Editorial |

Lend a Hand to the Gazans

Hamas is Israel’s enemy, but the people of the Gaza Strip are not. Gazans are people who are suffering and who need help. And on this Passover, Israel can and should come to their aid.

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Two Palestinian schoolboys walk past a graffiti painted on a wall of the United Nations school of Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 9, 2016.
Two Palestinian schoolboys walk past a graffiti painted on a wall of the United Nations school of Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 9, 2016. Credit: THOMAS COEX / AFP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

As millions of Israelis sit down at the seder table tonight and eat to their hearts’ content, the great humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip goes on. The facts are not in dispute: Nearly all the water in the Strip, 96 percent, is unfit to drink. Electricity is supplied for only a few hours a day. Around 100 million liters of raw sewage flow into the sea every day. Restrictions on movement strangle industry, unemployment is about 40 percent and thousands of sick people cannot get proper treatment.

If Israelis want to feel slightly better about themselves, they can cite a letter sent last week by the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, to UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov. In it, Mordechai warned precisely of these problems: severely compromised infrastructure, undrinkable water, persistent power shortages resulting in hour-long blackouts. He even wrote, on his Arabic Facebook page: “If the situation is not solved in the next few days, it is possible electricity generation will come to a halt and the residents of Gaza will face the serious implications and pay the price.”

Of course, the facts are not in dispute between Mordechai and Mladenov. The United Nations envoy agrees that there is “a dire humanitarian crisis, high unemployment, an ongoing electricity crisis and the lack of political perspective.” But while everyone agrees on the facts, there is a debate over the question of responsibility. Mordechai blames Hamas for creating the tragedy (“Instead of seeing to the welfare of the inhabitants, Hamas harms them”), Mladenov hints that Israeli restrictions are partly to blame. (“Over the past decade, Palestinians in Gaza have lived through four conflicts, with no freedom [and] unprecedented Israeli restrictions.”), a dire humanitarian crisis, high unemployment, an ongoing electricity crisis and the lack of political perspective.” Either way, they agree on this fact: The people of the Gaza Strip are suffering.

The debate over responsibility must not blur the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are living in dire poverty and want. Instead of continuing to point out the possibility that Hamas is acting in a way that harms the Gazans, Israel should ask itself how it can help to end the suffering. The answers are staring it in the face: It can end its suffocating closure and create a controlled, humane mechanism that will allow people to leave for medical care. It can send in large amounts of water, that will save the aquifer. It can connect additional power lines, to end the environmental disaster.

In order to resolve a humanitarian crisis, one must be humane. Hamas is Israel’s enemy, but the people of the Gaza Strip are not its enemies. Gazans are people who are suffering and who need help. Israel can and should come to their aid.

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