+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

The myth of the Gaza 'border'

The Green Line disguises the fact that Palestinians in Gaza are no longer being oppressed outside the Israeli state, but are being caged and brutalized inside it.

Palestinian protesters inside the Gaza Strip throw stones in the direction of an Israeli military position on the other side of the border fence, Gaza Strip, December 8, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters inside the Gaza Strip throw stones in the direction of an Israeli military position on the other side of the border fence, Gaza Strip, December 8, 2017. (Ezz Zanoun/Activestills.org)

Palestinian activists have long criticized the use of the word “border” to describe the 1949 armistice line that divides Gaza and Israel, and which protestors in the Great March of Return have been trying to cross at great risk to life and limb. By invoking the term, Israel insists that its open-fire policy toward the march is part of its legitimate right to defend its sovereignty and security. It further claims that, because the government dismantled its settlements in 2005, it no longer occupies the Strip and therefore bears no responsibility for its conditions.

These are disingenuous arguments. Israel’s blockade and control of Gaza stretches from its eastern and northern land crossings to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, with Egypt controlling the south. What it calls a “border” is actually a militarized network of naval ships, barbed wire, electronic barriers, lethal no-man zones, and surveillance systems that operate as the fence of an open-air prison. In legal terms, Israel retains “effective control” of the Strip (including people’s movement, its airspace, flow of goods, and other needs of daily life), and therefore remains its occupying power.

An Israeli warship approaches a Palestinian skiff, as photographed from the observation boat Olivia (photo: Rosa Schiano/Civil Peace Service Gaza CPSGAZA)

An Israeli warship approaches a Palestinian skiff, as photographed from the observation boat Olivia (photo: Rosa Schiano/Civil Peace Service Gaza CPSGAZA)

The human rights community has spent years articulating the nature of Israel’s occupation under international law and the responsibility of third-parties to end it. The law, however, is only worth as much as the will to enforce it; and half a century later, these efforts have failed to produce meaningful outcomes. It is not that the law is incorrect, but that it has been unable to mobilize political action or make Israel’s military rule less sustainable.

The Palestinians’ own ambiguities about the Green Line have further complicated matters. We focus on the military structures that have spawned since 1967, yet emphasize that the real problem is 1948. We cite Israel’s obligation to abide by international law, but chastise the law for being useless in practice. We combine settler colonialism, occupation, and apartheid as lenses to explain the ongoing Nakba, but arrive at different conclusions for what the solution entails. These debates are natural, but they also muddle the struggle’s priorities and the discourse it promotes.

Exploiting these uncertainties, Israel has turned Gaza into an area that is simultaneously separated from and annexed under Israel’s control. It is a purgatory designed to provide whatever answer is most convenient for shirking responsibility and justifying violence at any given time. This has obscured a controversial but perhaps inexorable fact: after 51 years, Gaza can hardly be described as “occupied territory” anymore. It is now a segregated, debilitated, and subjugated part of Israel; a replica of the districts, townships, and reservations that imprisoned native populations and communities of color in apartheid South Africa, the United States, and other colonial regimes. In other words, Palestinians are no longer being oppressed outside the Israeli state; they are being caged and brutalized inside it.

Israeli soldiers look on at protests in Gaza. April 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers look on at protests in Gaza. April 13, 2018. (Oren Ziv / Activestills.org)

The Green Line has been key to disguising this complex system. Like the de facto annexation of the West Bank – where Israel’s growing settlements and military presence have similarly made the “border” there non-existent – Gaza has effectively been absorbed into Israel’s political jurisdiction. Hamas, like the Palestinian Authority, is viewed as a pseudo-government of hostile “enemy aliens,” but one that can be managed in Israel’s domain so long as it is contained behind the fence. The thousands taking part in the March of Return are not “infiltrators” trying to breach a sovereign state, but displaced and disenfranchised “citizens” breaking out of a state-built ghetto. The army is not holding off “foreign invaders,” but is killing and suppressing its own native subjects.

