The Gaza Strip is a failure of the Jewish national movement. Into Gaza we pushed all those other people who lost their clay huts, stone houses and fig trees during that terrible summer of 1948. True, they were the ones who refused to accept us here, who refused to divide the land and forced a war on us. But in the end, we sent them from Jaffa, Yavne and Majdal to Jabaliya, Nusseirat and Rafah. We occupied them again in 1967 and settled among them after 1967 and ruled over them for some 40 years.
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The Gaza Strip is a failure of the Palestinian national movement. During a decade in which the young and fragile Jewish nation-state absorbed and rehabilitated a million Jewish refugees, the Arab nation-states, especially Egypt, refused to accept and rehabilitate hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. That same Egypt, which had shown (a degree of) solidarity with the Palestinians in time of war, showed no solidarity with them at all during peacetime. On the contrary, it trapped them in a narrow strip of land, shut them up in poorly built camps and denied them human dignity, human rights and the ability to live.
Responsibility for the formation of the abscess of despair that is Gaza rests heavily with the Arab world and Arab nationalism.
The Gaza Strip is a failure of the Palestinian national movement. The State of Israel, having become disillusioned with occupation, settlement and messianism, gave its neighbors to the south the great opportunities of Oslo (1993) and the disengagement (2005). The Palestinians wasted both. They didn’t establish a thriving Singapore in Gaza, but a totalitarian and murderous Hamastan that oppresses individuals and minorities and repeatedly attacks Israel. The movement did not turn the first liberated Palestinian district into a place of enlightened hope, but into a rocket base and a warren of tunnels infused with Islamic fanaticism.
The failures of Israel, the Arab world, and the Palestinians were exacerbated by additional failures. The international community never demanded that Gaza’s residents leave their traumatic past behind to focus on the future. The United Nations, through its Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), continued to fund Gaza’s misery rather than develop the area. The various peace architects never seriously addressed Gaza’s fundamental problems of density, extremism and poverty. For many good people, Gaza was and remains the elephant in the room that they prefer not to see or think about, while secretly hoping it will go away.
But Gaza will not go away. It may be deterred (for a while) and may calm down (somewhat) – but it will not go away. The violent summer of 2014 proves that the multidimensional failure in Gaza has become dangerous. That’s why a cease-fire isn’t enough. All those who have failed in Gaza – the Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians, Americans and Europeans – must take responsibility for that strip of land that has become the country’s gall bladder.
The vision is clear: a Marshall Plan in return for demilitarization. But it is also clear that the path to that vision is long, full of potholes, and requires compromises. If it’s impossible to give the Palestinians a port now, then build, together with them, power and desalination stations and give them an economic horizon in northern Sinai. If we can’t expect the Palestinians to officially agree to demilitarization, than we must at least make sure that they don’t get any stronger.
We must prevent any more tunneling under the border fence, but at the same time we must finally see the people living on the other side. Without reasonable well-being in Gaza, Israel will not be secure. If there is no hope for our neighbors, then their past and present will continue to haunt our future.