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Prolonging Gaza's suffering isn’t only unwise, it’s just plain wrong

Israeli policymakers recognize that they control the situation in Gaza. If their sense of moral obligation doesn’t compel them to correct it, at the very least their interests should.

By Tania Hary

Palestinians walk through a destroyed quarter of Al-Shaaf neighborhood, in Al-Tuffah, east of Gaza City, March 21, 2015. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are still internally displaced and many are living in very dire conditions.

Palestinians walk through a destroyed quarter of Al-Shaaf neighborhood, in Al-Tuffah, east of Gaza City, March 21, 2015. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are still internally displaced and many are living in very dire conditions.

Israelis woke up on Wednesday to headlines about renewed talks, or rather arguments, about a possible seaport in Gaza. Just hours before, the head of the Israeli army’s Military Intelligence declared that Israel’s security is jeopardized by the misery taking place in Gaza.

A din of statements – from senior analysts like Alex Fishman in Ynet to Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon – all echo the same common-sense conclusion: it cannot be wise to keep nearly two million people, the vast majority of them children and young people (73 percent of the population is under 29), in a state of perpetual privation.

Before the dust of over 100,000 destroyed or damaged homes settled, before the wounds of the tens of thousands injured had healed following the last large-scale military operation in 2014, Israeli hawks and doves alike could be heard chirping the same tune. Misery loves company, they sang. If Gaza can’t rebuild, Israel will suffer the consequences.

Yet there are two things glaringly missing from the discourse: agency and decency. It is obvious that perpetuating a situation where 70 percent of the population is dependent on aid, where nearly 54 percent of young people are unemployed, where thousands remain homeless after losing loved ones and suffering through war devoid of an Iron Dome or even shelters is apt to lead to violence. Around the world, in all kinds of circumstances, poverty and lack provide fertile ground for instability. In post-war Gaza, that violence is turned inward and out, with a rise in domestic violence and suicides, and yes, sometimes even increased support for armed conflict or the kind of unchecked violence of groups like ISIS.

A Palestinian child sells sweets in the harbour of Gaza city, February 13, 2015. Anne Paq / Activestills.org

A Palestinian child sells sweets in the harbour of Gaza city, February 13, 2015. Anne Paq / Activestills.org

What isn’t obvious is the necessary reckoning that might lead to an actual change in the situation on the ground — for Gaza and for Israel.

While officials say Gaza should be able to rebuild or develop its economy, they neglect to take responsibility for how we even arrived at this point, saying little about what needs to be done to correct the situation. They neglect to mention that Israel continues to block the movement of goods, travel of people, and access to fishing and farming areas in a way that might actually allow rebuilding and development. Prolonging needless suffering isn’t just unwise, it’s also wrong.

Security is a factor in the current situation, but it is far from the whole story. Political motivation to pressure or punish the civilian population, or isolate it from the West Bank after Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007, led to a policy of economic warfare. Incoming and outgoing goods were sweepingly blocked, save for a list of a few dozen items that could enter. In what seemed like a welcome change, Israel drew up a negative list in 2010; that list, however, has now expanded beyond measure. Restrictions on the entrance of civilian items like wood, fiberglass and certain batteries obstruct Gaza’s main industries and what could be productive sectors like fishing, farming, textile and furniture production, dairy and food processing, and hi-tech.

Some changes to access policy have occurred, but what started as an attempt to calculate and manipulate misery for political ends has gone haywire. Since then it has languished due to what former former Deputy Defense Minister Dan Meridor admitted was inertia. Security cannot continue to be used as an excuse for change, particularly when security officials themselves are trying to convince politicians of just how vital change is.

Palestinian families have been torn apart, the economy has been destroyed, and civil society fractured for no tangible purpose and to no end. For a woman who was prevented from fulfilling her dream to study or for the one who hasn’t been able to embrace her mother in years, for the man who lost his business or the one who lost his home, the chorus of Israeli voices admitting the scale of mistakes that have been made with regard to Gaza must be as grating as it is enraging.

Palestinian fishermen venture into Gaza Port following the start of an official ceasefire, Gaza City, August 1, 2014. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian fishermen venture into Gaza Port following the start of an official ceasefire, Gaza City, August 1, 2014. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Real solutions should be found to protect Israeli citizens, but they need not come at the expense of Gaza residents — not just because it is in Israel’s interest or because it holds the power to change the situation, but because it is the right thing to do. The situation in Gaza is not just a human tragedy, absent agency and with consequences for Israel’s security — it is a moral failure of shameful proportions.

