Israel Hamas War Highlights Horrific Palestinian Living Conditions


Unfortunately, as the New York Times reports, Israel is currently preparing for another ground invasion of Gaza in order to punish the crippled population for resisting oppression. As is to be expected, both sides will float justifications for their actions, but the fact remains: Gazans have been forced to live under appalling conditions, and they have been subjected to extreme acts of Israeli terrorism. Thus, their resistance should come as no surprise, even if it is bound to fail.

Based on accounts from inside Gaza, it is less an occupied territory than what Noam Chomsky calls an open-air prison:

"[I]t hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified."

Or, as Amnesty International describes, the blockade of Gaza has been for 1.4 million Gazans, "a form of collective punishment," as well as "a flagrant violation of international law."  Moreover, whatever justification the Israeli state provides, "the blockade is collectively punishing the entire population of Gaza, the majority of whom are children, rather than targeting the Hamas administration or armed groups."

The various definitions of terrorism are poignant, especially when applied to Israeli actions against Gazan civilians. Thus it is instructive to recall Operation Cast Lead, a one-sided slaughter, where B'Tselem found that the "magnitude of the harm to the local population was unprecedented."  Moreover, it found that 1,387 Palestinians were killed during the operation, 773 of them not having taken part in the conflict, and of that number, 320 were children and teenagers. That is compared to the 9 Israelis killed by Palestinians, 3 of whom were civilians.

As the Goldstone report found, Israeli forces "launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal outcome." Moreover, "the consequences of the Israeli attacks against civilians were aggravated by their subsequent refusal to allow the evacuation of the wounded or to permit access to ambulances." And as for "attacks on the foundations of civilian life in Gaza," the report found that "there was a deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites [food production, sewage treatment, etc etc] and water installations." One of these industrial sites was the Al Bader flour mill, the only flour mill in the Gaza strip. It is no wonder then, that Gazans have a hard time, bettering their living conditions and livelihoods.

Perhaps a more telling, and more chilling, assessment of the current state of Gaza is found in a recent UN report that predicts that Gaza won't even be a "livable" place by 2020. Moreover, this report does not take into account the aftermath of this new conflict. If Operation Cast Lead was indicative of Israeli military tactics, then perhaps the UN will be forced to move that date closer to 2012.

This pure terror and destruction of living conditions and livelihoods of the Gazans on the part of Israel, is not just relegated to the Gaza Strip; instead it is in line with a systematic Israeli state policy of territorial expansion and terror against the Palestinians in the West Bank as well. As Ha'aretz reports, Benjamin Netanyahu's government "has quietly doubled the portion of Israel's national budget allocated to Jewish settlements in the West Bank." And as Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz explained, the expansion of funding to the illegal settlements was done quietly so that "elements in Israel and abroad" would not be aware of it happening thus preventing any attempts at stopping it.

As for the recent conflict, the Washington Post notes, the fighting escalated "when Israel assassinated Hamas' secretive military chief, Ahmed Jabari, with a missile strike on his car" — a strike that Ha'aretz reports, killed eight Palestinians and injured 30 more. As Israel prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza, one can't help but remember the "unprecedented" devastation of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Personally, I feel for the victims on both sides of the conflict, but the numbers don't lie, and as usual, the Palestinian casualties will continue to mount and their livelihoods and living conditions will continue to be destroyed, while the Israelis cry foul

Given the history and the facts, it is not surprising then that there is an attempt at resistance against Israel. Not that it matters much, however, since the Israeli military is one of the best in the world and has the unconditional support of the strongest military in the world. But, if Israel is truly fed up with this thorn in its side, it can rest assured that it won't be annoyed by the next generation of Gazans. It is certain that they won't be able to resist against Israel's "savage terror and arbitrary punishment" in the future, given that the children in Gaza suffer under conditions of such severe deprivation that, according to Save the Children's report on Gazan children, "Ten percent of children under 5 have stunted growth due to prolonged exposure to malnutrition," and that anemia, due to a lack of iron, "affects 58.6 percent of schoolchildren." Not to mention the psychological impairments that result from living under war-torn conditions and the numerous other treatable diseases that afflict them.

Of course, these children, being permanently crippled, won't get the chance at bettering their living conditions and livelihoods, even though I am sure that like their parents, they would want to do so if they had the option, and that they would, like their parents, try to rebuild their flour mills and water treatment facilities after they had been bombed. Then again, I suppose their horrifying story is actually a success story when viewed from another perspective, since they won't be able to turn around and bite the hand that claims to feed them. Thus, the Gazans really should be grateful for their situation; they won't be bothered by the hope for a dignified life being possible for them, since they won't even have the basic physical capacity to realize it.