automatic rifle. The first settler ordered him to get out of the car in broken Arabic. After al-Astal asked the settler what he wanted, the settler cursed him in Arabic and put a gun to his head. The other settler approached the car and pointed his automatic rifle at the children, who were crying. Al-Astal took his children out of the car, and the two settlers then proceeded to search the boot of al-Astals car, removing all of its contents. The settlers removed fruit and vegetables from the car and smashed them. They then took al-Astal about three metres away from his children, and one ordered him to put his hands in the air and searched him. The settler took the small plastic folder containing al-Astals identification card and found a 20 NIS bill inside, which he subsequently ripped up. He then threw the identification card on the ground. The other settler hit al-Astal with the butt of his rifle. After al-Astal fell to the ground, both settlers kicked and hit him for about three minutes, and then drove off. Al-Astal then drove with his children to the DCO office in order to report the incident.
On 5 November 1995, Samir Ahmed al-Widaidi, a 35-year-old fisherman from Khan Younis, was driving to the hospital with his two-year-old son Ahmed and his wife in his brothers car. After leaving Khan Younis refugee camp, he noticed that an Israeli car coming from the direction of Gadid settlement was following him and driving very quickly. The Israeli car pulled up to the drivers side of Widaidis car and hit it. The two cars stopped and an Israeli settler got out of his car and pointed a gun at Widaidi, shouting and cursing at him. After Widaidi said, You are wrong, to the settler in Arabic, which the settler did not appear to understand, the settler shot a bullet in the air. Approximately one minute later, four Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene, surrounded Widaidi, and without questioning him began to beat him. The settler left the scene, driving to Neve Dekalim settlement. One of the soldiers picked Widaidi up off the ground and asked for his identification card. Widaidi refused to present his card, and the soldier slapped him in the face. He gave the identification card to another soldier while a third soldier searched the car, after ordering Widaidis wife and son out. While this confrontation was taking place, Widaidis son had been vomiting and his condition remained serious. After approximately ten minutes, the soldiers threw Widaidis identification card at his face, and drove their jeep away from the scene. After having his son treated at the hospital, Widaidi reported the incident to the DCO.
On 18 April 1996, Israeli soldiers, based at the checkpoint near Kfar Darom settlement in central Gaza, shot at a convoy of six Palestinian trucks belonging to the Palestinian Supplies Administration Department. These trucks were carrying flour and sugar from Egypt to Gaza City, and were accompanied by Colonel Mussa Abu Dayya, Director of Security for the Department. Colonel Abu Dayya had ordered the trucks to stop before reaching the southern military checkpoint by Kfar Darom Settlement. He approached an Israeli officer of the Joint Patrol by foot and informed him that all but one of the trucks had passengers accompanying the driver. The Israeli officer assured Colonel Abu Dayya that the convoy would be allowed to pass as long as the Colonel accompanied the convoy.
The convoy was instructed to continue and Colonel Abu Dayya travelled at the rear in his own vehicle. When the trucks reached the bridge linking two parts of the Kfar Darom settlement, Israeli soldiers fired on the truck which did not have the required passenger. The driver of the truck was not killed, but the truck and the goods it carried were severely damaged. The convoy was halted while the Israeli army checked the trucks; they were only allowed to continue following intervention from the Joint Patrol.
On 5 June 1996, Atiah Abu Samra, a 23-year-old, mentally retarded resident of Khan Younis Refugee Camp, was killed by Israeli soldiers by a military installation near Ganei Tal settlement. Abu Samra was unarmed when he was fired upon by Israeli soldiers.
An eye-witness stated that Abu Samra was walking near an Israeli military observation point, to the west of Khan Younis. It appears that Abu Samra was approaching sand dunes near al-Amal Avenue, around 150 metres from the observation point. The soldiers demanded that he stop. Israeli military sources state that when Abu Samra continued, two warning shots were fired by the soldiers. When he did not respond, the Israeli soldiers shot him once in the chest from a distance of about 15 metres. However, a witness reported hearing between five and seven bullets being fired from an automatic weapon. As noted, Abu Samra was alone and unarmed.
On 29 June 1996, Yahya al-Astal, a 64-year-old farmer from western al-Satar in Khan Younis, discovered that land he owned in the al-Muwasi area about 12 metres from the Palm Beach Hotel had been burned. Approximately twenty fig, guava, and date trees on al-Astals land had been destroyed by the fire, which witnesses told him had been started by a settler who brought trash from the hotel to the land and set fire to it.
On 30 December 1996, an Israeli settler inside Kfar Darom settlement shot and killed 33-year-old Ibrahim Abdullah Mohammed Abu Nasir. Abu Nasir, who suffered from mental illness, was walking near Kfar Darom settlement to visit a cousin who lived close to the eastern side of Kfar Darom at the time. It appears that Abu Nasir, who was unarmed, was killed in a well-lit and open area about 50 metres from an Israeli military watch tower inside the settlement, and posed no threat to the settlement or the settlers.
During the clashes which took place between Israeli armed forces and Palestinians in September 1996, Israeli settlers fired upon Palestinian demonstrators at Erez checkpoint and Kfar Darom settlement with live ammunition, according to eyewitness testimony gathered by PCHR. On 30 September, a senior Israeli officer was quoted by the Israeli daily Haaretz as stating that settlers and Israeli soldiers had shot at Palestinian demonstrators indiscriminately. He stated that this had been the main cause for the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, when the situation might otherwise have been contained.
In another instance of violence, Ibrahim Tawfiq Abu Ratima, a fourteen year old boy who was deaf and dumb, died from a shot to the head. On 3 July, 1997, Abu Ratima was walking in an unrestricted area near Morag settlement in Gaza. Israeli soldiers began shouting for the boy to approach them, but he could not hear their orders. The soldiers then fired one bullet directly to his head. It is significant that there were no clashes in the area at the time.
Documented evidence indicates that Palestinian protesters did not at any time present any significant threat to the lives of Israeli settlers, who live in well-fortified compounds, behind high electrified and barbed fences, and surrounded by well-armed Israeli soldiers.
The results of any investigations which may have been carried out concerning any of the incidents detailed above have not been made public.
