Israel’s deadly siege of Palestinians in Gaza
Adrienne Weller
volume:  
volume 38
issue 5
October 2017
imagestuff

In Gaza City, Palestinian children peer though a hole in the fence outside their home on Aug. 8, 2017. Photo: AFP

Residents of the Gaza Strip are caught in a brutal nightmare they cannot escape. In 2006, Israel imposed a military and economic blockade by land, air and sea. This coastal enclave is now a maximum security prison for Palestinians. Israel sends bombs and drones against fathers, mothers, and children, whose crime is being born in Gaza. Increased international support is desperately needed.

It has been 69 years since the mass expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians from their land when Israel established its state. Fifty years ago, Israel illegally occupied the Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Gaza, home to 2 million Palestinians, is 25 miles long and between 3 and 7 miles wide, about twice the size of Washington, D.C. Most of it borders Israel. Egypt allows only one crossing, which is blockaded most of the time.

Gaza was physically occupied from 1967 until 2005, when Israel withdrew its troops and settlers, and began the siege. In 2008 and 2014, Israel launched intensive attacks on this captive population.

Israel inflicts starvation, thirst and want. The strip’s main supplier of electricity and fuel is Israel. It has cut power and restricted access to electricity, running water and sewage treatment. There are no lights for up to 20 hours daily. There is not enough water to drink or wash, with an average of eight hours of water every four days. Poorly treated sewage, equivalent to 43 Olympic size pools daily, is dumped into the sea. In August, a five-year-old boy died after going swimming.

Israeli soldiers shoot at farmers and fishermen, and the blockade stops food imports, leaving Gazans hungry. Israel routinely denies residents permission to leave, even for crucial medical treatment. Hospital services for surgery, premature babies, intensive care, refrigeration for blood and vaccine storage are at risk.

The economy has collapsed, with most businesses and 95 percent of industrial operations closed.

Imperial rule, internal antagonism. This region is an extreme example of the inequality rooted in capitalism. Israel is a client state for Western imperialism (read oil interests) in the Mideast. The U.S. funds the country to the tune of $38 billion annually. Part of this aid is used to buy U.S. arms to brutalize occupied Palestinians. The USA also props up dictatorships such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are then deaf to the cries of Gaza.

The two largest Palestinian parties are Fatah and Hamas. Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat, is the largest faction within the secular Palestine Liberation Organization. But Fatah’s corruption and collaboration with Israel have discredited its Arab nationalist politics. Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) is religious fundamentalist, but has gained prominence for insisting on the right of armed self-defense by oppressed populations.

In 2006, Hamas won decisively over Fatah in elections to the Palestinian parliament. But Fatah refused to yield leadership of the united Palestinian Authority government. It was backed by Israel and the U.S., which refused to recognize Hamas. Fatah kept control over the West Bank, and Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip.

This is when Israel launched its blockade. The Palestinian Authority had paid Israel for the fuel for Gaza’s electricity, but in April stopped, asking Israel to further cut power to Gaza. Israel was glad to comply.

Both parties repress their own angry, poverty-stricken populations. They crack down on free speech, and arrest, torture, and criminally charge journalists and activists who criticize their police and military control of the population. The Gazan Youth Breaks Out Manifesto 2.0 stated in 2011 that they were sick of “being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.”

Palestinians resist. Palestinians still unite in battles for their rights. In July, Israel shut down the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem following a shootout between three Palestinians and Israeli occupation officers. It then installed cameras and metal detectors at the entrance. Al-Aqsa is the third most revered site in Islam.

Palestinians were furious at the collective punishment and the infringement of the long-established right of Muslim control over the compound. Two weeks of continuous protests forced removal of the surveillance. Thousands stormed the gates to the mosque. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza prayed publicly in solidarity with worshippers.

For 40 days in April and May, 1,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails conducted the largest prisoner hunger strike in modern Palestinian history, protesting terrible conditions. West Bank Palestinians held a general strike in solidarity. This unity revealed the tenacity and fighting spirit of the people.

A global boycott movement. Support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is growing. It was started in 2005 by grassroots Palestinian organizations and modeled on the apartheid-era South Africa boycott.

BDS has put Israeli atrocities in the spotlight. Corporations, entertainers and some officials in Europe, the Arab world and the U.S. have honored its demands. Scores of trade unions across the globe have endorsed the campaign in solidarity with Palestinians. Dockworkers in the U.S., South Africa, Sweden and elsewhere have refused to unload Israeli ships. University student chapters have sprung up.

This success has spurred an international attack on the campaign. BDS is illegal in Israel. France, the U.K. and Canada have cracked down on the movement. In the U.S. Congress, bill S.720 has bipartisan support to criminalize BDS activity. This is an attack on the right to dissent on any issue. Boycott support groups including Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, Jews and socialists are fighting back. There is increasing resistance to the bill by civil liberties organizations, who cite its chilling effect on free speech. To get involved, go to bdsmovement.net.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank demand that their leaders unite to fight Israel’s repression. They call for international solidarity to end their living hell.

• Immediate humanitarian aid to Gaza!

• End the siege!

• Stop U.S. support to Israel!

Contact the author at adrienne.w@earthlink.net.