FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
January 23, 2018
Carl Boggs
Doomsday Panic in Hawaii
Mark Ashwill
If I Were US Ambassador to Vietnam…
Jack Rasmus
US Government Shutdown: Democrats Blink…Again
Nick Pemberton
The Inherent Whiteness of “Our Revolution”
Leeann Hall
Trump’s Gift for the Unemployed: Kicking Them Off Health Care
Dean Baker
Lessons in Economics For the NYT’s Bret Stephens: Apple and Donald Trump’s Big Tax Cut
Mitchell Zimmerman
Law, Order and the Dreamers
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi
The Kids the World Forgot
Dave Lindorff
South Korea Slips Off the US Leash
Ali Mohsin
Extrajudicial Murder of Pashtun Exposes State Brutality in Pakistan
Jessicah Pierre
Oprah is No Savior
John Carroll Md
Keeping Haiti in Perspective
Amir Khafagy
Marching Into the Arms of the Democrats
January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Earmark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail