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Gush Katif Book and Debate Answer Hard Questions

More commemorations of Gush Katif expulsion's 5th anniversary: A new book, & a debate on role played by the media during the Disengagement period.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/29/2010, 1:47 PM / Last Update: 7/29/2010, 11:48 PM

Flash 90

Commemorations of the fifth anniversary of the Gush Katif expulsion continue, including the publication of a new book and the role played by the media during the Disengagement period.

A new book by journalist Elyashiv Reichner is entitled Ketom HaMaavak, a play on the word "katom," rendering the meaning of the title both “At the End of the Struggle” and “Orange Struggle” – referring to the official color chosen to symbolize the year-long fight to keep Gush Katif in Jewish hands.

The book seeks to answer many important questions which, despite the volumes of words that have been written about the fall of Gush Katif, have still not been properly addressed. For instance, what exactly motivated most of the thousands of residents to remain in their homes until the very day of the expulsion? How did the leadership of the Katif bloc of communities succeed in keeping routine life going until the very end, despite the sword of destruction hanging over them? Was this “proud last stand” based on blind, naïve faith – or was it a grounded and solid statement of values with a specific objective?

On a more point-by-point level, the book explains various decisions that were made over the course of the months leading up to the actual destruction. For instance, an idea was raised to cut the fences that surrounded Gush Katif separating it from adjacent Arab towns and the rest of Israel, thus allowing thousands of opponents of the plan to pour into the Katif bloc unimpeded. The idea was debated back and forth, and finally was brought before the late Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, former Chief Rabbi and religious-Zionist ultimate Jewish-legal authority. After consulting with others, including Katif security coordinator Ami Shaked, he decided that the dangers of cutting the fences did not justify the gains.

The book also recalls the failed struggle in the Knesset, when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon succeeded in passing several votes in favor of the Disengagement. Ministers Benny Elon and Effie Eitam were forced out of the government fairly early on, while Zevulun Orlev remained somewhat longer – with some rabbinic sanction, author Reichner tells us.

Rabbis to Sharon: We'll Be OK - But What Will Become of You?
Other topics include the manner in which Sharon ignored the results of the Likud party’s national referendum, which negated the expulsion, and a dramatic meeting between several rabbis and Sharon on the day of Tisha B’Av, the last day of legal Jewish residence in Gush Katif. The book tells us that Rabbi Elisha Vishlitzky told Sharon, “Religious Zionism will take a severe blow from this destruction, but it will recover. The same is true for Gush Katif. But what about you? What will become of you, if you become known in history not for all that you built, but for destruction and expulsion?” Sharon did not respond.  Less than five months later, he entered a coma from which he has not yet emerged.

Media Debate at Museum
At the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, several journalists and a sizeable audience gathered for a debate on the role played by the media during the Disengagement and the months before it.

On the panel were former MK Tzvi Hendel, the only Knesset Member who actually lived in and was expelled from Gush Katif, as well as journalists Er’el Segal of Maariv, who originally supported the Disengagement before becoming a sharp opponent, Nir Hasson (Haaretz), Menachem Hadar (Channel One),  and Haggai Huberman (Arutz-7). Sofia Ron-Moriah of Makor Rishon was the moderator.

Huberman, Segal and Hendel said that the media as a whole was in favor of the Disengagement and did not anticipate nor show interest in its negative consequences. Hadar said the media was fair in its coverage, and Hasson added that his paper, known for its left-wing bias, never told him what or how to write.