ha’aretz journalist amira hass has a good piece in the london review of books this week that offers some context on the prison that is gaza, its origin, and its relationship to the situation in the west bank, which is worth quoting in its entirety:
Israel has finally breached the few limits it formerly set up for itself as an occupying state, and defied all the restrictions of international law that would require it to provide for the safety and welfare of the occupied population. It claims that disengagement ended the occupation and that Gaza is now an independent entity. Contrary to conventional wisdom, disengagement did not begin in 2005 with the evacuation of the settlers and the withdrawal of soldiers. It began in 1991, when, four years into the intifada, Israel instigated its closure policy (similar to the pass system under apartheid) and denied the Palestinians freedom of movement between the West Bank and Gaza, and within Israel. Unopposed by the international community, closure eventually turned into a policy of demographic separation, dividing Palestinians from Palestinians and Palestinians from Israelis.
The immediate consequence of the separation policy was to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank (and Palestinian East Jerusalem), from its population, its education centres and health services, from jobs in Israel and from family members and friends. No wonder Israel now defines Gazans who live in the West Bank as ‘illegal sojourners’ unless they have an Israeli permit to be there. The tight siege imposed in Gaza over the last two years has merely exacerbated the situation. The separation policy of the 1990s (along with the rapid expansion of Jewish colonies in the West Bank) was designed to destroy the foundation of a future Palestinian state.
Israel suppressed the second intifada with lethal means that it did not dare use in the first, not just because the Palestinians had now acquired guns, or because of the suicide bombings, but rather because since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has treated the ‘other side’ as sovereign and independent – when it wants to. As if the PA enclaves were not under occupation. Thanks to this very effective propaganda, most Israelis believe that the creation of the PA resembles the founding of an independent state – an ungrateful one at that, attacking little, peace-seeking Israel. They find it easy enough to ignore the fact that Israel continues to control – both directly and indirectly – all parameters of sovereignty and independence: land, borders, resources, water, population registry, economics, construction, education, health and medical services.
The unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the fact that Hamas spun it as a victory – the result of armed resistance – allowed Israel to claim that the occupation of Gaza had ended….
What the siege has done is reduce an entire society to the status of beggars, denying it nearly all productive activity, suffocating it in an open-air prison, disconnected from the rest of the world. The denial of the right to a livelihood, and the denial of freedom of movement: that is the essence of the siege, the foundation block of the separation policy. The closure policy is an assault on the human dignity of the Palestinians, and especially those in Gaza. Now, Israel has shown that the cage can also be a deathtrap.
one issue is, of course, the blockade that keeps palestinians dependent upon aid. but, of course, even the aid is not allowed to enter; mel frykberg explains that pasta somehow has become suspicious. (is there some sort of pasta grenade i don’t know about?):
Red-faced and unusually tongue-tied Israeli officials were forced to try and explain to U.S. Senator John Kerry during his visit to Israel last week why truckloads of pasta waiting to enter the besieged Gaza strip were not considered humanitarian aid while rice was.
Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, visited the coastal territory on a fact-finding mission.
The purpose of the visit was to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground and the level of destruction wrought by Israel’s three-week military assault on Gaza, codenamed Operation Cast Lead.
During his visit to Gaza it came to the senator’s attention that Israel had prevented a number of trucks loaded with pasta from entering the territory.
UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) officials explained to Kerry that Israel was only permitting limited amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and the definition of what the Israelis consider humanitarian was restricted.
“Pasta is not regarded as humanitarian aid and is not allowed in to Gaza while rice is,” an UNRWA official told Kerry.
Kerry then questioned Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak directly about the logic of the restriction on pasta. Following his intervention, the truckloads of pasta were eventually permitted to enter Gaza.
Over a hundred aid trucks are currently entering Gaza on a daily basis. This is more than the number of trucks that were permitted entry during the ceasefire with Hamas which lasted nearly five months until Israel launched a cross-border military raid into Gaza on Nov. 4.
However, according to the UN, the overall level of imports remain well below the 475 trucks allowed in daily before Israel’s blockade of Gaza in June 2007 when Hamas took control.
Aid organisations say the current number is insufficient to meet the market’s needs as well as the shortfall resulting from months of severe restrictions.
