Stop Abusing Gaza

Despite Abbas' desire, it is up to Israel, and only Israel, to decide if some two million people — including the elderly and the sick — will go on trying to survive with four hours of electricity a day

File - In this Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 file photo, a Palestinian family warm themselves up with a fire outside their makeshift house during a power cut in a poor neighborhood in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Khalil Hamra/AP

The days go by, the Palestinian Authority quarrels with Hamas, Israel quarrels with both of them and it’s all at the expense of two million people who have been under siege for about 10 years, and now, in addition, have almost no electricity.

About an hour’s drive from central Israel a widespread humanitarian disaster is taking place and Israel, which is largely, even if not solely, responsible for it, is dragging its feet. Instead of renewing the full power supply to the Gaza Strip, Israel plays along with the Palestinian Authority’s political considerations, using them as an excuse to continue the abuse. But no excuse will diminish Israel’s role in the approaching catastrophe.

Suffice it to read the report of Mohammed Yousif Azaizeh, the Gaza field coordinator of Gisha, the Legal Center of Freedom of Movement (Haaretz June 5), to understand the disaster’s dimensions. Azaizeh visited the Rantisi Children’s Hospital this month and described the situation there, with only four hours of electricity service a day. “The situation is catastrophic,” hospital director Dr. Mohammed Abu-Salmia told him. In the hospital’s intensive care unit, children are on respirators powered by a generator that can break down at any moment. “And then we’re really lost,” Abu-Salmia said.

The situation is clear-cut. Beyond the indescribable daily suffering of Gazans as a result of the power cuts, the lives of patients, newborns, premature infants, the old and people with disabilities, which depend on a regular power supply, are in danger. Israel must not continue to wait until infants and patients die before putting an end to this maltreatment.

It is difficult to understand how a country that hastens to send humanitarian aid to almost every disaster site in the world, is the first to dispatch military rescue teams and to set up field hospitals, closes its heart and eyes to a humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in its backyard, and is largely its own doing.

At this point, the fate of the people of the Gaza Strip is in Israel’s hands. Israel controls their power supply as well as their taxes, from which it deducts the electricity payments. At any given moment Israel can renew the power supply to the Gaza Strip. It is up to Israel, and only Israel, if some two million people — including the elderly, the sick and children — will go on trying to survive with four hours of electricity a day and even less, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is now demanding. Israel must put an end to the abuse of the Gazans immediately.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.