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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 July 2005, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Should Gaza march continue?
Israeli protestors spent the night in fields near Netivot
Should a protest march against plans to dismantle Jewish settlements in the Gaza strip be allowed to go ahead?

The mass protest in southern Israel appears to be losing momentum.

Many of the protesters are heading home, although thousands still remain, after spending two nights in the open having been barred access to Gaza by police.

The protest has been declared illegal and 20,000 police and troops are ready to prevent the protestors from entering Gaza to disrupt next month's pullout.

Are you part of the protest or do you live in one of the settlements? Should the marchers continue with their protest? Will next month's pullout be affected?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

Yes, they should be allowed free speech and to continue marching. They are being forced out of their homes and moved from their livelihood. I wish them luck.
Robert Taylor, Edgware, United Kingdom

Democracy means the opposition has the right to challenge government decisions by all non-violent means, including marches. So yes, they should continue.
JJ Lazega, Antwerp, Belgium

If the protestors wish to march through Gaza let them do so, but make it clear to both them and the Palestinians that neither the Israeli army nor the police will protect them whilst they are in Gaza. How many would be so keen to continue then?
Nigel, Fujisawa, Japan

The Israelis who are protesting are forgetting how they got that land in the first place
Jon Simmonds, Beirut, Lebanon
The Israelis who are protesting are forgetting how they got that land in the first place. My great grandmother was forced out of her home by the Israelis. It's good to see them get a taste of their own medicine.
Jon Simmonds, Beirut, Lebanon

No, the marches should stop. The settlements are illegal and should never have been built in the first place.
Lars Nilsson, Clearwater, FL, USA

I would join the march to protest the Judenrein policy of the PLA. I am for disengagement because we need to disengage, acknowledge the PLA have destroyed the chance for peace and create a situation that we can live with.
Miche Norman, Ra'anana. Israel

I don't think the protestors should be allowed to march. They claim that their democratic rights are being infringed, but the decision to withdraw from Gaza was a democratic one, passed by a majority in the Israeli parliament.
Jonathan, Jerusalem, Israel

The Jewish population in Israel has fought long and hard for everything they have
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio, USA
I don't believe that the average Israeli citizen is willing to give up any land to the Palestinians and the government is losing touch with its citizens. The Jewish population in Israel has fought long and hard for everything they have and I wish them luck.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio, USA

No, it shouldn't be allowed. Israel needs to clear out of all of the occupied territories, not just Gaza.
Lin, SF, USA

No it should not. Israel should not demolish the houses and should just leave the area.
Yuhan, Springfield, USA

The bottom line is these settlements in Gaza are on occupied land. The sooner it is returned the sooner peace will follow.
Kwok, Sydney, Australia

Thousands of Israelis are angry enough about the pullout plan to risk arrest and injury to march to Gaza in a peaceful protest. The authorities should leave them alone - perhaps they can set an example to the Palestinians regarding how to protest your cause without using violence.
Jeremy, Regina, Canada

Certainly let the Israelis protest or whatever, but limit the time to do this and then get them out of the West Bank in order to implement the peace process which both parties are supposed to have agreed upon.
Vernon Newland, Brookline, MA, USA

These protests are futile and could bring unnecessary bloodshed
Khaim Kalontar, Atlanta, USA
The goal of the protest is to stop the disengagement process. These protests are futile and could bring unnecessary bloodshed to Jewish inhabitants of the Gaza strip. Their supporters should respect the decision of the government and reconcile with the idea of an Israeli withdrawal. I am sure that the disengagement will be carried out smoothly.
Khaim Kalontar, Atlanta, USA

I am against the marchers' cause. But having said that it is every person's human right to be able protest.
Mark Sassoon, London

The march must continue. It is those for pullout who are endangering Israeli lives.
Rivka Leiner, Yitzhar, Israel

I find no sympathy for these Israeli settlers. The policy of Israel has created this monster and they need to squash it. If the policy had not been "take, take, take" from the Palestinians for so many decades, then they would not find themselves in this position.
Jennifer, Seattle, USA