The Palestine Trade Centre (Paltrade) estimates that in order for any sort of economical revival to begin, exports should resume immediately and a minimum of 850 truckloads of market-triggered imports per day should be allowed entry.
most days it’s like this though–it doesn’t matter if it is rice or pasta, nothing is allowed inside:
meanwhile, for those who think the israeli terrorist aggression against gaza is over, last night, like most nights, they continued their bombing:
The strikes on the Brazil neighborhood of the city of Rafah caused no injuries, according to the director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, Muawiya Hassanein.
if israeli terrorist colonists would do as the french colonists in algeria and leave palestinians to build their own state on their own land wherever they choose then we would see more projects like the couscous co-op started in ein al-sultan refugee camp near eriha. these women, who have had a lot of success with their project, so much so they are not dependent upon aid any longer, tried to work with their sisters in gaza, but of course the israeli-terrorist siege has made that impossible as gen sander writes in electronic intifada:
The women unanimously agree that since they’ve been working at the couscous co-op their lives have improved dramatically. For the first time “we’re no longer dependent on humanitarian aid,” said Abu Shrar. Not only are they now independently taking home their well-earned wages, but they are finally able to simultaneously provide opportunities once inconceivable to their children, and fix-up their run-down homes. Furthermore, their self-confidence has grown alongside their social status, which has been propped up by virtue of their fortitude, self-determination and goodwill.
A similar success once seemed promising in the Gaza Strip, where six women’s fair trade couscous cooperatives shared the same dreams and aspirations as those of the Jericho co-op. More than two years ago, however, all six co-ops were forced to shut down thanks to the crippling Israeli blockade that prevented them from importing production requirements and exporting their produce. The closures had a direct impact on more than 400 persons whose lives depended heavily on their continued existence. More recently, after Israel’s brutal three-week assault on Gaza, one of the co-ops in Sheikh Radwan was damaged beyond repair.
indeed, two activist, alberto arce and miguel llorens, in gaza have produced a new documentary called erased, wiped off the map, to show just how brutal this aggression and invasion has been not only on people and their livelihoods, but on the entire society. for those who speak spanish and/or arabic below is the film (the link above will take you to an english-language version).
the title of the film is interesting given the way it alludes to the oft-repeated zionist mythology that arabs want to “throw jews into the sea.” of course, the reality is that zionists have been doing this to palestinians for decades now, but no one seems to notice or care, even when they are quite blatant about it:
A small number of young men soon to be drafted into the IDF from Hesder yeshivot around the country gathered at the Jerusalem Theater on Monday evening to hear speakers from the national-religious camp espouse the virtues of fulfilling “the commandment of war.”
The event, the first of its kind, was organized to salute young religious men about to be inducted and attracted just over 100 youths.
IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky told the youths it was a privilege to be able to take part “in the commandment of war and the preparations for fulfilling it.”
“Embrace this commandment with all your hearts. It is a right previous generations could not realize,” Ronsky said.
The IDF chief rabbi said Jewish armies, from the battles between the Israelites and the tribe of Amalek to the present day, had always been manned by virtuous soldiers.
Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau delivered a speech expressing hope that Israel would embark on preemptive wars rather than wait for “the enemy to come here… and see the whites of our eyes.”
“King David taught the people of Judah how to use the bow and arrow… Jacob our patriarch blessed his son Judah and told him to fight Israel’s enemies, to attack them and not fight defensively… The descendants of the tribe of Judah will do the same,” Lau said.
“Do we have another home? Somewhere else to go? This is our only home. Therefore, we have no choice but to fight… a preemptive war… not to wait for the next Operation Defensive Shield,” Lau said, referring to the 2002 IDF operation in the West Bank launched after a string of suicide bombings in Israel.
“If we could throw down our sword, it would be the dream of our lives. We pray for this three times a day, that God will bless us with peace. But so long as this does not happen, we cannot lay down our sword,” Lau added.
