Thousands sign up for Independence Day march backing Gaza resettlement

‘We will march together in order to demand the settlement of the entire Gaza Strip,’ says ultranationalist MK endorsing Tuesday rally

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

A composite image produced by the Nachala Settlement Movement organization of banners posted around the country advertising a mass rally close to the Gaza border on Independence Day, May 14, 2024, demanding the construction of new settlements in Gaza. (Courtesy Nachala Settlement Movement)
A composite image produced by the Nachala Settlement Movement organization of banners posted around the country advertising a mass rally close to the Gaza border on Independence Day, May 14, 2024, demanding the construction of new settlements in Gaza. (Courtesy Nachala Settlement Movement)

Pro-settlement activists and organizations are set to stage a mass march Tuesday, Independence Day, calling for the resettlement of the Gaza Strip, in an event expected to draw thousands of participants.

The Nachala Settlement Movement, which has a history of radical settler activism, is the principal group organizing the march, along with other hardline religious-Zionist and ultranationalist groups, including Hotam, Sovereignty, and The Jewish Truth, among others.

The march will set out from Or Haner junction, just several kilometers from the Israeli border with northern Gaza, and end at the Sderot observation point that overlooks Gaza.

According to an online registration page for the march, over 4,000 people were already signed up for the march as of Sunday night, with organizers hoping for some 10,000 participants.

Israel evacuated its settlements in the Gaza Strip, with their 8,000 residents, in the 2005 Disengagement, action that was raucously opposed at the time by the settler movement. Since Hamas took over the territory in a bloody coup in 2007, Israel and the terror group have fought numerous conflicts, with the worst being the current ongoing war following the Hamas-led atrocities of October 7.

Israeli leaders have said they have no plan to resettle Gaza, and any attempt to do so would lead to an intense international backlash.

Unlike similar marches staged since the war with Hamas began, there will be no effort to breach the Gaza border fence, with a Nachala staff member stating that the event will be “conducted in accordance with the law,” and that it had been coordinated with the security services.

MK Limor Son Har Melech of the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party endorsed the march on Sunday, and insisted that only the rebuilding of settlements in Gaza would ensure Israeli security in the long term.

Settler activists erect makeshift structures within the Erez border crossing complex leading from Israel to northern Gaza, but within Israeli territory, February 29, 2024. (Courtesy Nachala Settlement Movement)

“Settlement is the order of the hour. That’s how we win, that’s how we guarantee security, that’s how we strengthen the Jewish people,” said Son Har Melech in a video message promoting the march she posted on X.

“We are going home. We will march together with thousands of the people of Israel in order to demand the settlement of the entire Gaza Strip. To make clear forever that whoever harms the people of Israel loses everything, and to guarantee total victory in [this] war.”

Nachala put out a slick promotional video for the event last week, showing a man failing to light a traditional Independence Day barbecue in his garden, before excitedly joining up with a group of activists headed to the rally.

And the organization has built a large social media campaign typical of its large set-piece events, pushing activists to post ads for the rally on social media and sharing videos, promos, gifs and other media to promote the event.

Nachala has also obtained the endorsement of the parents of at least two IDF soldiers who were killed during the October 7 Hamas invasion and in the subsequent battles in Gaza, as well as the father of Eitan Mor, one of the Israeli hostages being held captive by Hamas.

Settlement activists at a conference in Jerusalem to promote the construction of Jewish settlements in Gaza go up on stage in dedicated groups that seek to establish six new settlements in the coastal enclave, January 28, 2024. (Courtesy the Nachala Settlement Movement)

“True victory is only the subjugation of the enemy, meaning the full conquest of the territory, the expulsion of all the terrorists, and settlement in the Gaza Strip. Only in that way will we achieve victory,” Mor’s father Zvika told Channel 14 news on Tuesday.

The activist movement to build new settlements in Gaza in the wake of the October 7 atrocities and the war against Hamas in Gaza is a reflection of the same goals expressed by senior politicians and coalition parties, including the Religious Zionism party and its leader Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and the Otzma Yehudit party and its leader National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Both ultranationalist leaders endorsed the idea of building Jewish settlements in Gaza during a conference organized by Nachala in January.

Smotrich declared from the stage “God willing, we will settle and we will be victorious,” while Ben Gvir averred that it was “time to return home to Gush Katif” — the name of the Israeli settlement bloc in Gaza that was evacuated in the 2005 Disengagement, and endorsed what he described as “voluntary emigration” for Palestinians from Gaza.

And in February, far-right settler activists broke through an Israeli military checkpoint at the Erez Crossing and crossed into Gazan territory, with some making it hundreds of meters into the Strip before being detained and returned by troops.

Others set up two rudimentary, and largely symbolic, settlement structures beyond the walls of the Erez Crossing leading into Gaza, albeit still on Israeli territory, with a handful of activists reciting blessings upon what they said was their return to the Strip.

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