Yes, in a democracy, citizens should have a peaceful right to protest. But a mixture of 100,000 protesters, police and soldiers is not a recipe for a peaceful protest. The decision to stifle the protest before it gains momentum was not made to stifle a democratic voice, but to ensure the future public safety of the other 7,000,000 residents.
J R, Haifa, Israel

The settlers already complain that they are in fear of living in the Gaza Strip
Sassan, Oyster Bay, USA
I have always believed in the right to express one's opinion, but the fact is this only adds more animosity between each side. It is bad enough that Israel basically controls the Gaza Strip. Losing a few "Israel" settlements doesn't hurt anyone. The settlers already complain that they are in fear of living in the Gaza Strip. Why should they want to stay? The protestors should not be allowed to go ahead.
Sassan, Oyster Bay, USA

Like Palestinians living in other countries, can the Israeli settlers apply for Palestinian citizenship and continue living there? The settlers may consider that piece of land sacred so they should be allowed to live there but abide the Palestinian law.
Ellen, New York

This demonstrates the folly of not having put this important decision vital to the security of the entire country to a nationwide referendum. A decision by one party or another in the government of the moment to make a concession of this magnitude is not sufficient to give it legitimacy. The settlers went to live there because the government told them to. They built the entire settlement out of nothing but sand dunes. Nobody lived there before. They are clearly being used as pawns. They have every right to peaceful public protest and so does any other Israeli citizen.
Mark, USA

I pray no one gets hurts. I feel for the people protesting and the soldiers that have to push them back. This has to be hard on everyone. I sadly say the pullout of Gaza is the right thing to bring peace. I will pray for both side of this issue.
Barbara, New York, USA

The protests should go ahead, enforced by the Israeli police to ensure it is peaceful. Maybe it will encourage the Palestinians to protest peacefully, and the PA to act when things get out of hand.
Jonathan, Manchester, UK

The protest march should definitely be stopped. Some peoples' opposition to the withdrawal from Gaza has been duly noted but withdrawal needs to occur, nonetheless. A huge protest could only serve to ignite further tension and violence in a very delicate process.
Edie, Davis, CA, USA

The march should be allowed to go ahead as long as the marchers are aware of and accept the risks. After all, this is an expression of democracy and no matter whether one agrees with the pullout from Gaza or not, one should not deny the right of those opposed to express their views. The fact that the settlements are built on land ethnically cleansed of the original inhabitants is a separate issue.
John Menzies, Canada

To John Menzies, Canada: "The fact that the settlements are built on land ethnically cleansed of the original inhabitants is a separate issue." I'm afraid, this is a fiction. The vast majority of settlements were built on unpopulated/undeveloped land. Where the land in question was owned privately, it was legitimately purchased in official sales.
Mohammed, Jerusalem, Israel

The real questions that should be asked are, who and why declare this protest illegal? I support the step of dismantle the settlement but I also support the right to protest. The media in Israel presents them as dangerous for democracy. Most of the settlers remember the history of the Jewish people that caused a civil war. It's important to understand their pain: not only the dismantle from they're home, but also hurting they're beliefs.
Gilad Roter, Haifa, Israel

Lasting peace and trust between two cultures is far more important
Ethan, Livonia, MI, USA
Freedom of speech and right to assembly are basic rights in a democratic nation. However, with the heightened tension between Palestinian and Israeli people, and in view of the delicacy of the peace process, I can't help but find these marchers incredibly selfish. Yes, they will lose land, but I feel that lasting peace and trust between two cultures is far more important. The marchers should withdraw and respect the decision their government has reached, by majority vote, to pull out of Gaza.
Ethan, Livonia, MI, USA

I'm more concerned about where they may go rather than that some Israelis are protesting. They obviously don't like the Gaza pull-out plan. That's their own prerogative and are entitled to it. That does not mean that have the right to go traipsing into the Gaza Strip. That area is not exactly the safest in the world, has one of the highest single concentrations of people in the world and, in case we forgot, a lot of those Palestinians harbour some degree of animosity towards Israelis, Israeli settlers in particular. The Israeli government has the obligation to ensure law and order. If the conservative element in Israel doesn't wish to recognize those, then it may be necessary to make hard choices.
Christopher D Magee, Fairfax, VA USA

