January 1, 2009
London Review of Books

If Gaza Falls . . .

by Sara Roy

Israel's siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel's siege has two fundamental goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.

On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately 750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so. Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed; during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was required. There were three days in November when UNRWA ran out of food, with the result that on each of these days 20,000 people were unable to receive their scheduled supply. According to John Ging, the director of UNRWA in Gaza, most of the people who get food aid are entirely dependent on it. On 18 December UNRWA suspended all food distribution for both emergency and regular programmes because of the blockade.

The WFP has had similar problems, sending only 35 trucks out of the 190 it had scheduled to cover Gazans' needs until the start of February (six more were allowed in between 30 November and 6 December). Not only that: the WFP has to pay to store food that isn't being sent to Gaza. This cost $215,000 in November alone. If the siege continues, the WFP will have to pay an extra $150,000 for storage in December, money that will be used not to support Palestinians but to benefit Israeli business.

The majority of commercial bakeries in Gaza - 30 out of 47 - have had to close because they have run out of cooking gas. People are using any fuel they can find to cook with. As the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has made clear, cooking-gas canisters are necessary for generating the warmth to incubate broiler chicks. Shortages of gas and animal feed have forced commercial producers to smother hundreds of thousands of chicks. By April, according to the FAO, there will be no poultry there at all: 70 per cent of Gazans rely on chicken as a major source of protein.

Banks, suffering from Israeli restrictions on the transfer of banknotes into the territory were forced to close on 4 December. A sign on the door of one read: 'Due to the decision of the Palestinian Finance Authority, the bank will be closed today Thursday, 4.12.2008, because of the unavailability of cash money, and the bank will be reopened once the cash money is available.'

The World Bank has warned that Gaza's banking system could collapse if these restrictions continue. All cash for work programmes has been stopped and on 19 November UNRWA suspended its cash assistance programme to the most needy. It also ceased production of textbooks because there is no paper, ink or glue in Gaza. This will affect 200,000 students returning to school in the new year. On 11 December, the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, sent $25 million following an appeal from the Palestinian prime minister, Salaam Fayad, the first infusion of its kind since October. It won't even cover a month's salary for Gaza's 77,000 civil servants.

On 13 November production at Gaza's only power station was suspended and the turbines shut down because it had run out of industrial diesel. . . .


Sara Roy teaches at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies and is the author of Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Enver Masud, "Holocaust Remembrance Veils Criminal Policies," The Wisdom Fund, April 22, 2001

Jimmy Carter, "Don't Punish the Palestinians," Washington Post, February 20, 2006

Rory McCarthy, "Palestinians Lose Faith in Two-State Solution," Guardian, September 4, 2008

[Richard Falk was detained at the airport and denied entry to Israel on December 13, when he arrived in Tel Aviv. The American professor of international law was traveling to the West Bank and Gaza, to fulfill his mandate as the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories to investigate the human rights conditions affecting the civilian population. His most urgent task includes monitoring the rising humanitarian crisis facing the 1.5 million Palestinians, of whom half are children, living in the besieged Gaza Strip.--Phyllis Bennis, "Detaining the United Nations," Foreign Policy in Focus, December 23, 2008]

[Each day of electricity cuts increases the prospect that Palestinian Water Authority engineer Saadi Ali's nightmare will come true. Ali, in charge of the North Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Project, lives in constant fear of a recurrence of the calamity that took place in March 2007 when the dirt embankments surrounding a temporary infiltration pond of sewage water collapsed, and the effluent water that flooded the nearby Bedouin village of Umm al-Nasser led to the drowning deaths of five people. About 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes, animals died and considerable damage was caused to property and crops.--Amira Hass, "The sewage is about to hit the fan in Gaza," Haaretz, December 25, 2008]

[The dead and wounded lay scattered on the ground following the Israeli Israeli warplanes pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 229 people in one of the bloodiest days for the Palestinians in 60 years of conflict with the Jewish state. . . . More than 700 Palestinians were wounded--Nidal al-Mughrabi, "Israel kills scores in Gaza air strikes," Reuters, December 27, 2008]

[Last week, days after the ceasefire officially ended, 80 rockets were launched against Israel in just one day. . . . no Israeli was killed or injured . . .

Yesterday's strikes will have had as much to do with Israeli domestic policy as military deterrence. The country goes to the polls on February 10. Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and the Kadima party candidate for prime minister, increasingly faced accusations of being soft on defence.--Marie Colvin, "Gaza raids expose Israeli failure," Sunday Times, December 28, 2008]

[Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.--Gideon Levy, "The Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again," Haaretz, December 29, 2008]

[Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises.--Johann Hari, "The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling," Independent, December 29, 2008]

Craig Schneider, "McKinney relief boat rammed by Israeli navy," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 29, 2008

[As so often, the term 'terrorism' has proved a rhetorical smokescreen under cover of which the strong crush the weak--Nir Rosen, "Gaza: the logic of colonial power," Guardian, December 29, 2008]

Tariq Ali, "From the ashes of Gaza: In the face of Israel's latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution," Guardian, December 30, 2008

[Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world. . . .

Yet if more than 300 Israelis had been killed - against two dead Palestinians - be sure that the "numbers game" and the disproportionate violence would be all too relevant.--Robert Fisk, "Why bombing Ashkelon is the most tragic irony," Independent, December 30, 2008]

Rory McCarthy, "Foreign journalists demand Gaza access," BBC News, December 30, 2008

Warren P. Strobel, "What helped the rise of Hamas? U.S., Israel policies, turns out," McClatchy Newspapers, December 31, 2008

[ . . . Israel effectively broke the truce with Hamas by attacking Gaza on a scale then unprecedented . . .

