Why Shouldn't Israel Get Out of Gaza?

By Michael Freund
The Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2002

Although the polling booths had not yet even closed in the Labor party's recent primary on November 19, 2002, Amram Mitzna was already making concessions to the Palestinians.

In an interview that day with the Associated Press, Labor's new chairman went out of his way to emphasize that if he becomes Prime Minister, one of his first acts in office would be not to intensify the war on terror, nor to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, nor even to wage an unrelenting struggle against inflation and unemployment.

Rather, said Mitzna, he would carry out an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, pulling back all troops and forcibly removing Jewish settlers from their homes. And this,

What will be left should the Moslems get what they want


he asserted, would be carried out unilaterally, even without prior negotiations with the Palestinians.

The idea of leaving Gaza, of course, is hardly new. Back in 1992, Yitzhak Rabin made it a central theme of his election campaign, promising the Israeli public that he would "take Gaza out of Tel Aviv". Then, as now, the proposal was aimed at an electorate conditioned into thinking that Israel has no business being in Gaza in the first place, with its very presence there serving as an invitation to further violence and bloodshed.

Indeed, Gaza is almost always portrayed by the media as a teeming hotbed of hatred, one in which tiny Jewish settlements live alongside masses of Palestinians seething with anger against the Israeli army. The picture that is painted is so one-sided, yet so forceful, that even some on Israel's right have said that they would see little problem in abandoning Gaza to its own devices.

Given that this is the case, then why the heck would any Israeli want to hang on to Gaza at all? The answer, however, is quite simple: because Gaza belongs to the Jewish people, and it is time we started treating it as such.

Put aside, for a moment, all the pre-conceived notions you may have about the area, and consider the following: Gaza has a long and rich Jewish history, one which stretches back to Biblical times. After the Exodus from Egypt, when each of the tribes of Israel was apportioned various parts of the Promised Land, Gaza was given to the Tribe of Judah, (see Joshua 15:47 and Judges 1:18) as a share of its eternal inheritance.

Since we are celebrating the festival of Chanukah this week, it is worth recalling that the Hasmonean king Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, retook Gaza in 145 BCE, and his brother Shimon sent Jews to settle there, hundreds of years before the advent of Islam. In the fourth century, some 1600 years before the establishment of the PLO, Gaza served as the primary port of commerce for the Jews of the Holy Land.

Nearly forty years ago, on the outskirts of Gaza city near the sea, Egyptian archaeologists discovered a mosaic floor from an ancient synagogue which dated from the sixth century. It is one of the oldest, and the largest, ever found in the Land of Israel.

During the Middle Ages, Gaza was home to a thriving Jewish community which boasted its share of prominent rabbis, including Rabbi Yisrael Najara, author of "Kah Ribbon Olam", the popular hymn sung in Jewish homes around the world every Sabbath. He served as Gaza's Chief Rabbi until his death in 1625, and he was buried in the city's Jewish cemetery. The great medieval kabbalist Rabbi Avraham Azoulai also lived in Gaza, where he authored his famed work, Hesed L'Avraham, along with a commentary on the Bible.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century, a number of the exiles made their way to Gaza, where members of the Jewish community worked in various trades, such as merchants, silversmiths and farmers.

Centuries ago, the great scholar Rabbi Yaakov Emden ruled that Gaza is an intrinsic part of the Jewish people's national heritage. "Gaza and its environs are absolutely considered part of the Land of Israel without a doubt," he wrote in his work Mor U'ketziyah, adding, "there is no doubt that it is a mitzvah to live there, as in any part of the Land of Israel."

It should come as no surprise, then, that even though Jews have been expelled from Gaza at least six times over the past two thousand years, they have nevertheless returned to resettle it with increased determination and vigor. In 61 CE, the Roman governor Gavinius evicted the Jews from Gaza, as did Napoleon, the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks.

In August 1929, when Arab rioters threatened to slaughter Gaza Jewry, the British army forced the community to evacuate. In October 1946, on the night following Yom Kippur, the Gaza Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom was established. It lasted just a year and a half, until the outbreak of Israel's War of Independence in 1948, when Egypt overran the area and occupied it. Finally, in 1967, in a war of self-defense, Israel retook Gaza, making it possible once again for Jews to reside there.

