Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Israeli Military Attacks and Economic Strangulation
Life in Gaza: Daily Hell for the Palestinian People
“After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
On Thursday, September 21, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 3 teenage sheepherders in northern Gaza. They were identified as Zidan Abu Rashid, 16; Ala Abu Dahruj, 16; and Muhammad Masaleh, 15. Israel claims the three were handling a rocket launcher that had recently been used to fire rockets into southern Israeli territory, but the authorities admit that they did not know whether the teenagers they killed are the ones who allegedly fired the rockets. The same day, in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Israeli troops raided a house and killed Muhammad Abu Maamar, 28, whom they claimed was a “militant,” and Itimad Abu Maamar, a 35-year old woman.
These killings are part of an ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza that brings daily attacks on the people from Israeli air and ground forces, including undercover assassination squads. This offensive began in June, after an Israeli soldier was seized in Gaza. Since then, over 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs and bullets.
The terror against the people in Gaza is compounded by the total collapse of the economic structure. The economy of Gaza is at a standstill, and “normal” life has become a daily hell for the Palestinian population. Since February of this year, all economic aid that had been provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the United States and by the European Union has been completely cut off. In addition, the Israeli government has cut off all revenues that were supposed to be transferred to the PA according to the Oslo Accords which established the PA in the early 1990s.
The money has been cut off in order to punish the Palestinian people for electing the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas to lead the PA in January. These funds constitute the vast majority of the money that used to fuel the economy, the governing institutions, and the social services in Gaza.
In June, Israel bombed the only electrical power plant in Gaza, and now electricity is only available about 8 hours a day, and that is erratic. This has also crippled the water supply and communications, and a full-blown crisis in sanitation is looming.
Public health has been decimated. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) reports that over 70 percent of the 1.4 million people in Gaza are dependent on food aid from the United Nations. The WFP adds that there has been a 14% increase in the numbers of people receiving this aid in 2006 alone. The WFP itself describes its food rationing as “a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest.” (August 28 press release, www.wfp.org)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Gaza hospitals report that 20% to 25% of crucial drugs are nearly out of stock. The WHO reported in July that levels of stunted growth among children under the age of 5 rose to 11.4% in Gaza and to 8.8% in the West Bank, a one-third increase since 1996. Iron deficiency anemia affects nearly half of children under 5. Over half of the population in Gaza are children and this crisis threatens to destroy a generation.
Whatever infrastructure did exist has been trampled by Israel. The UN reports that nearly 1,000 acres of agricultural land as well as irrigation pipes and greenhouses have been destroyed. No Palestinian workers have been allowed to cross into Israel to work, and Israel has blockaded the sea, preventing Palestinian fishermen from reaching the necessary fishing areas.
Most of the Palestinians in Gaza live in refugee camps that have been in place since 1948, the year the state of Israel was established on land stolen from the Palestinian people. Many have been forced from the camps into outdoor tents or are being sheltered in schools because of constant missile attacks and military demolition of homes. The density of the population in Gaza is one of the highest in the world. For example, in the Jabalya refugee camp, there are approximately 28,571 people per square mile.
It is important to see that this crisis did not come out of nowhere, or just since the cutoff of funds in February or the military re-invasion and occupation of Gaza in June.
Sara Roy, a political economist at Harvard University, wrote in the November 3, 2005 issue of The London Review of Books:
“There is no doubt that the destruction wrought by Israel over the last five years—the demolition of homes (some 4,600 between 2000 and 2004), schools, roads, factories, workshops, hospitals, mosques and greenhouses, the razing of agricultural fields, the uprooting of trees, the confinement of the population and the denial of access to education and health services as a consequence of Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints—has been ruinous for Palestinians, especially those in the Gaza Strip. But one need only look at the economy of Gaza on the eve of the uprising to realize that the devastation is not recent. By the time the second intifada broke out [in September 2000], Israel’s closure policy had been in force for seven years, leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty (which would soon be surpassed).
“Yet the closure policy proved so destructive only because the thirty-year process of integrating Gaza’s economy into Israel’s had made the local economy deeply dependent. As a result, when the border was closed in 1993, self-sustainment was no longer possible—the means weren’t there. Decades of expropriation and de-institutionalization had long ago robbed Palestine of its potential for development, ensuring that no viable economic (and hence political) structure could emerge.”
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