This framing is crucial to understand the scale and severity of Israel’s policies, and to devise stronger paths to correcting their injustices. By tearing off the mask of the Green Line, Palestinians and their allies can reverse Israel’s efforts to isolate Gaza from the West Bank and to deny its people’s rights to their ancestral homes. What Israel fears more than a Palestinian state is a Palestinian population it cannot disown, and the myth that Gaza is “separated” from Israel helps it to balance that fear. That myth must be broken, and that racist fear must be exposed. Doing so would also reveal the political solution: if Palestinians cannot win their independence along the Green Line, they will demand their full equality beyond it. The March of Return is doing just that.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      So here’s an article on Gaza from The Tablet, which is about as pro-Israel as you can get. And lest I be accused of cherry picking, the article has plenty of criticism of Hamas – but there’s one thing everyone should be able to agree on:

      http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/262329/gaza-media-explainer

      The Israeli blockade of Gaza goes well beyond what is necessary for Israel’s security, and in many cases can be capricious and self-defeating. Import and export restrictions on food and produce have seesawed over the years, with what is permitted one year forbidden the next, making it difficult for Gazan farmers to plan for the future. Restrictions on movement between Gaza, the West Bank, and beyond can be similarly overbroad, preventing not simply potential terrorist operatives from traveling, but families and students. In one of the more infamous instances, the U.S. State Department was forced to withdraw all Fulbright awards to students in Gaza after Israel did not grant them permission to leave. Today, official policy bars Gazans from traveling abroad unless they commit to not returning for a full year. It is past time that these issues be addressed, as outlined in part in a new letter from several prominent senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Lewis from Afula

      This so-called author shows typical Jihadi thinking here:

      Israel is in Gaza – it is apartheid, racist, colonist etc etc etc
      Israel leaves Gaza – Israel is keeping Gaza surrounded and imprisoned in an open air Jail.
      Israel is guilty whatever it does.

      My solution is to expel the Gazans back to Egypt and annex the Strip.
      That is the only solution that we have not yet tried.
      Why not give transfer a chance ?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        “That is the only solution that we have not yet tried.”

        Now of course that is false. The way I see it, you confirm Iraqi’s analysis by admitting that the only “solution” you (an unabashed, card carrying judeofascism enthusiast) can think of is ethnic cleansing. Since Israel knows it cannot quite get away with that, but is also not willing to find a just solution, the only recourse Israel then has is to do the dishonest, having-it-both-ways, “conflict-managing” subterfuge Iraqi describes:

        “Israel has turned Gaza into an area that is simultaneously separated from and annexed under Israel’s control. It is a purgatory designed to provide whatever answer is most convenient for shirking responsibility and justifying violence at any given time.”

        Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        “Transfer” isn’t possible unless the receiving country is willing to accept the expellees. Like Israel, Egypt has a duty to protect its borders and any perceived dangers to its citizens.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Another insightful and well-reasoned argument by Amjad Iraqi. The occupation has always depended on Israel having it both ways. There is a “border” when that is convenient but the “border” is erased for all practical purposes when that is convenient.

      I think this statement by Iraqi matches the true reality better than any other framing I have seen:

      ‘The thousands taking part in the March of Return are not “infiltrators” trying to breach a sovereign state, but displaced and disenfranchised “citizens” breaking out of a state-built ghetto. The army is not holding off “foreign invaders,” but is killing and suppressing its own native subjects.’

      Reply to Comment
      • Jack Green

        Jews lived in Gaza for centuries until the Palestinians cleansed Gaza of its Jews in 1929.
        It’s hypocrisy for Palestinians to claim the right of return when Palestinians deny the Jews their right of return.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          In the one state solution there is unlimited right of return for everybody, Arab and Jewish. What’s stopping you?

          Reply to Comment
          • Itshak Gordin Halevy

            The best solution is that Jews live in Eretz Israel and that Arabs return from where they came: Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Maghreb.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            ethnic segregation: jabotinsky’s iron wall lives – antisemitic as ever.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Firentis

      The framing of people that have never been Israeli citizens, living on land that has never been a part of Israel, is not recognized as a part of Israel and not claimed by Israel as ‘disenfranchised citizens’ is incoherent.

