Sunday, May 20, 2018

Three Myths about Gaza

I'm getting infuriated by what I'm reading about Gaza by so many people who are pro-Israel: 1) that Israeli no longer occupies Gaza and has no responsibility for what happens there; 2) that Gazans chose Hamas to rule them in 2006 and that they should lie in the bed they made; and 3) that Gazans are solely to blame for the miserable state of their economy. None of these claims are true. 

Trudy Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer, explains why they are not true.

She begins:
Two million Gazans, imprisoned in a tiny strip of land with a collapsed economy, see no political and economic future. They are trapped between a reckless Hamas, a feckless Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, and an Israeli government that ignores them except for military action. Add to that a blinkered White House that pours fuel on dry tinder. 
Rather than face facts – and address Gaza’s economic ills – Jerusalem and Washington promote convenient myths that absolve themselves from responsibility. If both governments continue down that blind path, the violence in Gaza will explode again with huge costs to Israel as well.
Her response to Myth #1, that Israel no longer occupies Gaza:
In reality, Israel has retained control of Gaza’s border, air space, and sea coast, except for one outlet into a remote area of Egypt. Thus Israel entirely controls Gazan imports and exports, its coastal fishing, along with its supply of electricity. It also controls all movement in and out of Gaza. Since Hamas took control, Israel has mostly bottled up Gaza’s population while border closures strangle its industry and agriculture.
Her response to Myth #2, that Gazans chose Hamas to rule them and therefore should shut up about their problems:
As for the 2006 elections, which the Bush administration urged on a reluctant Palestinian leadership, polls showed that the main reasons a plurality of Palestinians voted for Hamas were not its ideology. Rather, they were frustrated that the then-ruling Fatah party was corrupt and hadn’t delivered a promised two-state diplomatic solution. 
Moreover, in 2007, the Bush administration encouraged Fatah to retake control of Gaza by force, but Fatah lost the battle to Hamas. Thus Washington shares the blame for Hamas’ total control of the strip.
Her response to Myth #3, that Gazans are entirely responsible for their own economic misery:
But the most pernicious Myth, number Three, posits that Palestinians are sole authors of their economic misery. The prime example given is the case of greenhouses turned over by Israeli settlers when they quit Gaza in 2005 (they demolished half of the greenhouses and stripped the rest before leaving). The remaining greenhouses were refurbished with $14 million by Jewish American donors, but were supposedly destroyed by Palestinians immediately upon the settlers’ exit.

Yes, there was looting, but the Palestinian Authority quickly refurbished the greenhouses, which were soon brimming with crops of sweet peppers, tomatoes, and herbs worth $20 million. The Palestinians’ then-finance minister Salam Fayyad even gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a gift of peppers on her birthday in mid-November 2005, and the greenhouses exported 8 tons of them in mid-December.
What actually destroyed the greenhouse initiative were Israel’s restrictions on Gazan exports at the Karni border crossing. You can read about this in the memoir of Australian Jewish businessman James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank head and special envoy for Gaza disengagement, who contributed $500,000 to the greenhouse project.

“In early December [2005],” he wrote, “the much-awaited first harvest began … but their success relied on the Karni crossing … which was closed more often than not.
“Everything was rotting. … If you went to the border and saw tomatoes and fruit just being dumped on the side of the road, you would have to say that if you were a Palestinian farmer you’d be pretty upset.” 
Fast-forward to now. For more than a dozen years, border crossings have opened only sporadically. Industry and agriculture in Gaza has collapsed. Unemployment of 15- to 29-year-olds is 60 percent. Electricity is sporadic (Gazans can’t pay), water polluted, medicines scarce. 
To make matters worse, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which still pays many salaries in Gaza, cut back the money when an effort at reconciliation with Hamas failed.

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