While the State of Israel allows the transfer of people and goods to the Gaza Strip, the siege from the Egyptian side is getting worse, Yet the world is silent.
The Gaza Strip is under a cruel siege which takes no account of the basic needs of the population, Yet the world is silent • Already under the role of now-deposed President Morsi, the Egyptian Army began an operation to destroy and flood the smuggling tunnels. Now, in addition to the fishing areas, the border has been sealed, with no indication of plans to re-open it • At the other end, the State of Israel allows the transfer of people and goods to the Gaza Strip, providing both electricity and water to a territory it itself defines as a “hostile entity” • The truth about the siege of Gaza
In the last few months the siege of Gaza has gotten worse. It’s almost impossible to do business, civilian movement has shrunk significantly and the various cross-border options which were once available are now closed. Senior Hamas Foreign Ministry official Dr. Razi Hamed stated that “Gaza has become one giant prison”.
Well, he’s right of course. For several months, the Egyptian Army has been systematically uncovering and destroying Hamas’ smuggling tunnels, a campaign which started already in the time of the now-deposed President Muhammad Morsi. Throughout this period, the Rafah crossing has been intermittently closed. Now, as the Land of the Nile is subject to coups and violence, the Egyptian authorities announced that the Rafah crossing will be closed for an unlimited period of time for “security reasons”. For the same reasons, Egyptian territorial waters, which until now were open to Gaza fishermen, have also been sealed off. Last friday (30.8) ,According to Hamas officials, two Palestinian fishermen were wounded and five others arrested by the Egyptian navy off the coast of the Gaza Strip.
Tha latest news tells us that the Egyptian army plans to impose a 500-meter buffer zone along its border with the Gaza Strip. Egyptian residents living in neighborhoods close to the Gaza border have received eviction notices, while the army bulldozers started to demolishe houses and uproot trees in the area.
It’s interesting to note that the most difficult time for the tunneling business was when the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ “natural ally”, was in power. In June of this year, the Egyptian army stepped up its methods against the tunnels, leading to rising fuel and concrete prices in the Strip. Abu Basem, an employer of some 40 workers in the tunnel network, stated that “business has gone into cardiac arrest.”
Who’s Responsible Here?
In the beginning of April, a week after the Egyptian operation to destroy and flood the tunnels with sewage began, sharp condemnations of the tightening of the siege and the worsening of the poor Palestinians’ plight poured in from all over the world, including from the UN. No, not condemnations of Egypt – of Israel, of course.
Mortars and missiles were fired into Israel at the end of February-beginning of March, leading the Prime Minister and Defense Minister to limit the size of the fishing area in Gaza and close off the Kerem Shalom crossing to goods and people, with exception of unique humanitarian cases. The responsible party for the closing of the crossings, which have significantly increased in traffic since 2010, is Hamas.
The fact that the Kerem Shalom crossing was reopened already at the end of March in spite of continued cross-border shootings did not stop UN Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley from attacking Israel. In a press release in April, he stated that “These measures are resulting in the depletion of stocks of essential supplies, including basic foodstuffs and cooking gas, and undermine the livelihoods and rights of many vulnerable Gazan families”.
In May, only a month later, Hamas proved just how much it cares for its own people when on one of the openings of the Kerem Shalom crossing they fired four mortar rounds at it. Nevertheless, cruel Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, decided to leave the crossing open. Meantime, the attacks on Israel subsided and the crossings went back to business as usual, but that wasn’t enough for Rawley. In the beginning of July, he released another announcement urging “the Government of Israel to lift the long-term restrictions, including the blockade of Gaza in place since 2007”.
Is This What A Siege Looks Like?
The Israeli siege of Gaza is indeed terrible. A citizen of Gaza interested in goods from Israel has to – get this – buy it. After he privately contacts an Israeli business and orders his goods, he needs to coordinate its arrival with a Palestinian Delegate body called the Palestinian Civilian Committee. This last then contacts the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration in Gaza, after which the road is clear.
It’s no wonder then that Gazan supermarkets and marketplaces are filled with Israeli products. According to the Israeli Office of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories’ website, 34,800 trucks filled with all kinds of goods –including food, medicine, electronic equipment, construction materials and more – passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing since the beginning of the year.
6,639 trucks were recorded crossing through in July alone. True, some of the trucks contain humanitarian aid instead of private goods, but this is only a small portion of the crossing traffic. For example, in the week of July 21-27, 1,800 trucks crossed, only 298 of which contained aid sent by international humanitarian aid organizations. Crossing of people is also allowed at Erez crossing – some 6,000 in crossed into Israel in July.
An Electrifying Debt
The Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, incessant incitement against the “Zionist entity”, cooperation with the worst of Israel’s enemies, the disengagement and the firing of thousands of rockets into Israel; in spite of all this, the Oslo Accords still stand. As part of the Accords, Israel to this day provides a territory it defines as a “hostile entity” with five million cubic meters of water a year and 125 megawatts of electricity a day.
Israel has even gone further, fixing electrical problems during Operation Pillar of Defense, all while fighting Hamas terrorists and dealing with rockets fired into her territory. It should be noted that the Gaza authorities do not transfer money to the Palestinian Authority for the electricity it gets from Israel, and because of this the Palestinians have a debt of hundreds of millions of shekels to the Israeli Electric Company.
True, there are power outages in the Strip, but this is due to Hamas’ decision in 2011 to stop buying fuel from Israel and instead rely on supplies from the tunnel network. We now know that this was a bad gamble.
It’s All Israel’s Fault
This data, which made no reference to the slew of hotels and water parks operating in the Strip, could put at ease the mind of any reasonable person willing to look at Middle Eastern reality in a sober and realistic manner. But even the rosiest numbers will change the minds of those who have already shot the arrow and are busy painting a target around it. For them, the fact the Israel time and again makes gestures towards a violent entity which aims to destroy it is irrelevant, as is the siege of Gaza from its Arab side; For them, the state of Israel was born in sin, Israel as a Jewish national state is unacceptable and therefore the blame will always fall in her lap. While it is obvious that life in Gaza is no bed of roses, its population is hardly the most miserable on earth. One could even say that their standard of life is reasonable, certainly compared to third world countries.
When they had the choice in 2006, the Gazans chose extreme Islamists who use them and their children as human shields, a choice which does not seem to have benefited them. But Middle Eastern reality shows that they have the chance to stand up and demand a different way of life – one which doesn’t include irrational hatred, wild incitement, lies and instability. They can instead bring down the current regime and take control of their lives. The path of terror is not fate; Hamas rule is not a Divine Decree.