Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza

War crime backed by US,  UK Europe and Arab dictators led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt
by: Latheef Farook

Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza (1)Gaza is a small beach side strip of around 365 sq miles by the Mediterranean Sea. Sandwiched between Egypt and Israel this territory with about 1.9 million Palestinians is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Most of the inhabitants here are refugees who traditionally owned their homes and lands in what we now call Israel. But they were chased out at gun point by Jewish terror gangs, and their lands grabbed by migrant Jews with the assistance of the British mandatory authority, to set up the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine in 1948.

During the June 1967 Israeli war of aggression against neighbouring Arab countries Gaza was brought under Israeli occupation. Since then the people there were subjected to untold oppression, cruelties and miseries besides daily killings, arbitrary arrest and torture.

As in the case of many other societies, Palestinians in Gaza too were a mixed society of civil servants, doctors, teachers, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, journalists, politicians, students and the thousands of people upon whom any society depends to keep services running.

Decades of Israeli oppression and humiliation produced angry young men most of whom are fighting back, though with limited means, the occupation and oppression as any people would do under attack. 

Unable to face the fierce Palestinian opposition, Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years and handed over control of the Rafah border, Gaza's sole contact with the outside world, to Egypt while Palestinian forces, monitored by European Union officials, too were stationed.  

Almost four decades of systematic Israeli oppression and repeated border closures have driven Gazans to poverty and inevitably around 80 percent of the population depend on food aid for day-to-day subsistence. Without such aid they would die in a matter of days. Such is the pitiable situation these poor people have been in.

The current economic blockade   on Gaza in fact began in 1991. It was tightened with the institutionalization of the Israeli occupation enabled by the disastrous Oslo Accord of 1993. This cruel economic squeeze continued with greater intensification following the second intifada in 2000. After Israel redeployed its settlers and troops Gaza was transformed into a prison the key to which, as stated by the UN’s special rapporteur John Dugard, Israel had “thrown away.” Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza (3)


In January 2006 in a spotless democratic election held under the supervision of former US President Jimmy Carter who described it as free and fair, Hamas was elected with an overwhelming majority.

But for Israel and its Western collaborators Hamas were terrorists because they believe in peace with dignity. They wanted Palestinian stooges who would carry out their instructions as PLO did, after the Oslo Treaty, when Hamas freedom fighters were arrested, tortured and killed.

To eliminate Hamas, Israel, United States and Europe stopped all donations and cut off the flow of all money to starve Palestinian into submission. The Arab regimes especially Saudi Arabia, Gulf States and Egypt too joined this blockade knowing very well the misery they were causing to Palestinians.

However, the Hamas controlled Palestinian Authority – both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – needed this money to keep body and soul together.

The task of overthrowing the Hamas government was entrusted to Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who was bribed, armed and even given arms training by the US. Thus proving to the world the US claim to promote democracy is a farce.

Abbas was given arms by Israel and US$42 million by President George Bush  to precipitate a civil war, shed more Palestinian blood and crush Palestinian democracy. The former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert  said “we gave arms because we need Abbas’ help”. To achieve this end the US began establishing a secret military camp in Jericho at a cost of US$20 million – part of the cost was met by some Arab regimes. 

Abbas held secret talks with Israeli intelligence Chief Yuval Diskin in Jordan. The meeting was attended by Egypt, Jordan and a Gulf Arab country, some say it was Saudi Arabia, demanding that Hamas government be toppled at any cost to ensure democracy does not flourish in Gaza and West Bank as it would give food for thought to their own people and threaten their oppressive regimes.

The tragedy of starving Palestinians worsened since   June 2006 when Israel, under the pretext of responding to the alleged kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, bombed and destroyed roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, water and electricity plants, killing 275 Palestinians including 46 children in the process.

Israel closed its border with Gaza at Erez while the Egyptian-Gaza border crossing at Rafah too remained closed since 9 June 2007. Gaza was virtually turned into an open air prison.Unable to put up anymore with Mahmoud Abbas’ collaboration with Israel and compromising Palestinians rights he was overthrown by the Hamas. Responding promptly Israel and the Bush Administration picked up  Abbas, provided political, diplomatic, military and financial support and imposed a puppet Palestinian Authority to crush the Hamas administration causing immense hardships to people in Gaza forsupporting Hamas.

