Gaza’s Unending Crisis

Posted February 6, 2008

THE UNAUTHORIZED OPENING of Gaza’s border with Egypt may be known to later historians as the beginning of the Third Intifada of the Palestinian people. That remains to be seen. What should be clear to everyone — with the Egyptian border now re-closing and with the Israeli assassinations of resistance leaders back in full operation – is that Gaza under closure and blockade is an open wound on the body of the “international community,” and the deliberate starvation of its people by the Israeli siege a massive crime against humanity.

We present here some recent analyses of the Gaza events from Palestinian, Israeli and international observers and activists. Although these may not reflect the instant news of today’s headlines, they highlight the underlying reality: Gaza is a crisis without any hope of solution in the absence of justice and self-determination for the Palestinian people.

The Gaza crisis is a product, first, of the Nakba sixty years ago – the ethnic cleansing when tens of thousands of mostly smallholding Arab farmers, and residents of cities on the Mediterranean south of Tel Aviv, were expelled from what became southern Israel. They were trapped between Israel and Egypt, often only a short distance from the properties stolen from them, crammed into the tiny coastal strip in numbers far beyond what its fragile agricultural base and water resources could accommodate.

With the Israeli occupation of 1967, Gaza’s population became heavily dependent on casual day labor in Israel, under brutal and degrading conditions. In the early 1970s, citing “security from terror,” the Israeli army under Ariel Sharon bulldozed wide areas of housing and fields in Gaza. The First Intifada erupted in 1987 when laborers from Gaza were crushed in a traffic accident at the border crossing – resulting in the loss of almost all employment inside Israel. During the 1990s “peace process,” frequent closures brought Gaza to near-complete economic ruin – and the horrific repression since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 completed the process.

Today some 1.5 million Gaza residents live practically without employment, often with no electricity, water filled with toxic poisons, and increasingly inadequate food and medical supplies. Israel, the United States and the European Union are boycotting the elected Hamas-led Palestinian government, after Hamas took control in Gaza.

From the first day that Hamas won the Palestinian Authority election in 2006, the United States sought to isolate and destroy it. So much for “spreading democracy”! Israel promptly arrested dozens of elected Hamas parliamentarians. After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice openly called for president Mahmoud Abbas to dismiss the Hamas government – i.e. for a Palestinian civil war – the Hamas and Fatah factions met in Saudi Arabia and negotiated a national unity government. It was then that the U.S. government attempted to organize a Fatah coup, provoking Hamas to strike first in Gaza while Fatah forces moved to destroy Hamas in the West Bank.

The result is that the Occupied Palestinian Territories are politically splintered, and the democratic process destroyed. Because the Gaza population refuses to surrender, Israel has labeled it “a hostile entity” and set out to starve it – leading to the destruction of the wall on the Egyptian border and the Gaza population’s short-lived whiff of freedom. Hamas has proven to the governments of Egypt and Israel – and the United States, if the U.S. government were able to listen – that it cannot be ignored.

In any case Gaza has exploded before and will do so again unless, at minimum, the blockade is broken and a fully independent Palestinian state established with a viable economy, reparations for the misery inflicted on the population, and the right of return or compensation for families affected by ethnic cleansing. There is no other way out of this crisis.

Further Reading