The settlers are radical elements of Israeli society and will not get out of Gaza peacefully. Israel created this problem in the first place by building illegal settlements on occupied territories which is violation of all international law. European countries all gave up their former colonies, so what is stopping Israel from giving back the Palestinians their land and freedom?
Rima Mutreja, Washington DC, USA

Families evicted and their homes demolished? Difficult to sympathise, as it sounds to me like the Israeli settlers are about to experience what the Palestinians have been suffering for a long time! I can't see it contributing toward to the peace process, just another case of "tit for tat"!
Nick, Hertfordshire, UK

The marchers should stop because this is detrimental to the peace process. This is adding tensions to the peace process and both Hamas and the extremist parties could use it to their advantage by continuing to lobby missiles into Israel. Now is the time for both Palestinians and Israelis to make peace because we may not know when will peace be achieved for the future generations.
Firdaus, Singapore

As a democracy, the settlers ought to be able to protest, peacefully. However, for the sake of the greater goal, namely peace with the Palestinians, the settlements have to go. These obtuse settlers must realize this. 60 plus years of war is far too much.
Michael, Denver, USA

No, to the march continuing. Both the Palestinians and Israelis deserve this chance for peaceful coexistence. This pullout must happen next month.
Heather Paul, NY,USA

No other country has been forced to give back territory it won in a defensive war
Jay, New York, USA
The march should continue: no other country has been forced to give back territory it won in a defensive war - that double standard is only applied to Israel.
Jay, New York, USA

It is the Israeli government's decision to dismantle settlements. They claim it necessary as part of the peace process. The objectors should respect that decision, make their point and leave.
Warwick, Sydney, Australia

The protestors must be stopped. How can the Israeli/Palestinian conflict be resolved otherwise? It is understandable the Israelis are upset, but what about the years of persecution the Palestinians have had to endure?
Caroline Astle, Wirral

This should be stopped before things get out of control. If they all break through the fence and march on Palestinian land, it will just cause further retaliation from the Palestinians and the fragile peace will be broken yet again. These 'settlers' should be removed - it is not their land!
Steve, Istanbul, Turkey

Israel is a democracy and everyone should be able to express their voice
Mike, Chicago, USA
Even though I don't believe in their cause the marchers should be allowed to protest. Israel is a democracy and everyone should be able to express their voice. On the practical side, the marchers should not be let into Gaza proper, which might spell trouble no matter from which side a provocation will come from.
Mike, Chicago, USA

I find this demonstration to be detrimental to the security of Israel. It is absolutely necessary for the settlers to leave Gaza, so that security precautions should be in place to protect the country.
Ezekiel Isaac, Montreal, Canada

So conservative Israelis are opposing the pull-out of land that has been illegally occupied and the main cause of all the terrorist bombings they have suffered since it happened? I don't agree with the terrorists at all, but things like this make their actions easier to understand. The Israelis are not helping themselves at all.
Jamie, London

It's a tough situation, asking soldiers to move against their own citizens. However, I still fail to see how, even with the protest it makes a bit of difference with regard to what is broadly understood to be illegal settlements.
Shayaan Faruqi, New Jersey, USA

The only thing the marchers can possibly achieve is to increase the tensions in Israel
Sebastian Jansen, Dresden, Germany
I think the marchers should stop their protest. They won't prevent the pullout anyway, and the only thing they can possibly achieve is to increase the tensions in Israel. Instead of trying to ignite another wave of violence, people should start thinking about how to settle the conflict in a peaceful way.
Sebastian Jansen, Dresden, Germany

Surely the protest should be allowed to go ahead. Israel's government is using dictatorial laws to make such protests illegal, because they know that such massive protests can derail the withdrawal. Freedom of Speech should surely be allowed.
David Strauss, New York, USA

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