 Palestinians in Gaza  remained virtual prisoners in their own homes. Israel often cut off air, sea and land routes to the Gaza Strip preventing basic requirements like medicine and food from getting in. Supplies of electricity and water remained irregular and insignificant. This is grave war crime and German leaders were sentenced to death for lesser crimes.

The Israeli killing of Palestinian men, women, children and the aged continued on a daily basis.

Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery said “the message of Jews, the US and Europe to Palestinian is that you will reach the brink of hunger, and even beyond, if you do not surrender. You must remove the Hamas government and elect candidates approved by Israel and the US. You must be satisfied with a Palestinian state consisting of several enclaves, each of which will be utterly dependent on the tender mercies of Israel.”Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza (4)

In the midst, in June 2006 as the world was busy watching the World Cup Football Championships, Israel, under the guise of trying to free a captured soldier, bombed Gaza Strip   with its F-16 fighter planes and helicopter gunships while artillery fire from tanks   surrounded and turned Gaza into a virtual slaughter house. Within days roads, bridges, power plants, water supply, universities, schools, hospitals, play grounds, mosques  and even tombs and ministry buildings were bombed and destroyed causing untold misery to the  people already starving. In an unprecedented lawlessness, and the violation of international law, Israel started mafia-style abduction of Hamas cabinet ministers, mayors and parliamentarians.

As usual there was deafening international silence at this Israeli barbarity. Egypt joined   Israel in closing the border and virtually sealed and cut off Gaza from the rest of the world. The tragedy of starving Palestinians continued to worsen and at the peak of the crisis around 6,000 Palestinians were stranded at the Egyptian border waiting for the closure to be lifted to return to their homes and families in Gaza. 

While the Arab regimes with more than US$400 billion worth of arms ignored the Israeli cruelty, the disgusting situation made the Congress of South African Trade Unions president Willie Madisha to describe the “apartheid Israel state” as worse than the apartheid that was in South Africa as Palestinians were being attacked with heavy machinery and tanks, which had never happened in South Africa. Unable to put up anymore with the sufferings, Hamas overthrew the Palestine   and took over the whole of Gaza.

Since June 2007, 90 percent of Gaza’s local industries too were forced to shut down, leaving 70,000 labourers jobless. There was no fuel to keep the plant running because Israel imposed a complete lock-down with no movement in or out of the Gaza Strip for people, or any kind of shipments in of vital food, fuel supplies and medicines. It was a slow death. Palestinians in Gaza and even in the West Bank were made virtual prisoners in their own homes and in a dire economic situation while Israel continued its air strikes in the densely populated city. This was a grave war crime and it should be pointed out that in the aftermath of World War II German leaders were sentenced to death for lesser crimes.  

People started queuing for bread, but there was no bread as it cannot be made without electricity. Connections with the outside world started fading as mobile phones and laptops ran out of battery power. There was no water because the pumps needed electricity. People could not go to work because there was no fuel for cars and buses. Hospitals with generators ran out of fuel to power them, halting all surgery procedures. In desperation, Palestinians tried to enter Egypt through the Rafah crossing, but the Egyptian border guards drove them out. Over 1000 Palestinians went out to the streets begging the world to end this cruel enforced starvation to death.

Princeton academic Richard Falk described Israel’s siege as “a prelude to a genocide” while John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories described it as serious violations of international law and in complete violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which governs Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Even in the face of Dr. Falk’s and the UNHRC’s findings and conclusions Egypt,  Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the princes, sheikhs and emirs of the Gulf fiefdoms, and the toothless Arab League, all remained silent. It has become clear on the fourth day that the Jewish carnage was planned executed by Israel in close coordination with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the so called champion of Muslims, and the PA.Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza (5)

Unable to bear the suffocation, Hamas demolished the towering iron and concrete border wall that Israel erected since 2003 and broke open the Rafah border allowing hundreds of thousands to burst out and shop for desperately needed supplies in Egyptian border towns. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed into Egypt. In this unbelievable movement of joy and freedom they travelled by foot, car, truck, and donkey cart and the highway was jammed with packed taxis and pick-up trucks whose beds were filled beyond capacity and racing from Egyptian Rafah to al-Arish. Some journalists have called it a huge “jail break” and Gazans felt a deep exhale of relief and some joy – both rare commodities in this forsaken land

World Response

Yielding to US and Israeli pressure, 12 days of Palestinian freedom of movement ended when Egyptian forces started to close their side of the border with metal barriers and rolls of barbed wire on Sunday 3 February 2008. 

