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West ‘colludes with Israel in the never-ending punishment of Gaza’

Oct 26,2016 - Last updated at Oct 26,2016

On October 12, infant Walid Shaath became the two millionth citizen in the Israeli-besieged and blockaded Gaza Strip, a land the UN declares will be rendered “unliveable” by 2020. 

He was followed by the birth of Lana Ayad. At four, they will live in a land too devastated to support its population. 

Gazans are 50.66 per cent male and 49.34 per cent female; 40 per cent subsists below the poverty line. 

The international community, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world have taken no or little notice of the 2 million milestone or of the other milestone reached by Palestinians in the past few months:  they now form the majority in the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan.

To the 2 million plus now living in Gaza must be added 2,731,052 in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and 1,688,600 in Israel “proper”, a total of 6,419,652, outnumbering the 6,119,000 Jewish Israelis.

Reaching this tipping point this year had been confidently predicted by demographers, but when it was reached, it went unreported.

Like so many other milestones in Palestinian history.

Instead, world leaders and media fixated on the siege of takfiri- and insurgent-occupied east Aleppo and 250,000 civilians by Syrian government forces given Russian air cover.

Fickle global attention is now divided by the traumas and dangers facing eastern Aleppo and Daesh-occupied Mosul, with 1 million residents, under siege from the Iraqi army and Shiite and Kurdish militias backed by the US, Europe and Iran.

The differences between the Aleppo and Mosul sieges and the Israeli siege of Gaza are striking. The siege of Aleppo began on September 22, following the collapse of a internationally negotiated ceasefire; the full siege of Mosul has yet to be put in place.

Gaza has been under an internationally approved Israeli occupation for more than 49 years and 80 per cent of Gaza’s inhabitants are refugees from land Israel conquered in 1948-49.

Gaza’s modern history and economic situation have been described in detail by Sara Roy in her monumental work of 30 years, “The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development”, now in an updated third edition published by the Institute for Palestine Studies based in Washington.

This edition is particularly painful reading for anyone who knows Gaza and has friends there. 

Harvard scholar Roy traces Gaza’s dreadful journey from Ottoman and British mandate days through the 19 years of the relatively tame Egyptian occupation at a time Gaza, like Egypt, belonged to the developing Third World that emerged during the decolonisation of Asian and African countries following World War II.

Roy describes how Israel’s occupation put an end to development and ushered in de-development with the aim of transforming Gaza’s infant economy into a “dependent” economy and making Gaza the source of cheap labour for Israel.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians went to Israel for work. In December 1987, the first Intifada erupted in Gaza and spread to the West Bank.

Unable to suppress the uprising, Israel introduced magnetic cards to limit the number of Gazans travelling to Israel for work.

In January 1991, as the US geared up for its first war on Iraq, Israel initiated a permanent closure policy and began to issue personal permits to Gazans seeking to enter Israel, severely restricting numbers and causing serious unemployment in the strip.

In March 1993, Israel tightened the closure and in October 2000, at the start of the second Intifada, comprehensive closure was imposed by Israel.

Israel pulled out of Gaza in September 2005, but retained control from the land, sea and air, crushing any possibility of Gaza’s development and growth beyond the prospect of forever being an international basket cast.

Since Palestinians elected a Hamas-majority parliament in early 2006 and Hamas seized power in the strip in June 2007, Gaza has been under full blockade and siege as well as repeated attack.  

Roy shows how “de-development” progressed to “economic warfare” — Gaza being subjected to treatment inflicted on a hostile territory during war” — and the separation of Gaza from the West Bank-East Jerusalem wing of the non-viable Palestinian Authority.

Under such conditions, Roy says Palestinians are treated as “intruders in their own land” and an “economy is a luxury” at a time the vast majority of Gazans live from hand to mouth, never knowing what is going to happen next.

With no hope of betterment, of decent futures, young Gazans are no longer impressed with “steadfastness” and seek to leave, risking their lives by attempting to cross the Mediterranean on flimsy boats and fragile rafts along with desperate refugees from the wars in Syria and Iraq, the result of the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Gaza’s tragedy, like the desperate situations of Syria and Iraq, is man-made.

Gaza’s de-development need not have happened if Israel had ended its occupation under the 1993 Oslo Accords or had released Gaza from its grip in 2005 when Israeli soldiers and settlers pulled out. 

But Israel never intended to carry out the terms of Oslo or to grant Gaza freedom.

With an end to the Israeli occupation, Gaza would become Palestine, reminding the international community that Palestine exists, that 2 million Gazan citizens of Palestine exist.

Gaza’s independence would focus international attention on the deepening occupation and colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which Israel has never had any intention of leaving.

Roy’s book reminds us there are more long-standing, cruel sieges and blockades than those now taking place in Aleppo and Mosul, and that the US and Western powers collude with Israel in the never-ending punishment of Gaza and its 2 million Palestinians.

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