June 3, 2010


In Gaza, a complex, dysfunctional way of life (Janine Zacharia, 6/03/10, Washington Post)

It has been five years since Israel pulled its soldiers and settlers from the coastal strip, and largely closed Gaza off from the world. Israel's critics say what's left is a devastated land in need of emergency assistance. Israeli officials insist Gaza's people are getting what they need to live. Neither narrative reflects the complex and dysfunctional way of life that has emerged here. [...]

With the exception of one border crossing that is managed -- and largely kept shut -- by Egypt, Israel controls all entry and exit points to the Gaza Strip, a narrow territory that is 25 miles long and three to seven miles wide. After Israel first imposed a closure on the territory in 2005, the blockade has intensified over the three years since Hamas seized power.

Originally, Israel hoped the closure would put enough pressure on the local economy that Gazans would grow frustrated and oust Hamas. But the group's hold on power remains firm. Israel has tried to use the closure as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, to no avail.

"The blockade policy has not proven itself in the last three years, and I don't think it will prove itself in the next three," said retired Brig. Gen. Meir Elran, a national security expert at Tel Aviv University.

It has not worked out well for Gaza's 1.5 million people, either.

The prohibition on concrete, which Israel says is necessary because Hamas can use it to build bunkers, has forced Palestinians to harvest cement and wire from buildings Israel bombed last year. If the siege were lifted tomorrow all six crossings would need to operate 24 hours a day for three years to fill Gaza's current need of 2 million tons of concrete, Shaban said. The infrastructure woes stretch beyond construction: Gaza suffers rolling blackouts and the sewage treatment facility needs repair.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Philippe Lazzarini, has urged Israel to lift agricultural restrictions and give fishermen the chance to cast their nets in less polluted waters. "The fact that this coastal population now imports fish from Israel and through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border speaks to the absurdity of the situation," Lazzarini said in a statement.

The Israeli military decides which items can be allowed in and which are prohibited.

..is that if they just let Palestine become a normal democracy then there is nothing special about their own state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 3, 2010 5:25 PM
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