On 1 January 1992, 3,410 Israeli settlers lived in the Gaza Strip, according to official Israeli government figures. By 31 October 1995, also according to official figures, the number of Gaza settlers had reached 5,277, an increase of 55 percent.
Settlement expansion has been facilitated in recent years by the creation of settlement blocs after Israeli redeployment in the Gaza Strip. During the first nine months after the Oslo Accords were signed until June 1994, 140 families moved into the settlements in the Gaza Strip, increasing the settler population by 850 people, or almost 20 percent. As Peace Now noted, [i]t seems that the Oslo Agreements which led to the [redeployment in] the Gaza Strip actually increased the security of the settlers in Gush Katif and led to a sharp increase in the number of inhabitants in the region.
During the Labour administration, although a ban was imposed on the building of new housing units in the settlements and on housing sales, empty housing units were made available in Gaza settlements for rent. Government approval was also given for the construction of public buildings in the settlements under the previous administration.
Today, virtually every settlement in the Gaza Strip has empty housing units. Under the Netanyahu administration, some units have already been made available for sale, while others are still in the process of being unfrozen. Settlements are apparently experiencing some difficulties in filling these units. Settlement leaders assert that this is due to a new policy implemented by the Netanyahu administration stipulating that empty units may be made available for sale only, and not for rent. They argue that young families and new immigrants often cannot afford to buy a new house, and that other potential settlers hesitate to buy a house in the Gaza Strip before they have had the opportunity to experience life in the settlements, presumably as a renter. Many settlers who rented these units under the Labour administration remain in the settlements and will now be in a position to buy.
With the backing of a number of right-wing MKs, the Hof Azza Regional Council is currently embarking on a campaign to assist squatters, who wish to move to the region but are either financially unable or unwilling to purchase a house in the settlements. Settlement leaders in Neve Dekalim state that five to six families have been assisted in this manner, and more squatters are likely move in. One settlement leader noted, [t]his is the beginning of a war.
Gaza settlers speak enthusiastically about the possibilities for expansion in their settlements, which continue to grow at a rapid rate. In 1996, for example, a combined total of 64 families and singles moved to Neve Dekalim. A number of settlement residents are building extensions to their homes, indicating that they do not believe evacuation to be a particularly imminent eventuality.
Regional Council officials state that three currently expanding settlements are Kfar Darom, which attracts young, religious-nationalist families; Katif, which attracts young families with children; and Neve Dekalim, whose size and range of services make it a desirable location.
IDEOLOGY AND GOALS
Although the Gaza Strip is generally not associated with Jewish religious beliefs akin to those associated with the West Bank, settlement leaders in Gaza emphasise the Biblical and historical connections of the Jewish people to the land of Gaza.
Settlement leaders note that Gaza is mentioned in Biblical stories about Samson and Isaac, and highlight the discovery of the remains of an alleged synagogue from the 6th and 7th centuries AD on the seashore west of Gaza City.
Settlement leaders also claim a strategic importance for Gush Katif as an outlet to the sea for southern Israel (it should be noted that the southern tip of the Gaza Strip is an hours drive from the Mediterranean Coast of Israel proper), and with an apparent lack of irony also claim its importance to the 700-1,000 local Palestinians which it employs.
Settlement leaders state that their emphasis will now be on expanding and strengthening existing settlements in Gaza, rather than on establishing new ones. Given the relatively high expansion rates Gaza settlements have enjoyed in recent years, and the financial and administrative support they believe they can expect from the Netanyahu administration (and indeed have already begun to receive), settlement leaders believe the Gaza settlement community will continue to expand rapidly in the coming years.
The administrative centre of the Gaza settlements and location of the Hof Azza Regional Council is Neve Dekalim, in Gush Katif. The head of the council is the mayor, who is elected to a four-year term. Zvi Hendel served two terms as mayor of the Gaza settlements before he was elected to the Israeli Knesset in the May 1996 elections. Hendel continues to live in Ganei Tal. Arelai Tsur has been elected as the new mayor of Hof Azza.
The mayor is assisted by a council of representatives elected from each of the settlements (representatives are not elected from Gush Katifs two quasi-settlements, Tel Katifa and Kfar Yam), and by a deputy mayor elected by the representatives from among themselves. The representatives do not receive monetary compensation. The council generally meets once a month and, inter alia, serves as a planning committee for the Gaza settlements.
Most of the services of Gush Katif are concentrated in Neve Dekalim. These include a post office, police station, health clinic, bank, dental office, supermarket, and numerous small commercial establishments. Neve Dekalim also hosts the Gaza settlements industrial zone, which has fifteen factories manufacturing products like wooden furniture and metal works, mostly for Israeli consumption. The industrial zone also has, inter alia, a printing house and a garage.
The economy of the Gaza settlements is based mainly on tourism and agricultural production for export. The Gaza settlements run three main beaches catering to Orthodox Jewish tourists. The Shikma beach is in the Northern Bloc, while Hof Temarim and Hof Ashalim are in Gush Katif. The Palm Beach Hotel, soon to become a Days Inn, (see p. 120) lies near Hof Temarim and also seeks to attract religious Jews.
Apart from tourism, local economic activity in the Northern Bloc consists mainly of fishing and running of fish farms in the area. Gush Katifs economy is concentrated on intensive greenhouse production for export. Some of the crops grown in Gush Katif are grown in sand according to the muwasi method, developed long ago by Gazan farmers, which takes advantage of the high groundwater levels (at 10-20 cm below ground). Eight of the settlements in the Gaza Strip are primarily agricultural.
Vegetable and flower exports from the Gaza settlements make up a significant market share of Israels foreign trade. Agricultural products from Gaza are marketed through the Israeli marketing board AGREXCO, and are labelled as a product of Israel when exported; no indication is given to consumers abroad that agricultural products have been grown in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. Settlement brochures proudly proclaim that half of Israels total tomato exports are grown in Gush Katif; other products exported include cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, squash, spices, flowers, houseplants, bonzai trees, seeds, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of organic vegetables grown without the use of chemical fertilisers or insecticides. Kfar Darom is home to a factory packaging lettuce and cabbage grown in a bug-free environment in accordance with Jewish law, under the label Alei Katif. In order to comply with Jewish law requiring that land be allowed to rest every seventh year, the settlements are experimenting with techniques for growing crops on special ramps constructed above the ground. Netzer Hazzani has four farms breeding tropical fish for export to Europe.