During November, an average of 4.6 trucks of food per day entered Gaza from Israel compared with an average of 123 trucks per day in October.--Sara Roy, "Israel's 'victories' in Gaza come at a steep price: The Jewish ethical tradition means embracing Palestinians, too," Christian Science Monitor, January 2, 2009]

Nidal al-Mughrabi, "Israeli tanks, soldiers invade Gaza Strip," Reuters, January 3, 2009

[The war has, in fact, confirmed what had long been apparent, namely that Israel has no interest in a negotiated peace. Peace means retraction, it means ceding territory, whereas Israel is still bent on expansion.--Patrick Seale, "Israel and the Fight for Gaza,", January 3, 2009]


[Dan Gillerman, Israel's ambassador to the UN . . . said that the diplomatic and political groundwork has been under way for months. . .

Buttu says that from the day the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, they set about ensuring that it would fail economically. . . . even before Hamas was elected three years ago, the Israelis were already blockading Gaza.--Chris McGreal, "Why Israel went to war in Gaza," Observer, January 4, 2009]

Eric Margolis, "Israel's 'Fait Accompli' in Gaza," Al Jazeera, January 5, 2009

VIDEO "Israel Broke Ceasefire," CNN, January 5, 2009

Franklin Lamb, "Fact and Law Checking the Wall Street Journal and Alan Dershowitz," Dissident Voice, January 6, 2009

Khalid Mish'al, "This brutality will never break our will to be free: For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start," Guardian, January 6, 2009

[Until mid-2007, there was a serious political obstacle to a massive conventional war by Israel against Hamas in Gaza: the fact that Hamas had won free and fair elections for the Palestinian parliament and was still the leading faction in a fully legitimate government.--Gareth Porter, "Bush plan beat obstacle to Gaza assault," Inter Press Service, January 7, 2009]

[And so for an 11th day of Israel's war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel--Ethan Bronner, "Israel Puts Media Clamp on Gaza," New York Times, January 7, 2009]

Avi Shlaim, "How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe," Guardian, January 7, 2009

Robert Fisk, "Why do they hate the West so much, we will ask ," Independent, January 7, 2009

John Pilger, "Holocaust Denied The lying silence of those who know,", January 8, 2009

[ . . . Israel itself helped nurture Hamas--Nicholas D. Kristof, "The Gaza Boomerang," New York Times, January 8, 2009]

Rashid Khalidi, "What You Don't Know About Gaza," New York Times, January 8, 2009

MUST WATCH VIDEO: "Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel's Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict,", January 8, 2009

Michel Chossudovsky, "War and Natural Gas: The Israeli Invasion and Gaza's Offshore Gas Fields,", January 8, 2009

[Israel must show not only that it is too strong to be swept away but also that it is willing to give up the land—the West Bank, not just Gaza—where the promised Palestinian state must stand.--"The hundred years' war," Economist, January 8, 2009]

Griff Witte and Colum Lynch, "Israel Rejects U.N. Cease-Fire Resolution," Washington Post, January 9, 2009

[Intelligence gathered with the assistance of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank enabled the surprise opening strike on 27 December.--Alon Ben-David, "Israeli offensive seeks 'new security reality' in Gaza," Jane's, January 9, 2009]

[A senior military analyst in London who declined to be named said that, because of the timing, the shipments could be "irregular" and linked to the Gaza offensive. . . .

The Jerusalem Post, citing defence officials, reported last week that a first shipment of the missiles had arrived in early December and they were used in pentetrating Hamas's underground rocket launcher sites.--Stefano Ambrogi, "U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel," Reuters, January 9, 2009]

Naomi Klein, "It's time for a boycott: The best way to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with the kind of movement that ended apartheid," Guardian, January 10, 2009

"Is Al Jazeera Internet TV Being Blocked?," REALNews, January 11, 2009

[On Nov. 4, Israel, in clear violation of the ceasefire, went into Gaza and killed six Palestinians who Israel declared were terrorists. That incident and an ongoing siege and blockade of Gaza were enough reasons for Hamas to resume hostilities against Israel.--S. Amjad Hussain, "Why is U.S. foreign policy hostage to Israel?,", January 12, 2009]

[By yesterday, the war in Gaza had left at least 905 Palestinians dead, a little less than half of whom were civilians.--Craig Nelson, "Israeli 'human shield' claim is full of holes,", January 13, 2009]

[An Israeli missile or shell appeared to have struck the southern side of the 13th floor of the building, Reuters reported.--"Explosion Blasts Media Offices in Gaza," Fox News, January 11, 2009]

VIDEO: Max Blumenthal, "Pro- Israel Rally Attended by Big-Time NY Dems Descends into Calls for 'Wiping Out' Palestinians," AlterNet, January 13, 2009

Ibrahim Barzak and Amy Teibel, "Israeli forces shell UN headquarters in Gaza," AP, January 15, 2009

Jonathan Cook, "Israeli Assault Injures 1.5 Million Gazans,", January 17, 2009

Ben Lynfield, "Plea to stop war from victims of rocket salvoes," Independent, January 17, 2009

Robert Fisk, "Posturing and laughter as victims rot," Independent, January 20, 2009

Donald Macintyre, "Israel's dirty secrets in Gaza," Independent, March 20, 2009

"Gaza Massacres: Ongoing Coverage," Electronic Intifada

WAR ON GAZA: Statistics, Details, etc.


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