It’s been ten years since Israel imposed its blockade on the Gaza Strip, in violation of international law.
It’s been three years since the close of Israel’s last murderous rampage in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. In that so-called war, 1,473 Palestinian civilians, including 501 children, perished.
But those numbers only reflect the ones who died at the hands of Israeli weaponry.
Ultimately, those numbers will pale in comparison to the number of lives shattered by the ongoing blockade and the refusal of the United States, the one player on the world stage with the necessary power and influence, to end it. In all likelihood, they already do.
The casualty statistics, you see, don’t include those whose death is the indirect result of Israeli and American policy towards the people of Gaza. They don’t reflect, for example, the children who died from exposure in the unusually cold winter that followed Operation Protection Edge. They don’t include those who die from drinking dirty water. They don’t include those who die from inadequate medical facilities. The list goes on.
Unfortunately, we’ve likely not yet seen the worst of it.
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Gaza, “a systemic collapse of an already battered infrastructure and economy is impending.” The catastrophe that will ensue if that is allowed to take place on a narrow strip of land in which two million people are trapped, with a population density roughly equivalent to that of Manhattan, is unthinkable.
Make no mistake. As Stephen McCloskey reports, the crisis in Gaza is the result of calculated policy of the Israeli government:
In its public pronouncements on Gaza, Israel insists that the blockade is a security matter designed to keep Hamas, the Palestinian political group with a militant wing, at arm’s length. In its more off-guard moments, however, Israel has revealed its true hand in Gaza.
United States government cables leaked to Wikileaks show that the Israeli government kept the US embassy in Tel Aviv briefed on the blockade and on “multiple occasions” said their policy aimed “to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.”
This appears to have been Israel’s blockade policy from the outset as the BBC reported an Israeli government adviser, Dov Weisglass, as having said in 2006:
“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” And, in 2012, an Israeli court forced the release of a government ‘red lines’ document which detailed “the number of calories Palestinians in Gaza need to consume to avoid malnutrition.”
The Israeli human rights organisation Gisha, which won the legal battle to have the red lines document published, argues that “the research contradicts Israel’s assertions that the blockade is needed for security reasons.”
The chilling calculation behind the ‘red lines’ policy underlines the extent of Israel’s deception in publicly suggesting that the blockade is a security measure while privately, and quite methodically, inflicting collective punishment on an already desperately poor population, mostly comprising refugees.
In a sense, America is doubly responsible for the suffering in Gaza. Things have become much worse since 2013, when General El Sisi seized power in Egypt, with the tacit approval of the Obama Administration. Since then, the smuggling tunnels on the Gaza / Egypt border, which used to allow for the passage of vital goods into Gaza, have been closed. In addition, the transit of Gazans, including those in need of medical treatment, through the crossing into Egypt has been reduced to a fraction of what it was before El Sisi took power.
When you add all this up you have rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, depression and suicide all off the charts. And all headed in the wrong direction.
This is America’s responsibility. American policy allowed this to take place and, absent a dramatic change in U.S. policy forcing Israel to end its blockade, tens of thousands will perish in Gaza. Perhaps a few will die at the hands of the Israeli military in yet another massacre based on some concocted “threat” attributed to Hamas. They may be the lucky ones. Many of the others will die slowly from starvation, dirty water and disease, not unlike thousands who perished in the Warsaw ghetto 75 years ago.