Choose a news category:

The Reconfigured Occupation: Gaza Disengagement Will Not Ease Suffering for Palestinian Women and Families

Posted on: Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Peace Building, Middle East

In mid-August, Israel is scheduled to begin its "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip, which it has occupied for 38 years. Under the plan, Israeli settlers and soldiers will be removed from Gaza and from four isolated West Bank settlements. Disengagement is being hailed as an historic breakthrough. But while the evacuation of Israeli settlers and soldiers from any part of the occupied territories is a welcome development, it represents only an initial step towards ending occupation. In fact, the stranglehold that Israel maintains over Gaza and the West Bank may only be strengthened after disengagement.

Doesn't disengagement mean an end to the occupation of Gaza?

  • After disengagement, Israel's military will still surround the Gaza Strip, with the self-proclaimed "right" to invade at any time. Israel will still control Gaza's borders, coastline, airspace, telecommunications, water, and electricity. And Israel will maintain its hold over Gaza's economy by controlling the flow of people and goods in and out of the Strip.
  • Israel claims that disengagement will free it of any responsibility for the civilian population of Gaza.1 But under international law, military occupation will continue because the Israeli army will still surround and control Gaza.
  • Israel is trying to "disengage" from its obligations to the population under its military occupation-to control Palestinian land with no accountability to Palestinian people.

What will disengagement mean for the people of Gaza?

  • Military violence: Since the plan was announced in early 2004, Israel has carried out intensified military incursions into Gaza-a show of force intended to negate Palestinian claims of having defeated Israel militarily. In the course of these attacks, Israeli forces have killed over 700 Palestinians in Gaza2 and destroyed homes, roads, and electricity, sewage, and water lines.
  • Economic misery: Under an economic siege imposed in 2000, Israel cut off Gazans' access to jobs and trade, causing unemployment rates to soar to nearly 50 percent3 and doubling the ranks of the poor to 77 percent of the population.4 Israel has threatened to make this siege permanent after disengagement, which will only worsen Palestinian suffering.
  • "Strangulation": Palestinians often refer to Gaza-which is the world's most densely populated area-as a huge prison because of Israel's policy of sealing the borders, which prevents people from traveling freely within the occupied territories. Israeli human rights organizations have dubbed the policy "strangulation" and warn that economic hardship, denial of freedom of movement, and the separation of Palestinian families is likely to continue, and even worsen, after disengagement.5

Isn't disengagement a necessary security precaution for Israel?

  • Israel is, in fact, obligated to protect its citizens from attack by Palestinian militants based in Gaza, or by anyone else who threatens its citizens. The right to self-defense is a legitimate right. However, this right does not include violating the human rights of Palestinians by imposing severe restrictions on movement for an entire population.
  • According to Israeli human rights organizations, these restrictions are "based on sweeping criteria, without checking if the individual poses a security risk, and without weighing the harm the person will suffer, or if less harmful alternatives are available. In most cases, where Israel denies a permit and human rights organizations intervene, Israel reverses its decision to avoid an embarrassing legal challenge."6
  • Ensuring human rights-including the right to physical security-for Israeli civilians is critical. Unfortunately, Sharon's disengagement plan reflects a narrow understanding of "national security," that does not prioritize the safety and well being of Israeli families who would benefit from a lasting peace settlement.

What does disengagement mean for Palestinians in the West Bank?

  • Disengagement from Gaza is actually part of a two-pronged strategy aimed at consolidating Israel's occupation of the West Bank. As the disengagement plan states, "In any future final status arrangement, there will be no Israeli settlement activity in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is clear that there will be areas in [the West Bank] that will be part of the State of Israel."7
  • Indeed, Israel intends to annex 58 percent of the West Bank, which would leave Palestinian communities cut off from one another by a network of Israeli-controlled roads, tunnels, military checkpoints, and the mammoth "Separation Wall," which Israel is building deep within the West Bank in violation of a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling.8
  • Israeli government officials are candid about the fact that disengagement is meant to supplant talks with the Palestinian leadership. Sharon prefers a unilateral disengagement from Gaza to negotiations that might obligate Israel to make even greater "concessions" in the more-coveted West Bank. As Dov Weissglass, a top Sharon aide, stated, "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians. �[W]hen you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem."9

What is the role of the United States?

  • Bush has given strong backing to Sharon's plan, including the annexation of West Bank land. By supporting the construction of Israel's "Separation Wall," Bush has even implicitly condoned Israel's illegal West Bank settlements, which have been characterized as an obstacle to peace by every US Administration since 1967. These positions constitute the most extreme reversal of US Middle East policy in history.
  • By supporting Israel's military occupation, Bush effectively renounced the UN Charter, which forbids the acquisition of territory by force; and renounced UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands in return for security guarantees from its neighbors. These resolutions have long stood as the best hope for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.
  • Bush has marginalized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by allowing Sharon to negotiate his disengagement plan with Bush himself instead of with his Palestinian counterpart. As a result, Abbas, who has long called for direct negotiations with Israel, has been unable to portray the evacuation of settlers and soldiers from Gaza as the fruit of his diplomatic efforts. By undermining Abbas, Bush has strengthened the hand of Hamas and other Palestinian groups who favor the use of violence over negotiations as a means of ending the occupation.

What can we do?

  • Call the White House Comments Line at (202) 456-1111. An operator will take your message-be sure to be brief and clear. Your statement will be included in a report that the White House receives on a weekly basis. If they receive several calls at once on the same issue, they may submit a report to the White House that day.
  • Write your representative and senators. Personalized letters are an effective means of advocacy for members of Congress. Write to: US House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515 or US Senate, Washington, DC 20510. You can also e-mail your representative and senators. Find out who your congressmembers are and how to contact them by visiting or
  • Urge the President and members of Congress to:
    • Support a US Middle East policy that holds both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships accountable to international human rights standards and humanitarian law protecting civilians in war zones.
    • Support the long-standing international consensus for resolving Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This consensus, first articulated in a January 1976 UN resolution, has been the basis of numerous peace plans accepted by the Palestinian leadership, but rejected by Israel and the US. The resolution called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and guaranteed the right of all states in the region, including Israel and a Palestinian state, to peace and security within recognized borders.

Yes! I want to help women build a better future for themselves and their families

Follow this link to make a donation in support of MADRE's programs for peace and justice in the Middle East and around the world.


  1. "Human Rights Overview: Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories," Human Rights Watch,
  2. "Monthly Deaths for Gaza Region, February 2004 - July 2005," Palestine Red Crescent Society,
  3. "Crisis Prevention and Recovery," Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People, United Nations Development Program,
  4. "One Big Prison: Freedom of Movement to and from the Gaza Strip on the Eve of the Disengagement Plan," B'Tselem, March 2005,
  5. "One Big Prison: New Report Warns Against Continued Strangulation of Gaza Strip after Disengagement," Press Release, B'Tselem, 29 March 2005,
  6. Ibid.
  7. "The Disengagement Proposal of Ariel Sharon," MidEast Web, 14 April 2004,
  8. Uri Avnery, "Paved with Bad Intentions," Gush Shalom, 3 March 2005,; "UN rules against Israeli barrier," BBC News, 9 July 2004,
  9. Ari Shavit, "The Big Freeze," Ha'aretz, 8 October 2004,

« Back to "Press Room" Next Article »

Article Tools
Increase Font Decrease Font Reset Font Print Page Email Page


"Press Room" Home November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001


Kat Noel, Website & Media Coordinator
PHONE: +1 212 627 0444

To sign up to receive MADRE media alerts, click here.

Bring MADRE to You

MADRE & Our Partners Make News