by Peter Beaumont
They came and went in lorries and gas tankers, in flatbed trucks loaded with
cattle and sheep, in coaches and mini-buses, loaded by the dozen in the
backs of trucks, all shuttling across Gaza's southern border. Four days ago
they went on foot like refugees, but yesterday for the first time the trucks
drove through and it felt like an unstoppable momentum had been reached. . . .
The four short days since Hamas blew down the six-metre metal border
wall built by Israeli soldiers before the withdrawal of Israeli settlers and
troops has forged a confusing new reality on the ground. What first was
being treated as a holiday from the oppressive conditions of Gaza under
Israeli siege, by yesterday was taking on the attributes of an entitlement -
one for long refused.
. . . Gaza's problems are the consequence of a longer-lasting pattern
of behaviour whose wounds and deformities are beyond transformation
overnight. 'Since September 2000 and the beginning of the second intifada
the Israelis stopped using Palestinian labour. Those going to the "other
side" could earn between three and five times as much as labourers in Gaza.
It was hugely important to Gaza.
'It had a huge economic impact. The figures now show that we now have
unemployment running at in excess of 55 per cent, and 80 per cent of the
population lives below the World Bank's poverty level.'
But it is only part of a history of Gaza's decline. In truth that began with
the al-Nakba - 'the Catastrophe' - as Palestinians call the Arab-Jewish war
of 1948 that saw the establishment of the state of Israel. Then, Gaza's
population of 80,000 was swollen by the influx of 200,000 refugees, whose
descendants occupy Gaza's UN-run string of camps.
Occupied by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967, which seized it from
Egyptian rule, the long years of direct Israeli rule ended with the Oslo
peace accords that failed to see the end of Israeli settlement within the
Gaza Strip. That only ended with Israeli's unilateral 'withdrawal' in
September 2005 that left Israel still largely in charge of access to Gaza,
its airspace and access to the sea. Israel provided two-thirds of Gaza's
electricity, policed the land routes into which fuel, medicines and raw
materials must pass, and controlled access of Palestinians to labour markets
- Gaza's population was in effect imprisoned.
Never wealthy, Gaza's economic collapse was rapidly accelerated following
the election in 2006 of the militant Hamas in the Palestinian elections in
Gaza and the West Bank. Amid factional fighting between Hamas and the
previously dominant Fatah, and a widespread breakdown in law and order,
Hamas finally assumed power from Fatah in a few days of violence seven
months ago. Israel's response was to declare a Hamas-led Gaza a 'hostile
entity', further strangling a sealed off Gaza Strip and leading to severe
shortages of cement, cigarettes and other basic goods, in a move that
further deepened poverty.
That noose was tightened even harder this month after a rise in rocket
attacks led Israel to impose a complete closure on the Gaza Strip -
relenting later to allow in some fuel and humanitarian supplies amid
international horror at what was being done to Gaza as a whole. But deep and
lasting damage had been inflicted, long before the events of the last week. . . .
Donald Macintyre, "Israeli Missiles
Pound Gaza Into New Dark Age," Independent, June 29, 2006
Ibrahim Barzak, "Israel Says It Won't
Work With Coalition," Associated Press, March 15, 2007
Stephen Lendman, "Forty Years Of
Israeli Occupation," sjlendman.blogspot.com, May 23, 2007
Israel Shamir, "Breakout from Ghetto
Gaza," israelshamir.com, January 26, 2008
[It has been proven that through popular disobedience, the Palestinians
manage to break the Israeli rules of the game and bring their concerns back
to the center of global attention - as well as intensifying criticism of
Israel. The "armed struggle," especially when it is aimed at civilians,
achieves the opposite: It presents the Palestinians as the aggressor, not as
the occupied party under attack, thereby weakening their global standing.
--Amira Hass, "Finally, a popular
uprising," Haaretz, January 30, 2008]
Kathleen and Bill Christision, "Talking to a
Wall - Palestine in the Mind of America," CounterPunch, February 14,
John Pilger, "Bringing Down the
New Berlin Walls," antiwar.com, February 14, 2008