On this day: Gaza settlements evacuated

August 17 2005: Disengagement divides a country

By Jennifer Lipman, August 17, 2011

As Israeli soldiers began removing Jewish Gaza residents from their homes, pictures of clashes, stories about the settlers and why they did not leave and musings about what Gaza would be like after appeared in newspapers around the world.

By the time of disengagement – two years after the plan was announced - Israel was awash with orange, the colour of those opposed to the plan. Some wore orange stars on their clothes – Holocaust imagery to show their anger.

In all, 25 Gaza and West Bank settlements were evacuated in six days. After the first day 1,842 people who had refused to leave voluntarily had been evacuated, and just a few hundred Jewish people remained in Gaza.

But it was not easy; the most extreme protesters were happy to resort to violence. They barricaded themselves into their homes, set fire to abandoned buildings and even pelted soldiers with eggs, flour and stones. A woman set her self on fire in anger at the decision.

"It's impossible to watch this, and that includes myself, without tears in the eyes," said then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He called on the protesters not to attack soldiers. "Don't make it harder for them, don't harm them. Attack me. I am responsible for this. Attack me. Accuse me."

The aim of the plan was to make Israel safer, by placing 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza outside of Israeli territory. That February, voters gave terrorist group Hamas a majority in legislative elections and, in June, terrorists snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Then came rockets and mortar shells fired into Israeli towns near the border, then in December 2008, war.

What the JC said: The overwhelming lesson of the disengagement has been that when the Israeli government makes a decision to implement a policy, however unpopular that decision might be for a particular sector of the population, the apparatus of the state has sufficient power to ensure the decision's proper execution…. It would, however, be premature to conclude that a new dawn has broken in the Middle East, for there are many, more serious obstacles that lie ahead, but we have witnessed some rays of light breaking through the cloud.

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:45am, August 17 2011