A seaport could be a boon for the Palestinian territory as a whole one day, but there are countless things that can be done with less investment and now in order to facilitate normal life, from allowing access for laborers to permitting family visits in not just the most extreme circumstances. The Israeli authorities must recognize their agency over the situation in Gaza. If their sense of basic decency and moral obligation don’t compel them to correct it, at the very least, their interests should.

Tania Hary is the executive director of Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      Were we talking about Caroline Glick?

      http://mondoweiss.net/2014/12/caroline-palestinian-refugees/

      Glick denies the Nakba, the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948; denies the existence of Palestinian refugees; denies that Palestinians are the “indigenous population” of the land; and denies the existence of the West Bank, which she mentions only in quotation marks– its real name for her is its biblical Jewish designation, Judea and Samaria. –

      Reply to Comment
    2. Tony Riley

      It’s a bit crap that you don’t blame Hamas for starting 3 unwinnable wars.

      Crap, but unsurprising.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Samson

      In the “alternative reality” of the Israeli radical Left represented by the ilk of +972, ‘Up is Down and Down is Up’. In this entire article, the word “Hamas” is mentioned once – in passing! But, beyond that lunacy exists the real world. The real world in which the Arabs are NOT treated like CHILDREN who do not know right from wrong and cannot bare responsibility for their decisions and indecisions, actions and inactions, etc, but as ADULTS who make choices and decisions based on the cost-benefit-analysis in electing their government, running their lives and holding their governments accountable for its failures; the real world in which Israel is not made responsible for the actions and inactions, decisions and indecisions and the economic woes of foreign countries and entities in order to feed and sustain the ideology of the radical leftists. The Arab government in Gaza and the people of Gaza are responsible for their own decisions and actions, indecisions and inactions and the quagmire that results from there.

      “Hamas got rich as Gaza was plunged into poverty

      With multi-million-dollar land deals, luxury villas and black market fuel from Egypt, Gaza’s rulers made billions while the rest of the population struggled with 38-percent poverty and 40-percent unemployment.

      While the fighting is only expected to worsen the distress of the residents of Gaza, the Strip’s economic outlook for the Strip was never good. The unemployment rate in Gaza stood at approximately 40% before the latest conflict, with a similar proportion being classed as living under the poverty line. But while most of the Gaza population tries to deal with the difficulties of daily life, it seems that one sector at least has had few worries about their livelihoods – Hamas leaders and their associates.

      Multi-million-dollar deal
      Someone who has benefitted financially is the former Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. Before 2006 and Hamas’ shocking electoral win and subsequent dominance of the Palestinian government , 51-year-old Haniyeh was not considered a senior figure in Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But according to reports in the past few years, Haniyeh’s new-found senior status has allowed him to become a millionaire. This is an unusual feat, given that he was born to a refugee family in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.

      In 2010, Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yusuf reported that Haniyeh paid for $4 million for a 2,500msq parcel of land area in Rimal, a tony beachfront neighborhood of Gaza City. To avoid embarrassment, the land was registered in the name of the husband of Haniyeh’s daughter. Since then, there have been reports that Haniyeh has purchased several homes in the Gaza Strip, registered in the names of his children – no hardship, as he has 13 of them. At least with regards to his eldest son, it seems that the apple does not fall far from the tree, given his arrest on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with millions of dollars in cash in possession, which he intended to take into Gaza…..”

      Reply to Comment
      • Samson

        Subsidized fuel sold for profit

        According to sources in Gaza, Haniyeh’s wealth, like others high up in Hamas, came primarily from the flourishing tunnel industry. Senior Hamas figures, Haniyeh included, would levy 20 percent taxation on all of the trade passing through the tunnels. Hamas’s heyday came after the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, as its parent organization the Muslim Brotherhood was growing in popularity in Egypt. In those days, Hamas leaders and their associates were not afraid to show off their ostentatious wealth. Gaza’s market for luxury villas costing at least a million dollars was booming, most purchased by people associated with the establishment of Hamas. A Gazan familiar with the real estate market summed it up at the time with a quip about a Hamas crony who had recently acquired a luxury villa: “Two years ago, he couldn’t afford a packet of cigarettes.”

        At the same time, Khairat a-Shater, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who headed his own business empire, made sure to personally transfer tens of millions in cash to senior administration officials in Gaza as well as to commanders from the Hamas military wing.

