Ending the Stranglehold on Gaza

by EYAD Al-SARRAJ And SARA ROY

An Israeli convoy of goods and peace activists will go today to Erez, Israel’s border with Gaza, and many Palestinians will be on the other side waiting. They will not see one another, but Palestinians will know there are Jews who condemn the siege inflicted on the tiny territory by Israel’s military establishment and want to see an end to the 40-year-old occupation.

Israel’s minister of justice, Haim Ramon, had pushed for cutting off Gaza’s "infrastructural oxygen" – water, electricity, and fuel – as a response to the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel. Last Sunday, Ramon’s wish came true: Israel’s blockade forced Gaza’s only power plant to shut down, plunging 800,000 people into darkness. Food and humanitarian aid were also denied entry. Although international pressure forced Israel to let in some supplies two days later, and the situation further eased when Palestinians breached the border wall with Egypt, the worst may be yet to come.

The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, agrees with Ramon’s strategy, saying that it is "inconceivable that life in Gaza continues to be normal." The rapid and deepening desperation of Gaza’s sick and hungry is of no moral concern to her. For Livni, like Ramon, the siege is a tactical measure, a human experiment to stop the rockets and bring down a duly elected government.

The siege on Gaza and the West Bank began after Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory with an international diplomatic and financial boycott of the new Hamas-led government. Development assistance was severely reduced with the improbable aim of bringing about a popular uprising against the very government just elected to power. Instead, this collective punishment resulted in a steady deterioration of Palestinian life, in growing lawlessness, and a violent confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, which escalated into a Hamas military takeover of Gaza in June 2007.

Since then, the siege has been tightened to an unprecedented level. Over 80 percent of the population of 1.5 million (compared to 63 percent in 2006) is dependent on international food assistance, which itself has been dramatically reduced.

In 2007, 87 percent of Gazans lived below the poverty line, more than a tripling of the percentage in 2000. In a November 2007 report, the Red Cross stated about the food allowed into Gaza that people are getting "enough to survive, not enough to live."

Why is this acceptable?

The reduction in fuel supplies that the Israeli government first approved in October not only threatens the provision of health and medical services but the stock of medicines, which is rapidly being depleted. This has forced the critically ill to seek treatment outside the Gaza Strip.

However, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, many patients are being denied permission to leave, because of new bureaucratic restrictions imposed on top of an already inefficient and arbitrary system. The organization has also accused the Israeli intelligence service of forcing some patients to inform on others in order to be granted passage.

Since June, Israel has limited its exports to Gaza to nine basic materials. Out of 9,000 commodities (including foodstuffs) that were entering Gaza before the siege began two years ago, only 20 commodities have been permitted entry since. Although Gaza daily requires 680,000 pounds of flour (ie, 340 tons) to feed its population, Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 73 percent. Not surprisingly, there has been a sharp increase in the prices of foodstuffs.

Gaza also suffers from the ongoing destruction of its agriculture and physical infrastructure. Between June and November 2006, $74.7 million in damage was inflicted by the Israeli military on top of the nearly $2 billion already incurred by Palestinians between 2002 and 2005. Over half the damage was to agricultural land flattened by bulldozers, with the remainder to homes, public buildings, roads, water and sewage pipes, electricity infrastructure, and phone lines.

The psychological damage of living in a war zone may surpass the physical. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, between Sept. 1, 2005, and July 25, 2007, 668 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli security forces. Over half were noncombatants and 126 were children. During the same period, Qassam rockets and mortar shells killed eight Israelis, half of them civilians.

Gaza is no longer approaching economic collapse. It has collapsed. Given the intensity of repression Gaza is facing, can the collapse of its society – family, neighborhood, and community structure – be far behind? If that happens, we shall all suffer the consequences for generations to come.

Eyad al-Sarraj is founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.

Sara Roy is senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University.



 


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece