Israel's 30-year Strong Gaza Success Story

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Palestinians wearing cartoon-inspired costumes entertain children on the rubble of al-Shourouk tower, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, today
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

This piece is being written on the assumption that they are not stupid. That the leaders of this most Jewish state know and mean what they are doing when they torture Gaza’s Palestinians, thus turning Mohammed Deif and Abu Obeida into national heroes. Even before the pitiable victory rejoicing had subsided in Gaza, Defense Minister Benny Gantz promised its residents more suffering of the kind that Israel excels in causing, no less than it excels in post-modern military attacks.

Gantz promised to continue the mass detention with no release date in the penal colony detached from the outside world, whose water isn’t fit to drink and whose land is saturated with sewage and the remains of sophisticated weaponry. We’ve already heard the declarations Gantz made Sunday to the media: “A basic humanitarian level,” “an aid mechanism that circumvents Hamas,” “Until the missing are returned,” “to strengthen the moderates.” What does it say about these leaders who keep repeating the same policies over and over again?

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First of all, it means that this is not just a shrewd way to thwart Yair Lapid’s effort to become prime minister. The policy of locking up Gaza’s residents wasn’t born with criminal suspect Benjamin Netanyahu or Gantz, who is seeking to free himself from his bungler label. They are continuing a policy that was set by their predecessors in Likud and Labor.

Repeating the same policy of separation and suffocation of Gaza means that by and large, it’s successful. A tight closure, released slightly, tightened again, then a blockade – Israel began this policy in 1991, before Hamas had an army and when the majority movement, Fatah, promised its people independence in a state covering 22 percent of historic Palestine. Thirty years later, the Hamas army is admired, while the Fatah movement is diluted, corrupt and hated, and Israel picks from the various agreements only what promotes the settlements.

True, Israel suffered one big defeat: As demonstrated these past few weeks, despite all the divisive techniques it uses, and not just in Gaza, the Palestinians between the river and the sea as well as those in the diaspora and exile are demonstrating their unity as a people, whose link to its homeland is only strengthening. But meanwhile – and time is an important factor – the Israeli successes are sinking deeper roots.

Without ignoring the failures and faults of the Palestinian political system, the geographic-political split and the existence of two hostile and rival Palestinian non-governments are a direct result of the unilateral disengagement from Gaza led by Ariel Sharon. This political split is disruptive to the Palestinian struggle and is an explicit Israeli achievement. Here are a few more: Closure and denying freedom of movement dilute creative and productive forces and talents. These are invested in bureaucratic attrition campaigns to bring the most essential products to the Strip, to make a meager livelihood and to get permission to leave for medical care or for studies. Talents are wasted, eroded. Or translated into the production of drones and rockets and an illusion of intoxicating power.

Human experiences like trips, getting to know other cultures, spontaneity, encounters with family and friends, opportunities for advanced education and being able to plan for the coming year – or even the coming month – are denied to Gaza residents. The closure and the blockage of exports and imports cause ongoing unemployment and poverty. All the talents and the spirit of struggle and unity do not erase the humiliation that hundreds of thousands of Gazans require assistance and are objects of pity. All the international solidarity over the past 13 years hasn’t changed these facts.

So young people, for whom Israel has blocked any future in their native land, are confronted with three different paths: Poverty and boredom, joining the army of God to become martyrs, or emigration. And emigration, or the thought of it, by thousands of promising, robust young people, is supposedly voluntary, but is in fact camouflaged expulsion. How can one not see this as a Zionist achievement?

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