NEZER HAZANI, Gaza – Missions from around the world have been flocking to Gush Katif to protest next month’s withdrawal from the area, but there is one group opposed to the Gaza evacuation that has remained largely silent, in part out of fear: Palestinian workers.
Currently, about 1,000 Palestinians travel each day from Gaza City and Khan Yunis into Gush Katif, the main slate of Gaza’s Jewish communities, to staff the areas’ famous greenhouses, which supply Israel with nearly 70 percent of its produce.
At the height of the agriculture season, from November through May, upwards of 3,000 Palestinians work in the greenhouses.
Most of the Palestinians workers here enter Katif through a crossing inside the Nezer Hazani Jewish farming neighborhood, which borders Khan Yunis. The crossing is opened at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., and again at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
A greenhouse in Gaza (photo: Alex Traiman for WND)
Greenhouse duties include planting, harvesting, temperature and water regulation, and treatment and oversight of produce. Some Palestinians serve as supervisors for other workers.
Jewish greenhouses pay an average worker about $5 an hour. In the Palestinian territories, laborers would make about 40 cents an hour for the same amount of work.
“The workers are very grateful for the opportunity,” Katif spokeswoman Debbie Rosen told WND.
But now, with the Aug. 17 evacuation threatening to remove their source of income, Palestinian workers here are quietly expressing strong opposition to the Gaza withdrawal.
WorldNetDaily talked yesterday with several Nezer Hazani greenhouse workers. They agreed to the interviews on condition their last names not be printed and explained no photographs could be taken out of fear of retaliation from area militants who, they said, would be upset at their expressing solidarity with Jews.
Saed, a 42-year-old greenhouse worker who commutes every day from Khan Yunis, said, “For me, it’s a really good life. I make enough money to feed my family. I am close with [my bosses], who treat me with respect. I don’t want to be out of a job.”
Fhaud, 63, a greenhouse supervisor, said he has grown attached to his Jewish employers.
“I’ve known my boss since he was a kid and I worked for his father,” he said. “Some workers here have known three generations of Jewish families. I was invited to all the bar mitzvahs and weddings.”
Mahmoud, who works in the same greenhouse, said, “I don’t want the disengagement to go through. Not just because I’ll lose a job, but because I’ll lose friends.”
Mahmoud said he thinks the Gaza withdrawal is immoral.
“The Jews who live here didn’t do anything wrong. They were put here by a lot of help from the Israeli government, and told they would stay forever,” he said. “Now the Israeli government wants to rip them out. It’s not right.”
Anita Tucker, one of the pioneer farmers of Gush Katif, told WND, “Like usual, the Palestinians are losing out when Israel leaves. These workers have large families who depend on the income they get in our greenhouses. We’ve all grown quite close. Before the intifada and all the closures, I used to go to their homes on the Palestinian side. We’ve shared a lot of family celebrations.”
The workers also say they fear the domestic consequences of Israel’s Gaza withdrawal.
“We know once Israel leaves, Hamas is in power. A lot of the Palestinians in Gaza are really upset about this because life won’t be good for us,” said Mahmoud.
With Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza evacuation plan drawing closer, and Hamas swiftly gaining power in the area, analysts have pointed to worrying signs the terror group will use its gains to impose a Taliban-like Islamist regime on the Palestinians in Gaza.
Hamas recently banned an open-air music and dance festival, saying it was against Islam. Israeli sources say Hamas has established its own hard-line Islamic court system in Gaza that is being used in the place of the Palestinian Authority’s official judicial system.
There have been reports of a Hamas Anti-Corruption Unit, described by intelligence sources as a kind of “morality police,” enforcing hard-line Islamic rules on local residents. The Unit recently carried out a high-profile “honor killing” of a woman it suspected of committing adultery.
“We are treated much better in Israel than by Palestinians in charge,” said Saed.
Saed explained when he crosses into Katif he is regularly extorted by Palestinian forces to guarantee his safe passage.
“On the Israeli side no problems. But on the Palestinian part of the crossing, the security forces make us give them sometimes 50 percent of any produce we bring back just to get through okay.”
Said Mahmoud: “It’s not good for us. I want Israel to stay.”
Editor’s note: “ISRAEL BETRAYED?” – the July issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – is devoted entirely to an in-depth exploration of the controversial forced removal of thousands of Jewish residents from Gaza planned for August, and the likely creation of a Hamas-run terror state many believe will follow. Read more about “ISRAEL BETRAYED?”