Israel Resource Review 22nd January, 2006


Katif Farmers Forcibly Unemployed:
David Bedein

Over the past month, the Israeli government has run an ad campaign to encourage farmers who were expelled last summer from Gush Katif to come to an "Employment Tent" in the new mobile home city at Nitzan.

However, evicted farmers who came to the "Employment Tent" last week discovered that they were not offered alternative lands for farming.

Nachi Eyal, the director of the Israel legal Forum, which ha been providing pro bono leagal services for the evacuees, said that, "the government did not prepare alternative property for the expelled farmers, and therefore their life's work is going down the drain. Today, we see the consequences we feared and about which we warned. People ages 45 to 60, who, until the expulsion supported themselves respectably and paid taxes, may have to remain unemployed forcibly for the rest of their lives."

Meanwhile, the director of the Agriculture Ministry, Yossi Shai, noted in the presence of Israel's president a a meeting held two weeks ago with the farmers of Gush Katif that the Expulsion-Compensation Law did not consider agriculture a "Life's Work", and therefore the rate of compensation given does not allow the farmers to rebuild their farms. Likewise, the lands that the government is offering are enough for only 30 families, and are far from the places that they live.

Yoram Mosabi, the chairman of Moshave Bdolach and an experienced farmer, said that "more than 350 families in Gush Katif made a living directly from agriculture, and the same number earned their livings indirectly from agriculture.

In other words, 30 percent of Gush Katif residents worked in agriculture for 30 years.

An average farmer, who owned between 10 and 15 dunams, had an average yearly turnover of 600,000 shekel. A sophisticated farm, which raised house flowers,peppers and cherry tomatoes for export, reached a yearly turnover of 2,000,000 shekel.

The farmers of Gush Katif together exported in the range of $60 million annually, not including business on the local market. "And today we are unemployed", they say

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