Rabbi Haim Druckman, who heads Bnei Akiva, said that “fighting our enemies is a commandment. To serve in the IDF is a commandment. We must remember that we could not carry out this commandment for 2,000 years. How happy we must be that we live in this great and special time, a time in which we have returned to our land, seen the founding of our state, the ingathering of exiles.”
it is really frightening how normalized and mainstream israeli terrorist rhetoric has become. as with their military, terrorist aggression, they do whatever they want and no one bothers them. their fascism has become completely mainstream, supported, even popular as in this article by sharon weill and valentina azarov from electronic intifada:
Avigdor Lieberman’s party advocates the banning of Arab political parties that called for “a democratic state for all citizens,” and the repression of what it sees as the “treachery” of the Arab citizens. According to its website, Yisrael Beiteinu demands an “unapologetical patriotism” and “requires citizens to affirm their loyalty to the state and readiness to serve in the army or in the National Service in order to be eligible for any state benefits.”
The party declares in its platform its intention to make Israel a purely Jewish state, and at the same time, “[i]ncreasing the Jewish Presence in Yehuda, Shomron, [in other words, the West Bank] the Golan [the occupied Syrian Golan Heights] and East Jerusalem” as well as working towards the “separation of Gaza from the West Bank.”
According to the party’s website, “Ideally, ‘the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,’ but we are not living in ideal times. History has shown that there is a dangerous potential for conflict wherever members of two different religions dwell in the same territory. … Members of this [Arab] minority are likely to serve as terrorist agents on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Many have already made explicit their lack of loyalty to the state. This situation could potentially lead to the collapse of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and perhaps as an entity all together. Therefore in our view, the only possible solution is the exchange of territory and populations, with the goal of the separation of the Jewish and Arab nations, respectively” (emphasis added).
Lieberman has made a number of utterances inciting racism against a Palestinians with Israeli nationality. A recent press conference organized by Lieberman’s party in Haifa barred Arab journalists from participating. As Haaretz reported on 6 February, during a recent visits to schools in northern Israel, Lieberman was welcomed with calls of “death to the Arabs” and with proposals to “revoke the Arabs’ nationality.” It was recently revealed by Haaretz that Lieberman was once a follower of the Kahane Kach movement, an extreme right wing movement that was outlawed in 1988.
Ideas that were once considered too racist to be legitimately expressed are now part of the mainstream political discourse. At the same time other opinions are silenced. This is a serious warning that the situation in Israel resembles more and more that of the apartheid-era South Africa.
and yet palestinians are never allowed to resist. their resistance is always crushed by words and israeli-american terrorism as dina jadallah-taschler explains in dissident voice:
The facts are simple enough. And yet that is not at all how current media narratives present the struggle. It is never referred to as one for liberation and freedom. Resistance to the oppressive occupation and to the expansionist and dispossessing Israeli state is never presented as a right, despite the self-evident moral and legal principle, that as the (occupying) aggressor, Israel cannot justify violence against resistance to its own initial aggression. And yet, in this last massacre, Gazans who are starving, imprisoned, mostly refugees from the original displacement that happened with Israel’s creation, and who have qualitatively modest (but technologically improving — distance/reach) weapons, are the ones being blamed for “starting” or inviting the attack on themselves. This is objectionable on several levels. Fundamentally, the framing of the story that equates Palestinian resistance with the fourth strongest army in the world is inherently deceptive. Additionally, it blames the victim for resisting annihilation.
But once again, because it is the strong who determine what is legal and what is not, the Palestinian struggle for national liberation and their resistance against their oppressors are illegal by definition and are presented as “terrorism.” The right of self-defense has been appropriated by the dominant, occupying, aggressing side and simultaneously denied to its victims. It is becoming increasingly apparent to the resisting Palestinians that this excessive use of legality is simply a means to preserve pre-existing power asymmetries that will perpetuate their oppression. It is ultimately aimed at their extinction as a people. It is the root cause of their resistance: for they refuse a peace built on injustice, no matter how much misinformation is produced disguise the facts.
The Oslo Peace Process must be evaluated from this perspective. It was started more than 15 years ago but has led to no tangible benefits for the Palestinians. On the contrary, it has led to their increasing dispossession and subjugation. It co-opted the PLO leadership and made the Palestinian Authority into a police arm of and chief appeaser/concessor to Israel, the occupier. The Process has served as legal cover for continued oppression. It is no different from the NATO announcement to “protect” Israel, or the Rice-Livni Accords, or the United Nations Resolutions that are never enforced.
