Gaza: Starving for "Security"
Since most Americans only know Gaza through the lens of the mainstream media and their constant references to suicide attacks against Israel launched from within it and the West Bank, a brief introduction is in order.
Gaza is a 360 square kilometer strip of land on the Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Israel (roughly twice the size of Washington D.C.). It's inhabited by 1.5 million Palestinians and, until last September, much of the prime real estate in Gaza was occupied by Israeli settlers surrounded by a myriad of checkpoints, road blocks, private roads and buffer zones.
(To the left is a map of Gaza before the unilateral Israeli disengagement. Below is a map of Gaza after disengagement.)
Post-disengagement, everything Israeli is gone, save a "buffer zone" surrounding the Israeli border of Gaza, which amounts to about 9 square kilometers, or 2.5 percent of the entire Gaza strip. (see, p. 6 of UN Humanitarian Update, Nov-Dec. 2005 (PDF)).
The entire Gaza border remains totally sealed. No one can enter or exit without going through 4 major crossings heavily guarded by Israelis. The biggest and most important crossing is Karni, located on the northwestern border.
"Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited."--Article 54 of Protocol 1 of 1977 Additional to the Geneva ConventionNevertheless, since 14 January 2006, Israelis have closed Karni crossing 47 separate days completely and 4 days partially.
During partial closures, Palestinians are allowed to import basic foodstuffs only. Medicines and others goods are banned. NOTHING is allowed to cross during complete closures.
As a result, local markets have run out of milk, flour, sugar, dairy products and fruits, leaving Palestinians on the verge of starvation.
Similarly, agricultural and industrial exports from Gaza are banned. Indeed, all Palestinian exports go through Karni. Therefore, their livelihoods are on hold. This is in addition to withholding taxes and aid.
Also since February, Israelis have closed Sofa crossing, northeast of Rafah, designated for importing construction materials into Gaza. As a result, construction projects in Gaza have also stopped.
Palestinian workers cannot reach their work places inside Israel through Erez crossing in the north. And, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza, including newly elected members of the Legislative Council, especially those from Hamas, have been prevented from traveling through Karni crossing.
Essentially, Israelis have Gaza under lock down. This not only violates international law, but also it breaches an agreement brokered by Condoleezza Rice in November...
[under which] Israel and the Palestinians agreed to boost cargo traffic through the crossing.
The accord was meant to give momentum to peace efforts and economic recovery programs after Israel's [September] pullout from Gaza.But, is this true? And even if it's true, that's no reason to starve an entire population.
But the Karni deal was never implemented, and Israel has closed the crossing for long periods, citing security concerns.
"The only reason Karni is closed is the definite terror warnings." [Israel]
Imagine for a moment, that instead of Gaza, Washington D.C. was occupied territory (shouldn't be too hard). Your ancestors had lived there from time immemorial and you had never been any place else.
Then one day some belligerent squatters from neighboring Virginia forced their way on to your land, dispossessing you and your neighbors in the name of an ancient promise given them by their lord.
For decades, they occupied your finest real estate, consumed most of the resources, lived plushly in luxurious villas and moved around freely, armed and dangerous.
Meanwile, your days were marked by long queues at multiple checkpoints, daily military raids, and targeted assassinations of anyone in your community who showed potential for leadership or signs of resistance.
They routinely uprooted your olive groves, demolished your houses, shot down your children and neighbors with impunity, and generally made your life a living hell, reducing your community to abject poverty and desperation.
Finally, after decades of armed struggle and failed negotiations, they decide that it's no longer advantageous for them to continue occupying your land - too much of a hassle. So, they unilaterally "disengage," and are paid handsomely to relocate to another illegal settlement at your aunt's village fifteen miles up the road.
No sooner do they get their last man across the border, than they launch massive military attacks against what remains of your people.
How would you like that? And, how would you respond?
The answer is self-evident. Yet, Israelis feign indignation at Palestinians who fight back with whatever they've got.
Israelis claim that they've closed this vital trade crossing since January because they've received "definite terror threats." However, the decision to keep the crossing closed followed Hamas' electoral victory. But, that's just coincidence.
Security is their sole impetus, they say, and they're ready to let Palestinians starve in the process of ensuring it.
So, let's look at the security situation. The following table shows attacks by each side against the other since the disengagement in September, according to a December 2005 UN report:
First, notice how attacks by Palestinians are labeled "Militant" while attacks by Israelis are not. The facts otherwise speak volumes.
Not one Israeli was killed in Palestinian attacks, while 33 Palestinians were killed in Israeli attacks. The number injured are similarly disproportionate, and while Palestinians launched a relatively large number of low impact attacks with home-made weapons, Israelis used sophisticated, high tech weapons to launch attacks calculated to seriously harm or kill large numbers of Palestinians.
It seems fairly obvious from this picture who needs protection from whom. Yet, the international community barely flinch as Israelis continue their collective punishment of Palestinians based on the pretense of "security."
Not until Palestinians were on the verge of starvation, did the US step in to broker an agreement to avoid humanitarian crisis and international outcry.
During Karni's closure, Palestinians had rejected an Israeli offer to open Kerem Shalom, 25 miles south of Karni, as an alternative crossing. (The map below shows how far Kerem Shalom is from Karni.) Palestinians said it was too small, and is completely inside Israeli territory with no sufficient link to Gaza.
But, yesterday the two parties agreed that today Kerem Shalom might open for imports of food and other essential humanitarian products from Egypt, while talks to open a second crossing would continue.
No mention of when the blockade of Palestinian exports will end (and their means of living restored), or when the vital Karni crossing would be opened. How's that for even-handed brokering?
Palestinians continue to suffer for Israeli 'security.'