Opinion

2020, the Year of the End for Gaza

A Palestinian family warm themselves by a fire during a cold weather spell in a slum on the outskirts of the Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, Dec. 31, 2019.
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

That’s how it goes when you’re having fun. Time flies. Eight years ago, in 2012, the United Nations issued a report entitled “Gaza in 2020: A livable place?” The answer was contained in the body of the report – no. Not unless steps are taken to save it.

No real steps have been taken but the projections in this severe report were also not borne out: The situation is much worse than it predicted.

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On January 1, 2020, the year of the end for Gaza began. As of January 1, 2 million human beings are living in a place that is not livable.

There’s a Chernobyl in Gaza, an hour from Tel Aviv. And Tel Aviv is not bothered by that. Nor is the rest of the world. News reviews of the past decade included everything else, just not the humanitarian disaster in Israel’s backyard for which Israel, first and foremost, is to blame, is responsible.

Instead of taking responsibility for expelling and driving them to Gaza in 1948 and attempting to compensate and atone for what was done, through rehabilitation and assistance, Israel is continuing to pursue the policies of 1948 in a different way: a cage instead of expulsion, jail instead of ethnic cleansing, siege instead of dispossession.

It’s doubtful there are many other regions of the world where disasters have lasted continuously for over 70 years, and all of it the product of malicious human acts. The memory of Gaza should have hounded us day and night. Instead, Gaza is forgotten. Only the firing of a Qassam rocket is capable of providing a reminder that it exists.

When the UN report was written, the unemployment rate in Gaza was 29 percent. Eight years have elapsed, and now, according to the World Bank, the jobless rate there has reached an unimaginable 53 percent – 67 percent among young people.

Does anybody get that? Sixty-seven percent unemployment. Does anyone understand what such a life is like, when a big majority of young people have no present and no future?

Hamas is the guilty party. Hamas is guilty of everything. And Israel? Not at all. What repression, denial and brainwashing does this require? What lies and inhumanity and cruelty? A country that has dispatched rescue missions to the ends of the earth is revoltingly apathetic to the disaster it has created on its border, and is even compounding the situation.

About half of the residents of the Gaza Strip live on less than $5.50 a day. In the occupied West Bank, by comparison, only 9 percent of the population subsists on such a sum.

Hamas is guilty. As if it has imposed the siege. It is obstructing exports, imports, places of employment. It is firing at Gaza’s fisherman. It is preventing cancer patients from getting medical treatment. It has bombed Gaza, killing thousands of civilians and destroying countless homes. Obviously.

The 2012 UN report predicted that in 2020, Gaza would need at least 1,000 more doctors. But in the Gaza of 2020, 160 doctors have left within the past three years. Anyone who can leaves.

A young surgeon at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, Dr. Sara al-Saqqa, told The Guardian last week that she earns $300 for 40 days’ work. Were it not for her elderly mother, she too would have left.

There’s worse to come. Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s water supply is unfit for consumption, as the UN report forecast. Fully 100,000 cubic meters of sewage a day flows into the Mediterranean, which is also our sea. Ashkelon is bathing in Gaza’s sewage, but that isn’t bothering anyone either.

Three years after the UN report was issued, the United Nations published its 2015 report. Israel’s 2014 war in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge, had uprooted half a million people from their homes and left Gaza crushed. But that too prompted nothing more than a big yawn. And then came the 2018 report, this time from the World Bank: The Gazan economy was in critical condition. Let them suffocate. Israel stands with Naama Issachar, the Israeli woman in jail in Russia, who has been transferred to another prison.