The Israeli government provides incentives for agricultural and industrial development in the Gaza Strips settlements. Before 1992, investors in industrial projects in the Gaza Strip could choose between a 38 percent bonus or a 66.66 percent loan guarantee with a 10-year tax exemption.
The Chief Scientists Office of the Israeli Ministry of Commerce and Industry runs the Western Negev Initiative Centre (WNIC) in Gaza, a technological incubator based in Neve Dekalim supporting research and development of new technological products with export potential and creating appropriate marketing strategies. The Centre receives 80 percent of its funding for each project from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It is one of 28 such centres run by the Ministry; two other centres are also located in settlements in the Occupied Territories. Additional funds and support for the centre are provided for the centre by the Western Negev Regional Councils, the Western Negev Development Corporation, the World Zionist Organisation, the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency, and private companies and investors. Projects supported by WNIC focus on environmental, computer programming, agro-technology, hi-tech electronics, and clean energy issues. The majority of their employees are new immigrants from western countries and the former Soviet Union.
Gaza settlement residents assert that unlike many settlers in the West Bank who commute to jobs in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or elsewhere in Israel, most settlers in Gush Katif are employed in local industrial, agricultural, and tourism sectors. They acknowledge that a number of female settlers from Gush Katif commute to jobs in Israel as nurses and teachers. Many settlers in the Northern Bloc commute to nearby Ashkelon.
Jewish settlers manage the factories, greenhouses, and fields producing the Gaza settlements industrial and agricultural products. With the exception of the new immigrants known as the Bnei Minashei group, labour in these factories, greenhouses, and fields is generally non-Jewish. Local Bedouins, 700-1,000 Palestinians mainly from Rafah and Khan Younis, and about 500 Thai workers constitute the settlements main labour supply. Workers in agriculture are hired privately by individual farm owners, and are not unionised. Palestinian and foreign workers in the Gaza settlements undergo an IDF security check.
HOUSING AND FINANCIAL INCENTIVES
While the previous Labour administration withdrew top development priority status from many settlements in the Occupied Territories, it reaffirmed most of the Gaza Strips settlements classification as an A development area. As such, the settlements of the Gaza Strip continue to qualify for the highest level of state support, which includes tax breaks, mortgage subsidies, educational subsidies, and various incentives for agricultural and industrial development. In addition to the provision of public services such as bus service, a post office and post service, a police station, road repairs, and the protection of the IDF, Gaza settlers receive significant financial assistance from the Israeli government for housing, agricultural and industrial development.
Almost all housing in the settlements is public (some houses in non-agricultural settlements in the Gaza Strip were built privately under the Build Your Own House scheme encouraged by both Likud and Labour administrations). Individuals who have recently used their right to purchase public housing elsewhere in Israel and the Occupied Territories are not eligible for housing in Gaza settlements. Some Gaza settlers who are thus ineligible to purchase public housing circumvent this prohibition by renting or living in homes owned by other individuals.
A two-bedroom, 70-square metre duplex on sale in Neve Dekalim, the largest of the Gaza settlements and the settlement thus enjoying the least governmental assistance, currently sells for NIS 165,400 (U.S. $50,121). Settlement leaders estimate that the same house on sale in Israel itself could run more than double this price. Furthermore, discussions currently being held with the government may lead to the lowering of this price to NIS 154,000 (U.S. $46,667). In the agricultural settlements of Gush Katif, the very same house currently sells for NIS 115,500 (U.S. $35,000). Settlers who already own a duplex and wish to purchase the other half are awarded a 10 percent discount on this purchase.
The basic mortgage rate for house purchasers in the Gaza settlements is 4 percent, with a linkage to inflation of 80 percent (other loans are often 100 percent linked to inflation). Settlers who stay in Gaza for 15 years are awarded a grant of approximately 1/4-1/3 the value of their home. (For example, a settler who purchased a house for NIS 132,000 [U.S. $40,000] would be given a grant of NIS 43,000 [U.S. $13,030] if he still owned the home 15 years later.)
Figures reported by the Labour Party newspaper Davar in March 1993 cited a mortgage of up to 95 percent of a houses value in Gush Katif, with $6,700 of this sum a grant. Houses of 650-square feet being built in Nisanit settlement in the Northern Bloc by the Histadrut construction company, Solel Boneh, were being sold for $44,500, including all infrastructure and development costs. Alternatively, one could purchase a 4,500 square foot plot of land in the settlement without the house for $1,850.
For renters determined eligible for financial assistance based on their income, rent may be heavily subsidised, with the rent paid by those receiving maximum assistance as low as NIS 40 per month (U.S. $12). Renters were eligible for these same subsidies under the previous administration. Like all settlers in the Occupied Territories, settlers in the Gaza Strip are also eligible for income tax breaks.
The Israeli government also provides financial assistance to encourage agricultural and industrial development. The government provides agronomists to advise on agricultural techniques in the region, and contributes 40 percent of the cost of building a greenhouse. Settlers rent land from the Israel Land Administration on a 99-year lease. In general, the remaining 60 percent of greenhouse construction must be paid by the tenant; construction of a plastic greenhouse costs approximately NIS 120,000 (U.S. $36, 364) while a glass greenhouse is approximately NIS 335,000 (U.S. $101,515). In some cases, the Jewish Agency has provided greenhouses to settlers wishing to engage in agricultural production.
Each settlement in the Gaza Strip has its own synagogue, for which the government usually contributes half the cost of construction.
