The Continuing Gaza Pullout
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LINDSEY HILSUM: The youngest are the most radical. As police and soldiers tried to move through Gaza’s largest and most restive settlement today, they found themselves confronting a new generation of protestors. At times it was a simple trial of will and strength. Yesterday, the security forces were kept on the outskirts of Neveh Dekalim; today, they literally pushed their way through inch by inch.
Through the day the teenagers who were spearheading this resistance sat down in their path, singing and chanting. The soldiers and police were trying to get trucks through, to pick up the belongings of those Neveh Dekalim settlers who’ve opted to leave. The aim of the protestors was to stop them. The security forces used a chainsaw to cut through the gates of the settlement, so they can’t be shut out when they return sometime after midnight tonight to force people out of Neveh Dekalim. Further up the road the protestors burnt cardboard in rubbish bins as another barrier. The gates may be gone, but they still believe that the strength of their will can prevail.
GIRL: If we, the Jews, don’t believe that this land is ours, the world’s going to believe it’s ours? Let’s go back to ’47. Let’s go back to the end of ’47 that they gave us. How are we going to live then?
LINDSEY HILSUM: In the scuffles several dozen people were arrested; many of them teenagers. The protestors are hot, noisy and angry but they’re not just by the settlers of Neveh Dekalim. Many of the people here are radical kids from extremist settlements in Jerusalem on the West Bank. To some extent, they’re playing into the government’s hands because Israel can say, “look at this; see how difficult it is to withdraw from Gaza.”
Their cause is absolutist. The young people here believe that Gaza belongs to Israel because God says so, and only those who agree with them understand the true word of God. The boys wear the trappings of their religion; their fervent faith on display. Modesty dresses as their religion demands, the girls have turned their sandals, long skirts and t-shirts into a kind of hippie chic– this summer’s settler’s teenager fashion.
14-year-old twins from a Jerusalem settlement are here whilst school is on holiday. “The Arabs may or not be right, but that’s not the point,” she says. “We conquered this land, we’re here and we believe it’s ours.” Her sister adds: “Meanwhile, the Arabs are killing us and we can’t trust them.”
But in this settlement we found people quietly packing. More than half are expected to be out by midnight tonight, the cutoff point for receiving government compensation. For some soldiers, this is traumatic. After all, many of them are only nineteen or twenty, and they, too, have been brought up to believe that Israel was right to occupy Gaza. But the military leadership seems confident.
ELI LEVI: It’s not so difficult to take a kid and put him in the back. No more. We’re not going to punch anyone, we’re not going to hit anyone, and we’re not going to arrest anyone; just put him in the bus and take him outside.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In the end, they brought in water canons to deal with the fires. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, the security forces will be back, and this time it will be serious. The teenagers may want to make a last stand, but the state of Israel says for the Gaza settlers this is the end.