Omar Barghouti, an independent Palestinian political analyst and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, asked why accuse Europe of collusion in this crime when almost the entire international community failed to lift a finger, and the UN’s obsequious Secretary-General, who surpassed all his predecessors in obedience to the US government, is pathetically paying only lip service?  

Around August 2008 the Israeli siege virtually turned Gaza into a big prison. With Gaza locked down and cut off from the outside world by a stifling Israeli blockade, another team of 46 peace activists from the world over set sail for Gaza   to “break the siege that Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza… to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza, and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world”.

Economic collapse and poverty

Israel   banned exports from Gaza altogether and has reduced entry of fuel and goods to a trickle – mostly humanitarian aid, foodstuff and medical supplies. Basic necessities are in short supply or not available at all in Gaza. The shortages have pushed up food prices at a time when people can least afford to pay more. A growing number of Gazans have been pushed into extreme poverty and suffer from malnutrition.

Some 80 per cent of the population now depends on international aid, compared to 10 per cent a decade ago. The restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in higher operational costs for UN aid agencies and humanitarian organizations. Food assistance costs the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) US$20 per person per day compared to less than US$8 in 2004.

Gaza’s fragile economy, already battered by years of restrictions and destruction, has collapsed. Unable to import raw materials and to export produce and without fuel to operate machinery and electricity generators, some 90 per cent of industry has shut down.Israel’s Economic Blockade on Gaza (2)

Essential services jeopardized

The fuel shortage affected every aspect of life in Gaza. Patients’ hospital attendance has dropped because of lack of transport and universities were forced to shut down before the end of the school year as students and teachers could not continue to travel to them.  Fuel-powered pumps for wells and water distribution networks are often not working. 

Medical facilities in Gaza lack the specialized staff and equipment to treat a range of conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, hospitals are now under ever greater pressure, as they face shortages of equipment, spare parts and other necessary supplies as a result of the blockade. 

The inhuman sufferings to which the Palestinians were subjected to by the Israelis forced former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to state in November 2008 that she was taken aback by the “terrible” conditions in Gaza on a recent visit.

Mrs Robinson said it was “almost unbelievable” that the world did not care about what she called “a shocking violation of so many human rights”.

She said the situation was far worse that in towns in the West Bank and women she spoke to said their farm lands had been bulldozed and their families were unable to find jobs or supplies.“Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating,” said Mrs Robinson, a former president of Ireland, “It’s almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening.”

The former commissioner called on European countries and the rest of the world to do more to understand the “inhumane” conditions. 
World media continued to ignore the desperate plight of the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel however has contributed to that by barring journalists from entering Gaza, a move condemned earlier this week by the Foreign Press Association. The UN appears to be a lone voice in trying to engineer some relief.  

In addition to preventing access for food supplies Israel has refused to allow European Union-funded fuel supplies into Gaza, starving the power generation plant of fuel which has caused widespread blackouts up to 16 hours a day. Water facilities, including access to clean drinking water, and the treatment of raw sewage continue is also being severely disrupted by fuel shortages. Fifty to sixty million litres of untreated and partially treated sewage are being dumped into the Gaza Strip Mediterranean Sea daily, posing a public health risk.

“The population endures daily electricity blackouts and shortages of cooking gas, fresh food and water,” Holmes’ UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in the statement. 

The situation deteriorated to such an extent that   Dr. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur forcefully insisted on the need to protect civilian Palestinian population from being collectively punished by Israeli policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity.

This situation continued until 8 July 2014 when Israel launched its third barbaric attacks on these very same Palestinians in Gaza. Within 19 days of this carnage more than 900 Palestinians, mostly women and children, were killed and the destruction has been widespread.

Source : http://www.latheeffarook.com

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