Gaza, What Future?

Photo by Robin Sommer

The Gaza Strip is under quarantine since 2007, subjected to a commercial and naval blockade at the arbitrary discretion of Israel. It has been the target of three Israeli military invasions in 2009, 2012, and 2014. In the span of 22 days (December 27, 2008, to January 18, 2009), 1434 Palestinians were killed, including 1259 civilians and 288 children. Between November 14 and 21, 2012, 103 Palestinians were killed, including 30 children. In less than two months (July 8 to August 26, 2014), 1462 civilians were killed, including 551 children. During this latest offensive, 136 schools were destroyed or damaged, 15 hospitals and 43 healthcare centers were destroyed. Nearly 20,000 homes were bombed, leaving 105,000 people homeless. In May 2021, the clashes resulted in at least 232 deaths on the Palestinian side, including 65 children, and 12 deaths in Israel, including a six-year-old child and a 16-year-old girl. The United Nations estimates there are 1600 orphans in the Gaza Strip.

Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Territories, estimated that 40% of the male population of Gaza had experienced Israeli prisons. Administrative detention in Israel allows for an accusation for six months, renewable, without any charges.

More than 50% of young Palestinians in this enclave are unemployed, making them easy recruits for the Hamas military forces. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in 2000 concerned about 80,000 people, now counts more than 800,000 (out of a population of 2 million). According to a report by the international children’s rights NGO Save The Children, titled ‘Trapped’ and published in June 2022, four out of five children in Gaza suffer from depression and anxiety. 80% of the population in Gaza lives below the poverty line.

Swift action is needed to prevent outbreaks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and to avert an imminent food crisis,” said with no avail  Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to the Security Council on May 24, 2023.

The victory of Hamas in the 2006 elections is inseparable from the radicalization of Palestinian society, in the face of the Israeli blockade, as was its creation in December 1987 at the beginning of the first Intifada. Hamas has a dense network of charitable associations within a humiliated and helpless population. The main leaders of Hamas have been all assassinated by the Israelis. The current leaders have since been refugees in Qatar. The Chief of the Israeli Air Force boasted to the press of having overseen between 80 and 100 extrajudicial targeted assassinations, with a “90% success rate.”

Since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, a so-called “military exclusion” buffer zone ranging from 300 meters to 1.5 kilometers in depth covers 20% of the territory and hinders 35% of cultivable land, far from the 1949 armistice line (“Green Line”) originally separating Israel and Gaza. Since that date, there have been more than twelve offensives against this territory with a heavy human toll: on the Palestinian side, 7600 killed, including 2800 civilians; on the Israeli side, 123 killed, including 23 civilians.

With the Hamas military offensive on October 8, 2023, this toll will considerably increase. And for what result?

The best guarantee of Israel’s security is the restored dignity of the Palestinian populations and not, as declared by the Minister of the Interior in Netanyahu’s government, Eli Yishai, during the bombing of the Gaza Strip, to “return Gaza to medieval times.”

Patrick Howlett-Martin is a career diplomat living in Paris. His new book is La Mémoire Profanée. Les Spoliations Nazies. Le vol du Patrimoine culturel et la question de sa restitution (The Profaned Memory. Nazis Spoliations. The Theft of Cultural Heritage and the Issue of its Restitution), L’Harmattan, Paris, October 2023.