According to settlement leaders, approximately 2,500 of the Gaza Strips total Jewish population of 6,000 are children. Each settlement has its own pre-school for the 427 children aged three months to three years in the Gaza settlements. Twenty-six kindergarten classes for children aged three to six in the Gaza settlements hold 668 children. Elementary and high school-aged children in the Northern Bloc are bussed to schools in Ashkelon. Elementary school children in the other settlements of Gaza are sent to one of two regional elementary schools in Gush Katif; 651 children attend Neve Dekalims elementary school and 479 children attend the elementary school in Bnei Atzmon. Neve Dekalim has an ulpana, attended by 164 high school girls mainly from Gush Katif, but also from across the Green Line. Most of Gush Katifs high school students, however, attend boarding schools in Israel or in the West Bank settlements.
Neve Dekalim houses a yeshiva hesder, established by special arrangement with the Israeli army. The yeshiva provides for males to combine two and a half years of army service (instead of the normal three) with two and a half years of religious studies. Atzmon has a mechina, a pre-military centre for Jewish studies for males.
The settlements in Gaza generally attract young, religious-nationalist families. Birth rates in the settlements are high. The settler community is made up both of native-born Israelis and immigrants from Europe, the U.S., and other Jewish communities abroad. Two particularly distinct communities of new immigrants live in Gush Katif. The first, Gush Katifs French community, is concentrated in Gadid settlement.
The second group hails from India and the Burmese border regions, and is a lost tribe of Judaism discovered by a Jewish researcher associated with the Israeli settlement programme in the Occupied Territories. Generally coming to Israel in small groups, the first Bnei Minashei immigrants arrived seven years ago. So far 250 Bnei Minashei have come to Israel and the Occupied Territories. Of these 110 have been brought to the Gaza settlements, while the others have been brought to Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank. The Israeli government does not recognise the Bnei Minashei as Jews, making it necessary for all Bnei Minashei to undergo a conversion process once they have reached Gush Katif or Kiryat Arba. Bnei Minashei have received substantial help from the settlements in which they settle. Neve Dekalim settlement, which hosts the Bnei Minashei who come to Gaza, pays for conversion ulpan (instruction in Judaism and intensive Hebrew classes) for the Bnei Minashei, gives them credit in the local supermarket, does not charge them taxes, and provides half their rent.
Bnei Minashei, unlike other Jewish settlers in Gaza, are generally employed as labourers in the agricultural and industrial sectors of Gush Katifs economy.
The IDF maintains a strong presence in and around the Gaza settlements, with checkpoints along the main Gaza City-Rafah road at and near the four main settlement junctions (Netzarim, Kfar Darom, Gush Katif, and Morag), along the roads leading into the settlements, along the roads leading from the Palestinian towns near Gush Katif to the coast, etc. Soldiers also guard the electronic gates at the entrances to each of the individual settlements in Gaza. The main Israeli military camp in Gaza, Nuria, is located near Neve Dekalim in Gush Katif. Several smaller military camps are also located within Gush Katif. The IDF maintains a particularly strong military presence at Netzarim.
Israeli soldiers harass Palestinians at military checkpoints, particularly near the Muwasi area, in western Khan Younis. Palestinians are forced to stop 400 metres before each checkpoint, where they, their car and belongings may be subjected to lengthy and thorough searches which have been known to take up to an hour. Restrictions are placed on the vehicles permitted to pass the checkpoint, and the goods which can be transported in these vehicles. For example, gas canisters used for stoves and similar gas appliances, and building and construction materials are not permitted to be transported by Palestinians through these checkpoints.
IDF vehicles accompany Israeli civilian vehicles on the lateral roads to Netzarim and Morag settlements, as well as civilian buses travelling to Kfar Darom and Gush Katif from Israel. Buses carrying Israeli soldiers and civilians in the Gaza Strip are fitted with special windows and windshields designed to deflect stones and in some cases bullets.
Settlement residents, who are notoriously well armed, serve as members of nightly security patrols of the perimeters of their individual settlements. Overall co-ordination of these patrols in Gush Katif is handled by a resident of the bloc employed by the Israeli army.
As noted below, the settlements of Kfar Darom and Netzarim experience the most frequent security-related incidents due to their isolated locations and proximity to Palestinian population centres. Violence between settlers and local Palestinians is a fairly regular occurrence at these settlements.
In contrast, security in Gush Katif has been enhanced after Israeli redeployment, which may have contributed to an increase in this regions population.
Above: Israeli Defence Force security tower overlooking the beach and resort area within Gush Katif.
Below: Security measures taken along outside fence of Gush Katif
THE SETTLEMENTS OF THE GAZA STRIP: SUMMARY INFORMATION
The Northern Bloc
In addition to its geographical separation from the rest of the settlements of the Gaza Strip, the Northern Bloc, built on land expropriated from the Palestinian town of Beit Lahia, is distinguished economically and ideologically from the remaining settlements. The three settlements of the Northern Bloc (Nissanit, Elei Sinai, and Dugit) lay on the Gaza Strips northern border with Israel and are separated from the other Gaza settlements. Residents of these settlements enter the Strip in the northern Gaza Strip, and must exit Gaza and travel via Israel proper in order to reach other settlements in the Gaza Strip.
Unlike many of the other Israeli settlements in Gaza, the settlements of the Northern Bloc are not agricultural. Members work in the fishing and tourist industries, or commute across the Green Line to work in Israel. Also in contrast to the overwhelming majority of the Strips other Israeli settlements, the settlements of the Northern Bloc are either mixed religious and non-religious or mainly non-religious communities.
The establishment of the town of Netiv Ha-Asara immediately across the Green Line from the Northern Bloc, and the bussing of the Northern Blocs schoolchildren to the Israeli city of Ashkelon, further contribute to the sense of integration of the Northern Bloc with Israel rather than with the other settlements of the Gaza Strip.
Also within the Northern Bloc is the Erez industrial zone, comprised of approximately 36 factories and 100 small workshops employing 2,000-2,500 Palestinians. Originally a military outpost, Erez was established as an industrial zone in 1972. Though located just inside the northern border of the Gaza Strip, the industrial zone is operated by Israelis living in Israel, and appears to have little connection with the residential settlements of the Northern Bloc. Following redeployment, the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli military courts were transferred to the Erez industrial zone.
In the midst of the clashes which took place in late September 1996, Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Ariel Sharon promised the expansion of the settlements of the northern Gaza Strip.
With 60 families making up a population of 300, Elei Sinai occupies 478 dunams of land in the Northern Bloc. The settlement was established in 1983, in part by settlers evacuated from the settlements of the Sinai as part of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt (its name is literally to the Sinai). Its members commute to Ashkelon or work in the Northern Blocs Shikma beach resort area.
The newest of the Northern Bloc settlements, Dugit has 18 families making up a population of 70 people. The settlement sits on 180 dunams of land. Established in 1990, Dugit was one of Bakers settlements, a series of settlements so called due to their establishment in advance of a number of U.S. Secretary of State James Bakers visits to the region during the Shamir administration. These settlements were established in order to flout the Israeli governments rejection of the U.S. governments position on Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.
Located near the Shikma beach, Dugit is primarily a fishing village. The settlement has a new fish farm which breeds fish in salt water (rather than the traditional fresh water), and also operates an ostrich ranch.
With 160 families making up a population of 550, Nissanit is the largest of the Northern Blocs settlements both in terms of geography and population. The settlement, which occupies 1,620 dunams, was originally a military post (set up in 1978). It was established as a civilian settlement in 1982, and its members moved to their permanent location from a nearby hill in 1993. Plans to establish the settlement as the regional urban centre for the Northern Bloc, in the works for several years, have not yet been implemented. During the nine months after the signing of the Oslo Accords, 61 new families moved to Nissanit.
The Central Settlements: Netzarim and Kfar Darom
Due to their isolated locations in relation to the other Israeli settlements of the Gaza Strip, Netzarim and Kfar Darom settlements tend to attract the most extreme religious-nationalist settlers in the Gaza Strip. Their isolation and their proximity to Arab population centres also make these two settlements the most likely to be dismantled within the context of a final peace settlement.
The existence and location of these two settlements is particularly galling to Palestinians, who pass close by the settlements when using the main Gaza City-Rafah road and who must also pass through the resulting series of Israeli checkpoints along the road set up to protect the settlements by the Oslo Accords. Palestinians who live or travel in the vicinity of these checkpoints face continual harassment, often in the guise of security checks, by Israeli forces. These checks frequently involve full searches of vehicles. In connection with such checks, there have been many reports of beatings of Palestinians and, on occasion, the use of live ammunition.
Stone-throwing incidents and other skirmishes between settlers from Kfar Darom and Netzarim settlements and local Palestinians are frequent. During the clashes which took place between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers and settlers in late September 1996, thousands of Palestinian demonstrators congregated at the junction leading to Netzarim settlement and outside Kfar Darom settlement, indicating the strongly felt opposition of Palestinians to the presence of these settlements in the heart of the Gaza Strip.
Kfar Darom and Netzarim have also been the target of attacks by Palestinian militants. On 11 November 1994, an Islamic Jihad activist rode his bicycle through an IDF checkpoint near Netzarim and blew himself up, killing three Israeli officers and injuring 12 others (including six Palestinians). On 9 April 1995, on the main Gaza City-Rafah road just south of Kfar Darom, a car packed with explosives drove into Israeli public bus no. 36, which was carrying Israeli soldiers and settlers and American tourists. Seven people were killed, including an American citizen, and fifty were wounded. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. Less than two hours later, a second attack in which a car drove into an IDF convoy took place outside the settlement of Netzarim and was claimed by Hamas. One soldier was killed and four wounded.
On 1 April 1997, two explosions occurred near the two settlements around 7 a.m. Abdullah Ramadan al-Madhun, a resident of Jabaliya refugee camp and a high school student, participated in a suicide bombing on the side of the road about 2 km (1.5 miles) from Netzarim involving about 5 kg (11 lbs.) of explosives attached to his back. Seven Palestinian taxi passengers were injured in a second explosion, which took place outside Kfar Darom. No Israelis were injured in the explosions, and the PNA has suggested Israeli involvement. Witnesses reported that Jewish settlers threw stones at passing Palestinian motorists after the Netzarim blast.
Netzarim is sandwiched between Gaza City and the Palestinian refugee camps to its south, Nuseirat, Bureij, and Maghazi. The settlements 41st family moved in February 1997, joining a population of approximately 220 people. Netzarim sits on 2,200 of the approximately 4,000 dunams of land which have been confiscated in the central Gaza Strip by Israeli authorities from the Abu Middein family, a large and well-known Bedouin family which has owned land in the Gaza Strip for several generations. The majority of grapevines, citrus, and fig trees planted on the confiscated Abu Middein land were left intact for use by Israeli settlers.
Founded in 1972 as an army camp, Netzarim was the second settlement set up in the Gaza Strip. Although it was established as a religious kibbutz in 1984, today it is no longer a kibbutz, and its members are primarily employed as teachers, in agriculture, and in the quarrying of gravel. Its main fields of agriculture are sweet potatoes and tomatoes, while it also has a mango orchard and a vineyard. The settlement houses the regional Institute for Jewish Studies and the Centre of Jewish History in Gaza. Elementary school-aged children in Netzarim are bussed to the school in Gush Katifs Atzmon settlement, as it is the more religious of the Gaza settlements two elementary schools (male and female children learn in separate schools).
Although according to the Oslo Accords the main Gaza City-Rafah road would remain open for use by Israeli civilians from Gush Katif junction to Netzarim, the IDF has thus far unilaterally prohibited settlers from using this road north of Kfar Darom for security reasons. This prohibition has rendered Netzarim accessible only via Israel, contributing to Netzarims isolation and angering settlement leaders. Transport to the settlement is extremely difficult and must be co-ordinated with the IDF.
The Oslo Accords, with their stipulation that no Israeli settlements would be removed, were a boon to the settlement of Netzarim. Netzarim has been the settlement most frequently cited by left-wing and mainstream Israeli politicians as a security liability and as a potential candidate for dismantling. Surrounded by densely populated Palestinian towns and refugee camps on all sides, several Labour leaders have openly referred to Netzarim as a thorn in Israels side which should be removed. Figures appearing in press reports in 1994-1995 cited a cost of $5 million per year for the two companies of reserve soldiers stationed at the checkpoint at Netzarim junction.