      In any case the attempt to blur the 1948 lines is highly counterproductive to the Palestinians because it just legitimates the redrawing of lines which historically happens on the basis of power relations, but go right ahead. 🙂

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        On the contrary Amjad Iraqi’s framing is insightful, penetrating, clarifying. It is illuminating. Your own framing suffers from excessive literalness, concreteness, and close-mindedness. It’s also frankly kind of muddled.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Lewis from Afula

      Re “In the one state solution there is unlimited right of return for everybody, Arab and Jewish. What’s stopping you? ”

      We have all seen how that idea works with reference to minorities such as Copts, Shiites, Druze, Christians, Kurds in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia etc.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Oh you guys can be different, you could be a shining city on a hill, a model of peaceful co-existence. I’m not saying this all that sarcastically, either. I’m saying how crabbed, narrow, short-sighted, begrudging, racist and dark is your vision. What a colossal waste fo time it is. Look at Halevy up there. The Palestinians have been there centuries before he waltzes in from Switzerland but these people, because they are a different race/etnicity than Halevy, should “go back where they came from.” If you want to be that way about it, why doesn’t Halevy return to a nice pension in the Swiss Alps? Why don’t you return to Poughkeepsie or Kansas City?

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben:
          Have you ever thought that I might have been born in Israel, but educated abroad ?

          In anycase, Israel exists. Thus, trying to destroy it is a crime against its citizens. That is why the other side must be utterly defeated in the field of battle. You cannot solve a war by merging the 2 sides into a unitary utopia. That tyoe of approach is a kick in the crotch to the Israeli victims of all the wars that the Arabs started.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Jon doe

      Gaza residents are bit citizens of Israel. They have full opportunity of normalizing the relationship with Israel and starting to develop as a successful and independent body. Instead the region have been hijacked by a group that is bent on confrontation, and forced Israel to contain the threat by controlling the resources which are available to the group. Israel has no interest of maintaining the blokade, nor did it do it until Gaza fell under a hostile regime.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Lewis from Afula

      Ben:
      Have you ever thought that I might have been born in Israel, but educated abroad ?

      In anycase, Israel exists. Thus, trying to destroy it is a crime against its citizens. That is why the other side must be utterly defeated in the field of battle. You cannot solve a war by merging the 2 sides into a unitary utopia. That tyoe of approach is a kick in the crotch to the Israeli victims of all the wars that the Arabs started.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I have not thought about you that much. You come across as an extremist, a sick, Endlösung-plotting judeofascist with an added character of typical transplanted American simple-mindedness, coarseness, and arrogance; with a diaspora flavor about you. But maybe you didn’t need the American influence to be that, maybe you’re just naturally “talented” that way.

        Have you ever thought that the Palestinians were born in Israel-Palestine, and not allowed by the occupying overlord to be educated abroad? Of course you didn’t, because you’re a racist.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Ben, there is no place called “israel-palestine”.
          Israel is Israel.
          Fakestine is a fake entity that was conjured up by the KGB in the 1970s.
          Your confusion exists at a fundamental level and that is why you can’t remedy this problem.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Fundamental, eh? So says the fundamentalist, no different than the Islamic jihadists on the other side. Just another flavor of fanaticism. And fanatics can’t be reasoned with. They have to be stayed with whatever force the state(s) and the people have at their disposal. BDS seen in this light is just one tool to do that, one more piece of consciousness raising and pressure. Those who complain of fanatic elements in the BDS movement need to understand that those elements are only the weeds that grow in the disturbed soil the Israeli right wing lovingly prepares and tenaciously cultivates.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben’s other problem is that he lives in a Leftist cloud-cuckoo land where all the Arab Muslims are gentle nice people. Ben’s mind has succeeded in switching off from the expulsion of 1 Million Mizrchi Jews from the Arab States. He does not think that Jewish Nakba is a genuine one. He makes excuses for all the Arab Wars.