        There were senior Hamas members who preferred that the money be kept in a safer place than the Gaza Strip, and invested it in various Egyptian assets, often through business partnerships with Muslim Brotherhood officials. In some cases, the man conducting the deals on behalf of Hamas officials, who ensured that they received their dividends in cash, was Ayman Taha, a Hamas founder once considered one of its key spokesmen. In 2011, Taha himself paid $700,000 for a luxury three-floor villa in the central Gaza Strip; a year ago, he was charged with being an agent for Egypt.

        The Egyptian street has become inflamed with anger directed against Hamas over the last three years, partly due to what appears to be its financial gains at the expense of the Egyptian people. The tunnels in Rafah, the town straddling the Gaza-Egypt border, for example, saw a flourishing fuel-smuggling industry from Sinai. The fuel subsidized by the Egyptian government was entering Gaza at a low price, but being sold for eight times that. Those who made the greatest profits from the sale of the fuel were Hamas members, even as Egypt often reported shortages for its own people.

        Hamas, says Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, has long become a movement of millionaires. According to Karima, the organization can count no less than 1,200 millionaires among its members. He did not, however, specify the source of this information…”

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          Mashal’s mall

          It was not only Hamas members in Gaza who became rich. It appears that political leader Khaled Mashal is another member of the organization who used Hamas funds to his own ends. In 2012, a Jordanian website reported that Mashal had control of a massive $2.6 billion, in large part deposited in Qatari and Egyptian banks. This is likely Hamas’ accumulated assets from years through donations, as well as its investments in various projects in the Arab and Muslim world. It is also known that, among other things, Hamas has invested in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Dubai. And, according to reports, Mashal did not always separate Hamas money and his own.

          Hamas’ expulsion from Syria was a severe financial blow for the movement. In 2011, before the start of the Syrian conflict, Hamas’s assets in the country had reached a value of $550 million. Apart from its real estate holdings, Hamas invested in various commercial companies, including a cargo company registered to a Syrian businessman close to Moussa Abu Marzook, Mashal’s deputy.

          As with other areas, in its financial dealings Hamas leaders keep their cards close to their chest and maintain a high level of secrecy. Investments are made through front companies, using family and associates. Companies linked to Mashal in Qatar are registered to his wife and daughter.

          Once he was forced to close his office in Damascus (after falling out with the Assad regime over its oppressive response to the conflict), Mashal declared that his place was in Qatar. There, he claimed that $12 million he had stored in his safe in his Damascus office had been lost. Not many accepted this story, and to this day believe that Mashal kept the money, transferring it to his own personal accounts.

          Reliable sources claim that a project by the Fadil real estate firm in Qatar is linked to Mashal, his son and his son’s wife. The prestigious project in Doha, the Qatari capital, includes the construction of four towers of more than 27,000 square meters, including office and commercial space attached to a mall with an area of 10,000 square meters. The company has never disclosed the source of its funding.

          According to a World Bank report released in November of last year, the Gaza Strip ranks third in the Arab region in terms of poverty, ranking above only Sudan and Yemen. The report stated that the poverty rate in Gaza stands at 38 percent. Furthermore, of the 144 countries included in the report, Gaza was the 44th poorest, with most of the countries with a higher poverty rate being located in Africa. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4543634,00.html

          Militancy, Warmongering, Terrorism, Dictatorship, Crushing institutionalized corruption, Factionalism, Nepotism, mismanagement, religious fanaticism and every other negative ‘ism’ is what is destroying Gaza. The Gazans are NOT children. They are ADULTS who chose Hamas in a fair and democratic ELECTIONS. If they are “victims”, they are the victims of themselves. They can chose to get rid of Hamas and make peace with Israel or at least stop the violence emanating from Gaza, or they will continue to lie on their bed as they made and continue to make it. Israel cannot solve every problem in the world.

          Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            “Israel cannot solve every problem in the world.”

            No one in their right mind would expect israel to solve any problems, especially as israel (and the US) are the CAUSE of so many problems in the world. Is it a coincidence that its ranking has ‘deteriorated’ since 1997 and more since 2007, or is that just the road that israel loves to travel on? If you blame this on antisemitism you are living in a different universe than the rest of us or you’re just another shameless hasbara tool, whose only response is “antisemitism”. That doesn’t work anymore, and because of the continued use of antisemitism, REAL antisemitism becomes lost in all the BS.