Shimon Peres told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot in June 1994:
Netzarim has no security value, offers no political benefit, and it has no economic importance. We are leaving it in place only in order to prevent domestic strife, and I am not sure that it is worth it. Now, when we are talking about our order of priorities, do we need to maintain Netzarim at a cost of $5 million each year? Netzarim will be evacuated, the key is only when and how.
Netzarim has increased from a small settlement of 20 people at the beginning of 1992 to a settlement of 41 families and approximately 220 people by early 1997. The official classification of Netzarim as a settlement has enabled Israel to maintain a large, strategically placed military camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip which it would otherwise have had to abandon in fulfilment of its re-deployment obligations. This principle was explained to Yediot Aharanot by a senior official in the Israeli security system charged with overseeing arrangements for the Israeli army withdrawal from populated Palestinian areas:
Had Netzarim been merely an Israeli army base, the Palestinians could demand its abandonment, along with other bases located in the midst of densely inhabited chunks of the Gaza Strip that the army is going to abandon. But since Netzarim is plainly defined on the map as a kibbutz, the Israeli presence is assured there. The Israeli army can use it for effectively establishing its presence between the city of Gaza and the camps of the centre....Had Netzarim not existed, it should have been invented [because it makes it legal] to turn this settlement into a road-post concealing the fortress containing sizeable Israeli army forces.
Since the September 1996 clashes, the Israeli military presence in Netzarim has been even further fortified.
After the November 1994 suicide bombing near Netzarim, Israeli authorities closed a road which runs near Netzarim settlement, and which links two main north-south arteries in the Gaza Strip. Although the closing of the road was temporary, it subsequently remained closed to Palestinian civilian vehicles, constituting a major point of protest for local Palestinians forced to take lengthy and time-consuming detours as a result. On 24 November 1996, Palestinians attempted to re-open the road. Several dozen Palestinian vehicles drove along the road until their passage was blocked by Israeli military forces. The deadlock continued for several hours, effectively preventing movement into or out of Netzarim settlement. Israeli forces responded by calling in military reinforcements to the area surrounding Netzarim settlement, including armoured personnel carriers and tanks, and with threats to take military action within the Palestinian autonomous areas if necessary. In the weeks following this incident, negotiations led to the phased re-opening of this road to all traffic.
Approximately 450 dunams of land belonging to the village of Deir al-Balah were declared state land by Israeli authorities in 1970 and used for the establishment of Kfar Darom. Today Kfar Darom occupies 317 dunams, and has 42 families (approximately 200 people). Kfar Darom straddles the main Gaza City-Rafah road; after a member of the settlement was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian, an overpass connecting the two halves of the settlement was built in the early 1990s. According to settlement leaders, despite its problematic location, Kfar Darom continues to attract new settlers, motivated by their religious nationalism.
Kfar Darom was originally established in 1946 as part of a plan for settling the Negev desert. Its members were evacuated during the war which broke out after the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948 and the settlement was destroyed by the Egyptian army.
Kfar Darom was re-established in 1970 as a nahal and was for many years a transient community. As a nahal, soldiers used the settlement as a temporary camp. Other temporary residents of Kfar Darom included settlers preparing to move to new settlements in the Gaza Strip. These settlers often lived in Kfar Darom for a year or two while waiting for housing to be prepared in new settlements in Gush Katif. The settlement has also housed a number of educational institutions after its re-establishment.
Kfar Darom was established as a more permanent settlement when a group of Orthodox Jews moved there in 1990 under the leadership of Rabbi Shimon Biran. Since then, three of this communitys members, including Rabbi Biran, have been killed by Palestinians. Most of the residents of Kfar Darom are families with young children.
Kfar Darom runs the regional packing house for Alei Katif lettuce and cabbage, a special variety of lettuce and cabbage grown in a bug-free agreement in accordance with Jewish law. The vegetables are sold in Israel and exported abroad. Residents also grow vegetables and flowers and work in academic professions. The settlement has plans to establish a factory making ready-made salad for sale in Israel.
Kfar Darom has the Land and Torah Institute, which conducts research on aspects of Jewish law relating to agriculture. The Institute and some agricultural fields are located across the street from the residential section of Kfar Darom.
The main Gaza City-Rafah road remains open for use by Israeli settlers between Gush Katif settlement and Kfar Darom, and Egged bus service runs between the two settlements and to Israel.
The settlement is currently building a community centre, which will house a synagogue and Beit Midrash, a Judaic library, Talmud Torah, and recreational centre for soldiers. Although construction on the centre began with funds raised by the settlement in the private sector, settlement leaders state that the Netanyahu administration has provided funds for the completion of the centre following the September clashes. These leaders state that the Netanyahu administration has also released funds for new housing in the settlement. While acknowledging that Kfar Darom has seen a lot of improvement in its situation under the Netanyahu administration, they note their preference for building quietly and avoiding the release of this information to the media.
During the September 1996 clashes, settlers from Kfar Darom participated extensively in the fighting. With the exception of one new immigrant who has not yet served in the Israeli military, every adult male in the settlement is supplied with a machine gun, and participated in shooting at Palestinian police and civilian demonstrators outside Kfar Darom settlement.
Gush Katif (Southern Bloc)
Gush Katif, the southern bloc of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, encompasses 11 settlements built on state land formerly belonging to the Palestinian towns of Khan Younis and Rafah. The settlement bloc lies along approximately one-third of the Gaza Strips Mediterranean coastline. It is wedged between the sea and Khan Younis and Rafah, blocking access to the sea for residents of these towns and in large measure preventing their expansion. One settlement in this southern bloc, Morag, lies across the main Gaza-Rafah road from the rest of the settlement bloc, and has become an isolated outpost following the Israeli redeployment in the Gaza Strip.
The settlements are relatively evenly spaced between Gush Katifs northern edge near Deir al-Balah and its southern edge along the Egyptian border. In addition to a fence which runs along the perimeter of the entire settlement bloc, each settlement within Gush Katif is encircled by its own security fence. Between these individual settlements lie vast expanses of sand dunes dotted with palm trees, as well as a few Bedouin communities consisting mostly of tents and a limited number of permanent structures. The sand dunes are cut through with newly paved two-lane roads linking the settlements to one another, upon which travel almost exclusively Israeli civilian and army vehicles, in addition to the occasional Palestinian bicyclist. An Israeli Egged bus service runs from Ashkelon and Beer Sheva to Gush Katif, and is supplemented by an internal bus service run by the Regional Council to facilitate travel between the settlements of Gush Katif.
The economy of Gush Katif is based on tourism and intensive greenhouse agriculture, deriving from the blocs fertile, sandy land. Vegetables, flowers, and other plants produced in Gush Katif are exported to Europe and the United States.
The settlements of Gush Katif are almost all religious-nationalist in orientation, with only Peat Sadeh and Rafiah Yam home to mixed religious or non-religious or mainly non-religious populations.
The Palm Beach Hotel
Within the last six months, Gush Katifs hotel and tourist resort, the Palm Beach, has become a member of the American Days Inn hotel chain. The Palm Beach, which caters to Orthodox Jews, lies on the Mediterranean coast along one of Gush Katifs two main beaches. According to hotel staff, the hotel closed during the Intifada and reopened in 1990. A card soliciting comments on the hotels services placed in each guest room notes, [i]t is well known that the Palm Beach Hotel was re-opened due to ideological reasons...
PALM BEACH HOTEL,
WHERE THE PLEASURE IS ALL YOURS*
Come to the PALM BEACH HOTEL, which is situated on an enchanted seashore and you will find a hotel with a SOUL. The Palm Beach is the only hotel in the country offering a mix of vacation activities, sport and tradition. All that on the beach-front under one roof.
Come for a vacation (with or without the kids), and enjoy a variety of vacation activities, social activities, courteous and professional service, all in an atmosphere of religious quality, Glatt Kosher (under the supervision of Rabbi Ariel).
The Hotel offers 114 rooms in six two-storey buildings built along the beach. Every room has connecting doors and the whole accommodation complex is built around the hotels [sic] main buildings.
*From the Palm Beach Hotel brochure
The Days Inn Palm Beach Hotel in Gush Katif
It appears that Days Inn America Inc. sells franchises to hoteliers in the U.S. and in other countries, including Canada, China, Colombia, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Israel. There are currently six Days Inns in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and it appears that there are plans to open another Days Inn hotel in Occupied East Jerusalem. Field investigations by PCHR staff suggest that all of the Days Inn hotel franchises in Israel are managed and possibly owned by the same individual, who is an Israeli citizen.
The Days Inn brochures advertising the hotels located in Israel misrepresent the map of the region and do not indicate the borders between Israel and the West Bank or Gaza Strip. These areas are apparently included as part of greater Israel.
VACATION ACTIVITIES TO SUIT ALL AGES*
At the Palm Beach Hotel, the Activities are part of the total enjoyment. The Hotel is situated on one of the most beautiful beaches of Israel; the Katif beach.
The Hotel offers a wide variety of relaxing activities. Close by there is an artificial lake in which you can enjoy sailing, motorboats, kayaks, or paddle boats. In the hotel you can enjoy an inside sweet water pool (separate hours for those who wish it).
After your swim you can chose [sic] between the modern Exercise Room or a Jacuzzi - or both. In any case, you may be happy to just relax your muscles in the Sauna, which is attached to the pool.
If you and your family prefer activities on Terra Firma - we offer Tennis courts, Basketball, Volleyball or Table Tennis.
For the more daring among you, we offer horseback riding, donkey rides to explore the vicinity, and to the real adventurers, galloping Jeeps on the sand dunes-Roller Coaster style.
In addition, we also offer a more quiet type of entertainment - Lectures, Video movies, etc.
*From the Palm Beach Hotel brochure
Established in 1983, Bedolah occupies 1456 dunams of land. Its 34 families, which make up a total population of 220, grow mainly greenhouse flowers and vegetables. Bedolah houses an absorption project for new immigrant families from France.
With 56 families and a total population of 450, Bnei Atzmon occupies 1,500 dunams. Bnei Atzmon is considered one of the most religious of Gush Katifs settlements. It houses the more religious of Gush Katifs two regional elementary schools (girls and boys attend separate schools in Bnei Atzmon), as well as a mechina, a pre-military centre for Jewish studies for males.
The settlement was originally established in the Sinai in 1979, and was evacuated to Gush Katif in 1982. Most of its members work in its plant nursery, poultry coop, or in agriculture.
Established in 1979, Gadid is a tight-knit community with a large proportion of French immigrants. It has 40 families and a total population of 250 people. Gadid and Neve Dekalim have expanded to the point that the two settlements now directly border one another. Gadid occupies 1,470 dunams, and is the only settlement whose greenhouses are located near the residential homes. Gadid settlers grow tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage, flowers, spices, and dried flowers for export.
Forty-seven families, making up a population of 280 people, live on 1,692 dunams of land in Gan Or. The settlement was established in 1980, and produces vegetables and flowers.
Established in 1978, Ganei Tal has 65 families making up a total population of 400 people. Its residents grow flowers, vegetables, organic vegetables, and spices on the settlements 2,193 dunams. They also run a gas station and various cottage industries.
Katif is a co-operative farm occupying 2,050 dunams, originally established in 1973. The fifty families (250 people) who live in the settlement run a nursery for house plants, geraniums, and spices, as well as a poultry coop, and a factory for the manufacture of paper products. The current community was established in 1986, and is now one of the fastest-growing settlements in Gush Katif. Katif tends to attract young families with children, and has plans to expand to 100 families.
Kfar Yam is one of two quasi-settlements in Gush Katif. The settlement is the site of 15 cabins which were built on the land by the Egyptian administration in 1964, and which were subsequently turned over to two Palestinians from Khan Younis under a permanent lease arrangement. In 1971, the Israeli Government took over the land from the Khan Younis municipality.
In 1982, an Israeli settler took control of five of these cabins with Israeli military protection and established Kfar Yam, a settlement occupying an area of 40 dunams. In 1983, Israeli authorities refused to renew the leases for the cabins. Palestinians renting the cabins were served orders to vacate the premises, and were informed that the cabins had been rented out to the Israeli Regional Settlements Council. The Palestinian leaseholders fought this order through the Israeli court system, but were unsuccessful.