Hence, the 7,000 Jews currently living in Gaza are neither invaders, nor occupiers, nor intruders. They are indigenous residents who have returned home, treading on the very same ground as that of their ancestors before them.

There are plenty of military and security reasons to justify Israeli rule over Gaza as well, if only because it serves as a gateway from the east to seizing control over the entire country. Conquerors throughout the centuries, from Titus to Napoleon to the British, all entered Israel by way of Gaza, setting the stage for its eventual capture. Thus, to abandon Gaza, as Amram Mitzna now suggests, is to overlook the key strategic role it has played throughout history.

But more importantly, it also ignores the fact that Gaza is an intrinsic part of the Land of Israel, the Jewish people's patrimony. By suggesting that Israel withdraw, Mitzna is essentially implying that we have no right to this strip of territory. And that, quite frankly, is an affront, not only to Jewish history, but to Jewish destiny as well.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister's Office from 1996 to 1999.

- Christian Friends of Israeli Communities http://cfoic.com/index.asp?mainpage=page&id=286 cfoic@cfoic.com -

Zionsake Editor zionsake@iname.com

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Gaza: The Case Against Israeli Withdrawal

Zionist Organization of America
Morton A. Klein, National President, Dr. Alan Mazurek, Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, Chair, National Executive Committee
email@zoa.org  www.zoa.org  
05 February 2004


U.S.Joint Chiefs of Staff Gaza is crucial to Israel's security
On June 19, 1967, in the wake of the Six Day War, the U.S. Secretary of Defense instructed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to present their "views, without regard to political factors, on the minimum territory" that Israel would be "justified'' in retaining in order to permit a more effective defense against possible conventional Arab attack and terrorist raids."

Ten days later, the Joint Chiefs presented a report which concluded that Israel needed to retain substantial portions of the Golan Heights,   and Judea-Samaria, and all of Gaza.   With regard to Gaza, the Joint Chiefs wrote:
"By occupying the Gaza Strip, Israel would trade approximately 45 miles of hostile border for eight.   Configured as it is, the strip serves as a salient for introduction of Arab subversion and terrorism, and its retention would be to Israel' s military advantage."

Throughout history, foreign armies have used Gaza as a springboard for invading the Land of Israel, from Pharoah Sethos I in the 13th century BCE, to Napoleon in 1799.

In 1948, Egypt used Gaza as its route to invade the newborn State of Israel.  Advancing through Gaza, the Egyptians approached the outskirts of Yavneh, just fifteen miles from Tel Aviv.   Several Jewish towns in Gaza, including Nitzanim and Kfar Darom, were destroyed by the Egyptians and not rebuilt until after Israel recaptured the area in 1967.

What prominent Israelis have said about Gaza:

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in 2002: "Netzarim [a Jewish town in Gaza] is the same as Negba and Tel Aviv; evacuating Netzarim will only encourage terrorism and increase the pressure upon us."  (Arutz-7, Nov. 25, 2003)

Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in 1988: "To just get up and leave Gaza would be a mistake and a scandal.   It would create a chaotic situation, a situation like Lebanon; I don't suggest we take such a step." (Israel Army Radio's "Good Evening, Israel" program, March 22, 1988)

Yitzhak Rabin's Minister of Housing and Construction, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said in 1993:   "I wish I could believe that pulling out of Gaza would solve the problems.   But this won't solve anything and is only running away from the problem which we have to face." (Jerusalem Post, March 9, 1993)

In 1971, Yisrael Galili, a minister in the cabinet of Golda Meir's Labor Party government, said that Gaza was "critical for Israel's security and could never be given up."   The Labor government began building fourteen Jewish communities in Gaza. (Jerusalem Report, July 14, 2003)

The Jewish presence in Gaza dates back to biblical times:
Gaza has been a part of the Land of Israel since biblical times. The borders of Israel specified in Genesis 15 clearly include Gaza, and it is described in Joshua 15:47 and Judges 1:18 as part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, and in Kings it is included in the areas ruled by King Solomon.

The area came under foreign occupation during some periods, but the Jewish king Yochanan, brother of Judah the Maccabee, recaptured Gaza in 145 CE and sent Jews to rebuild the community there.

