The Israeli Occupation and Blockade Is
Responsible for Brutal and Inhumane Conditions Palestinians Suffer in
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July
Two million Palestinians live in Gaza
under a total Israeli-Egyptian siege and blockade. These are
descendants of refugees who were forced out of their lands by
Israelis in 1948. They were subjected to three brutal Israeli
wars on them in 2008, 2012, and 2014.
Moreover, starting from 2007, they have
been subjected to continuous Israeli siege and blockade, in
which Egypt participated most of the time. With about two hours
a day of electricity and no jobs, most of them live on handouts
from the international donors.
Huge reserves of natural gas have been
discovered off their Palestinian coast, which should make them
among the wealthiest people in the world but the Israelis have
stolen their natural gas, just like they stole their lands, by
force. This is the brutal truth.
Two million Palestinians live in Gaza under a total Israeli-Egyptian
siege and blockade. These are descendants of refugees who were forced
out of their lands by Israelis in 1948. They were subjected to three
brutal Israeli wars on them in 2008, 2012, and 2014. Then, starting from
2007, they have been subjected to continuous Israeli siege and blockade,
in which Egypt participated most of the time. With about two hours a day
of electricity and no jobs, most of them live on handouts from the
international donors. Huge reserves of natural gas have been discovered
off their Palestinian coast, which should make them among the wealthiest
people in the world but the Israelis have taken the natural gas just
like they took land of Palestine, by force. This is the brutal truth.
The World is Eyeless in Gaza
I HAVE a unique confession to make:
I like Gaza.
Yes, I like this far-away
corner of Palestine, the narrow strip on the way to Egypt, in which
two million human beings are crowded,
and which is closer to hell than to heaven.
My heart goes out to them.
I HAVE spent quite a lot of time in the Strip. Once or twice I
stayed there with Rachel for a couple of days. I became friendly with
some people whom I admired, people like Dr. Haidar Abd-al-Shafi, the
leftist doctor who set up the Gazan health system, and Rashad al-Shawa,
the former Mayor, an aristocrat from birth.
After the Oslo
agreement, when Yasser Arafat came back to the country and set up his
office in Gaza, I met him there many times. I brought to him groups of
Israelis. On his first day there he sat me on the dais next to him. A
photo of that occasion now looks like science fiction.
came to know the Hamas people. Before Oslo, when Yitzhak Rabin deported
415 Islamic activists from the country, I took part in setting up
protest tents opposite his office. We lived there together, Jews,
Christians and Muslims, and there Gush Shalom was born. After a year,
when the deportees were allowed back, I was invited to a public
reception for them in Gaza and found myself speaking to hundreds of
bearded faces. Among them were some of today's Hamas leaders.
Therefore I cannot treat the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip as a faceless
gray mass of people. I couldn't stop thinking about them during last
week's terrible heat wave, about the people languishing in awful
conditions, without electricity and
air conditioning, without clean water, without medicines for the sick. I
thought about those living in the houses severely damaged in the last
wars and not repaired since. About the men and women,
the old, the children, the toddlers, the babies.
My heart was
bleeding, and was asking who was to blame.
Yes, who is to blame
for this ongoing atrocity?
ACCORDING TO the Israelis, "the
Palestinians themselves are to blame". Fact: the Palestinian leadership
in Ramallah has decided to reduce the electricity supply to Gaza from
three hours a day to two. (The electricity is supplied by Israel and
paid for by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.)
to be true. The conflict between the Palestinian Authority, ruled by
Fat'h, and the Palestinian leadership in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, has come
to an ugly climax.
The uninvolved bystander wonders: how can
After all, the entire
Palestinian people are in existential danger. The Israeli government
tyrannizes all Palestinians, both in the West Bank and in the Gaza
Strip. It keeps the Strip under a strangling blockade, on land, in the
sea and in the air, and is setting up settlements all over the West
Bank, to drive the population out.
desperate situation, how can the Palestinians fight each other, to the
obvious delight of the occupation authorities?
That is terrible,
but, sadly, not unique. On the contrary, in almost all liberation
struggles, something similar has happened. During the Irish struggle for
independence, the freedom fighters fought against each other and even
shot each other. During our own struggle for statehood, the Haganah
underground turned Irgun fighters over to the British police, who
tortured them, and later shot up a ship bringing recruits and arms to
But these and many other examples do not justify
what is happening now in Gaza. The struggle between Fat'h and Hamas on
the backs of two million people condemns these to inhuman living
As an old friend of the Palestinian people in their
fight for liberation, I am deeply saddened.
BUT THERE are more partners to the
atrocious blockade on Gaza.
Israel can blockade
the Strip only on three sides. The fourth side is the Egyptian border.
Egypt, which has in
the past fought four major wars against Israel on behalf of the
Palestinian brothers (in one of which I was wounded by an Egyptian
machine-gunner) is now participating
in the cruel blockade on the Strip.
happened? How did it happen?
Everyone who knows the Egyptian
people knows that it is one of the most attractive peoples on earth. A
very proud people. A people full of humor even in the most trying
circumstances. Several times I have heard in Egypt phrases like: "We do
not like the Palestinians very much, but they are our poor cousins, and
we cannot abandon them under any circumstances!"
And here they
are, not only abandoning, but cooperating with the cruel occupation.
All this why? Because the local rulers in Gaza are religious
fanatics, just like the Muslim Brothers in Egypt who are the deadly
enemies of today's Pharaoh, General Abd-al-Fatah al-Sisi. Because of
this enmity, millions in Gaza are punished.
Now rumor has it
that Egypt would relent, if the Gazans accept an Egyptian stooge as
The Israeli blockade of Gaza is completely
dependent on the Egyptian blockade. Proud
Egypt, which claims to be the leader the entire
Arab World, has become the handmaiden
of the Israeli occupation.
Who would have
BUT THE main responsibility for the atrocity in
Gaza falls, of course, on us, on
are the occupiers – a novel type of occupation by blockade.
The justification is clear: They want to destroy us. That is the
official doctrine of Hamas. The mouse hurls terrible threats against the
But like all religious people,
they find a hundred different ways to cheat God and get around His
Hamas has declared that if Mahmood Abbas made
peace with Israel, and if the Palestinian people confirmed the peace by
plebiscite, Hamas would accept it.
Also, Islam allows for a
Hudna (armistice) with infidels for any length of time – 10, 50, 100
years. After that, Allah is great.
In many hidden ways, Israel
does cooperate with Hamas, especially against the even more extreme
Islamists in the Strip. We could easily reach a modus vivendi all along
SO WHY must the
people in Gaza suffer so grievously?
No one really knows. Because of
the mental laziness of the occupation. Because that's
what we are used to doing.
Here is a mental exercise: What if we
did the very opposite?
What if we announced to the people in the
Gaza Strip: the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is now paying for only
two hours of electricity a day. But seeing your suffering, Israel has
decided to provide you with electricity for 24 hours for free.
What would be the effect? How would Hamas react? How would it affect the
level of violence and security costs?
For the long run, there
are many Israeli and international plans. An artificial island in the
Mediterranean opposite Gaza. An airport on the island. A deep-sea port.
Peace in fact, even without declarations.
I believe that this is
the wisest way to proceed. But wisdom has little chance.
meantime, the atrocity goes on. Two
million human beings suffer inhuman treatment.
And the world? Alas.
the world is busy. It has no eyes for Gaza. Better not
to think about that awful place.
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