On 23 April 1997 an Israeli resident of Kfar Yam known by the name of Amos used a bulldozer to surround a nearby five dunam piece of land with sand dunes and electricity pylons, under the protection of the Israel army. On 24 April the mayor of Khan Younis, members of the Khan Younis municipal council, and residents of Khan Younis went to the area with two bulldozers and flattened the sand dunes. Israeli soldiers attempted to prevent them from doing so and scuffles broke out between the soldiers and the Palestinians. Shortly thereafter Israeli military reinforcements arrived with six tanks and a number of military jeeps transporting around 200 soldiers, including Major Zidan, an Israeli official from the Joint District Co-ordination Office (DCO) of the Joint Regional Security Committee. Major Zidan himself fired at the wheels of the Palestinian bulldozers and immobilised them. He was then involved in scuffles with the mayor of Khan Younis and his deputy. Israeli soldiers fired in the air and near the feet of Palestinian citizens to force them back from the area. An Israeli bulldozer rebuilt the sand dunes around the land, which remain as of the time of writing.
In subsequent days several protests and sit-ins were staged at the site by local Palestinian landowners, community leaders, Palestinian Legislative Council members and senior officials from the PNA.
Regional Council officials estimated that three families, a total of nine people, are currently living in Kfar Yam. However, recent fieldwork conducted by PCHR suggests that the settlement is currently inhabited only by the settler known as Amos. This settler owns over 20 dogs which run free in the settlement compound and act as guard dogs. Regional Council officials state that the individuals living in Kfar Yam are not religious and engage in greenhouse agriculture.
Following the redeployment of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, Morag has become one of the three isolated settlements of Gaza. Unlike Netzarim and Kfar Darom, however, the 24 families (150 individuals) resident in Morag are not known for their extreme ideological and religious zeal; before Israeli redeployment, its separation from the other settlements of Gush Katif was not felt as it is today. Morag lies east of the Palestinian town of Rafah, and is across the main Gaza City-Rafah road from the other settlements of Gush Katif. Prior to redeployment, Morag was accessible via the Sufa crossing with Israel near the Egyptian border. Today the settlement is accessible solely via Gush Katif, and travel to the settlement must be co-ordinated with the IDF.
The settlement was built in 1972 as a kibbutz and army camp, and became a regular settlement in 1987. Morags settlers grow greenhouse vegetables and flowers on the settlements 1,229 dunams.
Originally founded in 1973 as a nahal, Netzer Hazani was established in 1977 as the first of the settlements in Gush Katif. It is named after the late Israeli Minister of Welfare and Agriculture, Michael Hazani. Fifty-seven families (380 people) live in the settlement, which occupies 2,050 dunams. The settlement has four fish farms which breed tropical fish for export to Europe, and also grows greenhouse vegetables (including organic vegetables), flowers, and spices. The settlement runs the local packing house for export tomatoes, which are marketed under the label Carmel.
Neve Dekalim is by far the largest settlement in Gaza in terms of population, with 400 families and approximately 2,000 people, and is not an agricultural settlement. The settlement was founded in 1983 and occupies 1,943 dunams. It is the administrative centre of Gush Katif, as the headquarters of the Hof Azza Regional Council. A commercial centre in Neve Dekalim has, inter alia, a hardware store, womens and childrens clothing stores, a toy store, an office supplies shop, a picture framing store, and a supermarket. Neve Dekalim also has the regional police station, post office, bank (Bank Mizrahi), industrial zone, dental office, and health clinic, with a trauma room reportedly donated by the American Dr. Muscovitz, of Florida, known as one of the most significant financial backers of the Israeli settlement programme in the Occupied Territories.
Neve Dekalim has one of the Gaza settlements two regional elementary schools, an ulpana high school for girls, and a yeshiva hesder where soldiers can combine their army service with religious training. The settlement owns its own building company, which may bid on and win contracts for construction in the settlement, and therefore has an advantage over other settlements in terms of its ability to expand. Newly established services in Neve Dekalim include a mini-zoo for children and an activities centre for elderly residents. The settlement has four synagogues, designated for the Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, and Tunisian communities in the settlement.
Because of the settlements numerical strength, and its ability to attract new members through its commercial centre and the numerous services it provides, it does not qualify for the same degree of Israeli government-sponsored financial incentives provided to most of the other Gaza settlements. Neve Dekalims residents lost a High Court of Justice battle challenging this state of affairs.
All but three families of Gush Katifs Bnei Minashei community live in Neve Dekalim, and receive significant financial and administrative support from the settlement.
Peat Sadeh is one of Gush Katifs two non-religious settlements. With 15 families making up a total population of 85 people, it is also one of Gush Katifs smallest settlements. Peat Sadeh was originally established in 1989, and moved to its permanent site, where it occupies 1, 518 dunams, in 1993. Most of its residents are employed in education, tourism, and the provision of services.
The residents of Peat Sadeh wish to expand their settlement, but as yet have not been able to attract an influx of new residents. The settlement has discussed establishing an industrial zone, but has not obtained sufficient funding nor government approval for these plans.
Located about 200 metres from the Egyptian border and near the Palestinian town of Rafah, the construction of Rafiah Yam was announced during the 1984 Israeli election campaign. (The Regional Council sets its official date of establishment as 1986.) It is the other non-religious settlement in Gush Katif, and at 23 families (120 people) and 568 dunams is also very small. Its members work in education, services, fishing, tourism, and engage in some agricultural work. They operate the southernmost of the Gaza Strips three beaches for settlers, Hof Ashalim.
Like Peat Sadeh, Rafiah Yam has discussed the establishment of an industrial zone, but as yet has not obtained funding nor governmental approval for the project.
Tel Katifa is one of Gush Katifs two quasi-settlements, currently occupied by one couple according to Regional Council officials. The settlement, which was established in 1992 without government approval, occupies 176 dunams. The settlement has a farm which has produced organic tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkins, and tomatoes for export.