            Israel Ranks Among Western World’s Most Corrupt Countries” Lior Dattel
            and Reuters |Haaretz Contributor  
            Oct 26, 2010 12:38 PM

            “Receiving a score of 6.1 out of 10 Israel is in 22nd place out of 33 OECD members; meanwhile, U.S. drops out of top 20 least corrupt countries.

            Israel ranks among the most corrupt countries in the Western world, according to a study released by the International Transparency Organization on Tuesday.
            Out of 178 countries – 1 being least corrupt – Israel was listed at number 30. But when compared to other member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Israel fared much worse.

            The least corrupt countries were listed as Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore.

            Israel received a score of 6.1 out of 10 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks countries according to the perception of corruption in the public sector.

            That score positions Israel in the 22nd place out of 33 members of the OECD.

            In May 2010, the OECD unanimously voted in favor of accepting Israel as a member of the group. However, Israel is the organization’s poorest member, with the widest social gaps.

            Israel’s CPI score has not significantly improved since 2007. In 1997, Israel received a relatively high score of 7.9 ranking number 15 in the world, but has deteriorated considerably since then.

            However, Transparency International identified Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador, Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait, and Qatar as states where improvement had been made over the past year.

            “As opposed to Israel, other countries are improving, and that is a problem,” said Transparency International Israel CEO Galia Sagi on Tuesday.

            “Even though corruption is discussed and condemned, politicians are not doing enough to deal with it. If the political leadership does not prioritize this issue, nothing will change,” said Sagi.

            The United States, meanwhile, has dropped out of the “top 20″ in a global league table of least corrupt nations, tarnished by financial scandals and the influence of money in politics.

            The U.S. fell to 22nd from 19th last year, with its CPI score dropping to 7.1 from 7.5. This was the lowest score awarded to the U.S. in the index’s 15-year history and also the first time it had fallen out of the top 20.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Samson

            “Carmen
            Monday
            February 22, 2016

            (…) It’s convenient and it’s disgusting that you zionist pigs continue to use the deaths of Jews to further your carnage on the Palestinian people with the goal to wipe them out or drive them out so you can steal all of what remains of PALESTINE. You should be ashamed, you, and everyone like you. Disgusting filthy beasts.”, http://972mag.com/political-persecution-wont-stop-us-from-breaking-our-silence/117265/

            Carmen
            Friday
            February 26, 2016

            “(…) israel (and the US) are the CAUSE of so many problems in the world”.

            Btw, your comment is off topic, you little anti-Semitic piece of shit.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “Btw, your comment is off topic, you little anti-Semitic piece of shit.”

            I’ll keep that it mind. Thank you Miss Manners and have a lovely day!

            Reply to Comment
          • SkyHawk

            And there goes “Ben” AKA “Carmen” with his tail between his legs. Ben’s problem is not only anti-Semitism, but he apparently also loves posing as a woman. Dude, you have serious problems.

            Reply to Comment
          • Carmen

            Ben is Ben “skyhawk” and a man. Carmen is a woman. There is no way to prove it, either way. I’m assuming you are human, which sex I have no idea, but assume male. Are we through with this nonsense about who’s who or is this all you’re capable of? Rhetorical question, the answer is obvious.

            Reply to Comment
          • SkyHawk

            Dude, we already know what YOU are capable of – as made clear by Samson:

            “Carmen
            Monday
            February 22, 2016

            (…) It’s convenient and it’s disgusting that you zionist pigs continue to use the deaths of Jews to further your carnage on the Palestinian people with the goal to wipe them out or drive them out so you can steal all of what remains of PALESTINE. You should be ashamed, you, and everyone like you. Disgusting filthy beasts.”, http://972mag.com/political-persecution-wont-stop-us-from-breaking-our-silence/117265/

            Carmen
            Friday
            February 26, 2016

            “(…) israel (and the US) are the CAUSE of so many problems in the world”.

            …..you little anti-Semitic piece of shit.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “Dude, we already know what YOU are capable of – as made clear by Samson”
            “…..you little anti-Semitic piece of shit.”

            Made clear by Samson? And then you quote me? Jesus we need a better class of hasbaristas ASAP – you girls aren’t even trying!

            Reply to Comment
          • SkyHawk

            Dude is rattled and confused. Here read it again:

            “Samson
            Friday
            February 26, 2016

            “Carmen
            Monday
            February 22, 2016

            (…) It’s convenient and it’s disgusting that you zionist pigs continue to use the deaths of Jews to further your carnage on the Palestinian people with the goal to wipe them out or drive them out so you can steal all of what remains of PALESTINE. You should be ashamed, you, and everyone like you. Disgusting filthy beasts.”, http://972mag.com/political-persecution-wont-stop-us-from-breaking-our-silence/117265/

            Carmen
            Friday
            February 26, 2016

            “(…) israel (and the US) are the CAUSE of so many problems in the world”.