All these entities and agreements give a cover of multilateralism and legality to what is essentially aggressive expansionism and intentional dispossession. Similarly, Israel’s “withdrawal” from Gaza in 2005, narratively presented in mainstream media with so much angst for the trauma of the occupier, does not remove the initial aggression of the original and consistently brutal occupation. Even when one allows for the prison that is Gaza to be considered “unoccupied,” the fact remains that Palestinians are one people and that the West Bank and East Jerusalem continue to be occupied. This is even acknowledged in the Oslo Accords, which defines them as “a single territorial unit.”
Moreover, Israeli expansionism continues, and even accelerates, in the shadow of the peace process and of the headline- grabbing events in Gaza. Just in the last week, Israel has announced the annexation of extensive areas of Palestinian-owned land, where the villagers have been non-violently protesting the apartheid wall. For three days the Israeli army invaded the village of Jayyous declaring it a “Closed Military Area” and arbitrarily arrested 65 Palestinians: “The Israeli wall confiscated about 600 dunums of lands and 8,600 dunums were isolated behind the wall, where the town’s area is 12,500 dunums,” leading to the loss of thousands of jobs lost as a result of the wall and the isolation of agricultural land.4 Similarly, on 1/26/2009, the Israeli High Court approved the complete destruction of the village of Tana, east of Nablus, in order to expand the settlement colony of Makhurah. In addition, an expansion to the Effrat settlement colony near Bethlehem was also announced, swallowing an additional 170 hectares of “state land.” All this is happening in the West Bank, ostensibly the co-operating segment under the dictatorial and oppressive control of the Palestinian Authority. And it is definitely not conducive to economic independence, let alone the mirage of prosperity that was promised to come with the pursuit of a negotiated and non-violent “settlement.”
The argument is frequently made that Hamas is a “terrorist organization” because it targets civilians. But that is a question that is both not for the militarily strong to ask and also ignores completely Israel’s far greater and more consistent targeting of civilians. In this last attack on Gaza, despite an earnest and far reaching hasbara/propaganda effort by Israel to change perceptions, the extent of the destruction was too blatant to repress. Any fair assessment of damage to civilians will plainly see the disproportionate suffering of the weaker party. It also must account for the slow strangulation and eradication of Palestinians even when there is no “war.” The means of destruction are so entrenched and persistent so as to become too banal for Western media to report on. The “targeted assassinations” that inevitably kill civilians, the ever-growing “settlements”/colonies, the land expropriations, the apartheid “separation” Wall, the roadblocks, the economic blockade and de-development, and so forth have effectively ended any hope of a two state solution. In fact, the Palestinians’ pursuit of the peaceful route of “settlement” through the peace process, recently “negotiated” at Annapolis, has resulted in a 20% increase in settlement expansion in the West Bank and a 36% settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, just in the last sixteen months.
yes, palestinians cannot resist. but israeli terrorists can continue with yizhak rabin’s formula of breaking the bones of palestinians at will:
A Palestinian man from the village Asreera Al Qibllya, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, was severly beaten by the members of Israeli border-guards at a checkpoint while he was taking his ill son to a local hospital.
Khalid Abu Khalaf, 38, said after receiving treatment at the Rafidia Hospital, that his son Shadi, 3 years 6 months old, is suffering from a neurological disease, and was transferred by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to Al Maqased Hospital In Jerusalem for treatment.
The father tried to obtain a permit from the Israeli side through the Palestinian District Coordination Office, but Israel rejected the application.
“My son’s situation requires hospitalization; therefore I tried to take him with me to Al Maqased Hospital in East Jerusalem, I tried to avoid the military checkpoint but the soldiers spotted me, and stopped me,” the father said. He added “I tried to explain to them that was taking my son to hospital. I showed them the medical reports, but they did not listen; instead they started kicking me and hitting me with batons.”
The father said that the soldiers, beat him in front of his son and broke his arm, causing his son to cry of fear, which worsened his condition.
“Later, they forced me and my son into their jeep, the father stated, the dropped us on the other side of the checkpoint, and we had to return to Nablus, I went to the hospital and found out that my hand was broken,” the father added.
Khalid was very concerned about the situation of his son, which is getting worse, and said that his son needs to be examined twice every month for follow-up as directed by his physicians.