Throughout the centuries, there was a large Jewish presence in Gaza--in fact, it was the largest Jewish community in the country at the time of the Muslim invasion (7th century CE).   Medieval Christian visitors to the region mentioned the presence of the Jewish community in Gaza--including Giorgio Gucci of Florence (1384), Bertandon de la Brooquiere (1432), Felix Fabri (1483), and George Sandys (1611).   So did Jewish travelers, such as Benjamin of Tudela and Meshullam of Voltera (1481).

The medieval Jewish communities of Gaza included many famous rabbinical authorities, among them Rabbi Yisrael Najara, author of the 16th-century hymn Kah Ribbon Olam, which to this day is sung at Shabbat tables throughout the Jewish world, and the kabbalist Rabbi Avraham Azoulai, author of the famous book Hessed L'Avraham.   

Writing about the question of whether or not there living in Gaza fulfills the biblical requirement [mitzvah] to live in the Land of Israel, the famous sage Rabbi Yaakov Emden, in his book Mor Uketziya, wrote: "Gaza  and its environs are absolutely considered part of the Land of Israel, without a doubt.   There is no doubt that it is a mitzvah to live there, as in any part of the Land of Israel."

The Jews of Gaza were forced to leave the area when Napoleon's army marched through in 1799, but they later returned.   The Jewish community in Gaza was destroyed during the British bombardment in 1917, but later it was rebuilt again.   When Palestinian Arab threatened to slaughter the Jews of Gaza during the 1929 pogroms, the British ruling authorities forced the Jews to leave. But in 1946, the Jews returned, establishing the town of Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip, which lasted until 1948, when Egypt occupied the area.

Rewarding terrorists is wrong--and dangerous:
During the past three years, Palestinian Arab terrorists have carried out tens of thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel, murdering nearly 1,000 Israelis and maiming  many   more.   The terrorists demand, among other things, that Israel withdraw from Gaza and expel the Jewish residents.

Terrorists, like all criminals, deserve to be punished for the crimes, not rewarded.   For Israel to withdraw from Gaza and expel the Jewish residents would be to reward the terrorists. It would also encourage more terrorism, by demonstrating to the terrorists that additional violence may bring about additional Israeli concessions.

An Israeli withdrawal means creating a terrorist state in Gaza:
The Palestinian Authority regime currently administers parts of Gaza but does has not have sovereignty, because of the presence of the Israeli Army.   The PA does not control the borders, does not control sea access to Gaza, and does not have a full-fledged army.   If Israel withdraws from the area, the PA will be able to establish a sovereign state.

Such a state would certainly be a terrorist state, to judge by how the PA has treated terrorists until now.   It has not disarmed or outlawed terrorist groups; it has not shut down their bomb factories; it has not closed down the terrorists' training camps.   It has rewarded with terrorists with jobs in the PA police force.   In short, the PA has actively collaborated with and sheltered the terrorists.   Moreover, the PA itself has sponsored thousands of terrorist attacks against Israel.

The PA has also created an entire culture of glorification of terrorism and anti-Jewish hatred in its official media, schools, summer camps, sermons by PA-appointed clergy, and speeches by PA representatives.   PA school textbooks teach that Jews are "evil racists."

Creating a Palestinian Arab state in Gaza would not lead to peace:
Establishing a state in Gaza would not satisfy the Palestinian Arabs' goals.  The aim of a Palestinian Arab state would not be to live in peace next to Israel, but to serve as a spring board for terrorism and invasions aimed at annihilating the Jewish State.   The PA makes no secret of its goal; the official maps on PA letterhead, in PA schoolbooks and atlases, and even on the patch worn on the uniforms of PA policemen show all of Israel --not just the disputed territories-- labeled "Palestine."

A Palestinian Arab state in Gaza would be an anti-American dictatorship:
The last thing the world needs now is yet   another totalitarian, anti-American terrorist state. Yet that is exactly what a Palestinian Arab state in Gaza would be, to judge by the behavior of the PA during the ten years since it was created.   The PA is a brutal Muslim dictatorship which tortures dissidents, silences newspaper that deviate from the PA line, and persecutes Christians. The official PA media actively incite hatred against America, and the PA maintains warm relations with the most anti-American regimes in the world, including Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea.


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