            Btw, your comment is off topic, you little anti-Semitic piece of shit”.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        There is a vast confusion between victimhood and being some kind of morally superior being. When the North American Indians (that’s the p.c. term these days) were colonized by the Europeans they were the victims, but they weren’t some kind of morally superior people; many Indian tribes were quite willing to murder the tribe next door if they wanted the land/animals/women. Likewise the Palestinians are victims, but they aren’t any different than people anywhere else; I have zero doubt that Hamas is as corrupt and venal and the Israelis, but that’s not the point. http://www.whoprofits.org/

        Reply to Comment
        • Samson

          I am sure you don’t know and cannot understand what “the point” is. The Palestinian Arabs are NOT “victims” and Israel is a villain. You know exactly what the goal of your people is: elimination of the Jewish State. You sacrifice and will continue to sacrifice your own people daily to achieve that goal, while claiming that you are “victims” which you by all definitions are NOT. Until there is a fundamental change in the goal of your people, there will be little or no change and you will ultimately self-destruct. The genocidal goal of Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad is the source of the Gaza woes of all kinds. THAT – is the point!

          Do you understand it now?

          Ok then, Stop blaming others.

          Start taking responsibility.

          Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Samson:

            NOT treated like CHILDREN who do not know right from wrong and cannot bare responsibility for their decisions and indecisions, actions and inactions, etc, but as ADULTS who make choices and decisions based on the cost-benefit-analysis

            Since you’re all about personal responsibility, here are three things the organized Zionist movement began doing almost immediately in Palestine:

            -Demanded the eviction of fellahin (peasants) from lands bought by the JNF (If anyone bothers to respond I already know they will try to argue these evictions were legal – it’s questionable that they were) and set up kibbutzim which were exclusive only to European Jews – Even Mideastern Jews couldn’t join a kibbutz.

            -Conspired with the British and among themselves to alter the demographics of Palestine so there would be an immigrant-settler majority. Ruppin proposed that Jewish autonomy would be achieved through purchase of most of the land and steady immigration; Weizmann and Ben-Gurion frequently reiterated the goal of a Jewish majority in Palestine.

            -Attempted to form alliances with imperial powers, namely Germany and Britain. People love to harp on Hajj Amin al-Husseini meeting with Hitler; yet they overlook that Herzl met with Kaiser Wilhelm and several other German royals with the idea of creating a protectorate over Palestine. Considering what the Germans were up to in SW Africa (Namibia), that could have been a different kind of disaster for the Palestinian Arabs.

            The Zionists entered Palestine with the original belligerent intent; what they wanted to accomplish was essentially the result of armed conflict, yet they managed to gain a foothold by exploiting the chaotic Ottoman legal system (itself subject to abuse by European nationals due to the Capitulations) and latching onto the British occupation during and after WWI.

            The genocidal goal of Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad is the source of the Gaza woes of all kinds.

            Israel remains a self-defined Jewish state partly because the Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza. This ghettoization is an extension of the conflict started by the Zionist movement.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            The problem with the Arabs and their faithful puppy dogs such as Anrew is that they think that they can do whatever they like. That they can conquer half the known world, including Palestine, by military means and that’s that. No one else has any right to do anything about it because once Arabs gain foothold anywhere, history is frozen and no one has the right to re-claim past stolen lands.

            But that is only their opinion. There was nothing illegal or wrong about Jews returning to our ancestral homeland from the mid 1800s onwards. Especially since at that time, Palestine was virtually empty and underdeveloped. It was a backwater with barely 350,000 inhabitants, some of whom were Jews who never left the land that was ours way before the Arab invadion of the sixth century.

            Arabs conquered those lands by military force. We redeemed it by immigration and purchasing lands legitimately. Spot the difference? But the Arabs and their puppies cannot get over it…

            They say, it’s their’s it’s their’s, it’s their’s… but just because they endlessly repeat their mantra, it does not make the lands theirs. It used to be ours, we lost it to European Colonizers, at some point the Arabs took over, but now we are back and the lands are ours again and it will renain ours so long as we are able to defend it, which we will.

            Am Yisrael Chai!

            Reply to Comment

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