Friday, February 8, 2008

Gaza's brief respite is over

Saw this over at Lenin's Tomb, and figured was worth passing along:
The all-too-brief moment of liberation for Gaza is over. The cage doors have been slammed shut, elopers shot, and air strikes on the captive population resumed. Israel's collective punishment having been sanctified by the Jerusalem-based Supreme Court last week (the reduction of power to Gaza begins today), and its past war crimes officially denied, the IDF can rampage through its open air prison at liberty. As often as it likes. The IDF are also looking at ways to stop anything like the breach of that wall ever happening again - bad example, you see. What if people starting doing that in the West Bank? And Egypt's coppers are back on the beat, shooting at Gazan protesters. The brief exhiliaration of crossing the border now gives way to a darker reality - the so-called "shopping spree" didn't begin to bring even a fraction of the goods that were needed.

Starvation is afoot. The FAO's last 'Food Security and Vulnerability' assessment, which was carried out in 2006, found that only a third of all Palestinians were food secure. The Gaza Strip is particularly vulnerable, since it cannot produce more than 1% of the wheatflour that makes up 80% of the basic diet. The report notes that "24% of food insecure non-refugees are located in West Bank and 58% are located in the Gaza Strip". (Since we tend to forget about the refugee population, who are given no rights in the 'two state' consensus, it is worth pointing out that they are in the worst condition when it comes to basic nutrition). The last time a survey of Palestinian incomes was taken, to my knowledge, was Oxfam's report in early 2007, which found that poverty had increased by 30% over the previous year. As they note, this is not only because international donors suspended aid upon the election of Hamas. It is because Israel collects Palestinian tax revenue and withholds it. The number of Palestinians living on less than $2.10 a day doubled in 2006. And so, with the economy subject to a blockade, with tax revenues withheld, with aid withdrawn, and with power supplies now cut, Israel is back to its policy of "putting the Palestinians on a diet" (as Dov Weisglass once described it).
I've been known to equate the Israeli government with the old Apartheid-era government that once ruled South Africa. In many ways that seems like a fitting enough description insofar as the Israeli government has done via brute force - namely remove indigenous peoples from their lands, segregating them from the rest of society in the process. Israel, the Afrikaaners, and the US have a great deal in common on that score in their treatment of the indigenous folks who just happened to get in the way of whatever speculation, profits, and power their respective elites desired.

Where we need to apparently part ways with the Israel-Apartheid comparison is in how the respective regimes viewed their colonized indigenous peoples. For the South African Apartheid regime, the indigenous served as potential cheap labor. For the Israelis, the Palestinians are merely excess humanity that are to serve no purpose whatsoever. While it was difficult for a person stuck in one of the bantustans in SA to get from point A to point B, s/he could at least count on finding something in the way of work and be able to provide some subsistence level existence to oneself and family. Not even that is afforded to the Palestinians, who are, for all intents and purposes, trapped in an open-air concentration camp. The Apartheid regime was brutal, it ghettoized those deemed untermenschen, and the world is certainly better off without it. Israel has gone further - its government is literally starving the people in Gaza to death. In other words, there is a level of genocide inherent in Israel's treatment of those in Gaza that would arguably be beyond even the Apartheid regime's acceptance level.

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