            When Israel was in Gaza, he kept saying how evil Israel for being there. Now, Israel has left Gaza he says that the Israel-Gaza border is not a genuine border. In Ben’s distorted mind, Israel’s crime is that it exists.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            So if you had read what I wrote, Lewis, you’d surely have noticed that I mentioned Islamic jihadists and strongly suggest these are people that both exist and to whom I am opposed. So the charge that I, idiotically, think that all Arab Muslims (or Indian Hindus or Israeli Jews or American Christians or Homo Sapiens anywhere) are “nice people” is fatuous. All of my arguments presuppose that it is practical and secure arrangements and not various parties’ feelings or base wishes that need immediate attending to and emergency psychotherapizing. (That is Netanyahu’s propaganda—that it is about “the Arab’s feelings not what we do to them that matters.”) I do not however subscribe to the theory that one Nakba justifies another. Nor do I think that the wars in question are intelligently reduced to “Arab Wars,” that fond right wing Israeli talking point. Nor do I think “Israel has left Gaza” is an intelligent description of Israel’s relationship to Gaza. Nor do I think that “Israel’s existence is a crime” no matter how fondly you wish to reduce Israel’s transgressions to a response to a fake existential crisis that has not existed for some time now. You are fond of saying “fakestinian” but a truer neologism is “fakeIsareliexistentialthreatism.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Ben does not think that “Israel has left Gaza”.
            That is the root of the problem.
            Ben thinks Israel is commiting a crime because it EXISTS.
            Its the shear existence of the state is intolerable to the loony ledtist cuckoo Ben.
            What we have here is a classic case of Left wing Antisemitism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            None of this makes any sense and is flatly contradicted by what I just told you. What you say has an empty air of canned, off-the-shelf anti-‘leftist’ verbiage and stock anti-Semitizing slander. It is impossible to take it seriously. We do not take lectures on our mental health from Endloesung-plotting, ethnic cleansing and mass population transfer-advocating bedlamites.

            Reply to Comment
    8. Dave

      The article is not bad as the beginning of a conversation, but with all respect you failed to address WHY goods are restricted. If the Gazans were truly willing to make peace and not make their major focus the destruction of Israeli, things would be different.

      That is not to say that Israel is not partially to blame for the Gazans’ misery; they are. Palestinians have to take the lion’s share of responsibility for their suffering, and I don’t believe they’ll ever have the courage to do that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Excuse me but this is just bunk, a piece of the mindless propaganda narrative that a brainwashed Israeli public chants to itself.

        The Palestinians have never got anything from approaching Israel in sincere dialogue. The Palestinians have never got anything from Israel by talking except exploitation. Israel only ever actually listens to violence:

        By Noam Sheizaf |Published March 11, 2016
        Why do we only listen to violence?
        Two intifadas increased Israeli willingness to make territorial withdrawals. Wars in Lebanon and Egypt led Israel to withdrawals from those territories. Despite all that, the Palestinian Authority is trying to maintain quiet and security for Israelis but receives nothing in return. If I were Palestinian I might come to a disturbing conclusion.
        https://972mag.com/why-do-we-only-listen-to-violence/117773/

        All peaceful nonviolent protest or overtures by Palestinians are met by Israel either with blunt force or are met as a sign of weakness, are met with contempt, are met with “we have time, you must lower your expectations.”

        Since when have the Israelis ever had the courage to face down their fanatic settlers?

        Since when have the Israelis ever had the courage to even find out what is actually happening in the West Bank?

        Since when have the Israelis ever had the courage to stop terrorizing the Palestinians?

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Fakestinian rights
          Fakestinyan violence
          Fakestinyan history
          Fakestinyan justice
          The root problem of Ben’s ideologiucal world is that he begins by assuming that there is indeed something called the “fakestinyans”. But hustorically, this is wrong.

          Israel captured those mountainous areas from JORDAN in the June 1967 war, when that state attacked it. Those people living there were fully-fledged JORDANIAN citizens. This is the genuine starting off point from which the analysis should start.

          From where did the phantom nation of “fakestine” come from ?
          Ben needs to engage fully in this meaningful question. Otherwise, his thinking and proposed solutions will continue to be out of sync with reality.

          Reply to Comment
    9. Click here to load previous comments