The Blockade of Gaza
and Zionist Plans for “Transfer”
An Internationalist Group sign at the May 31 demonstration in NYC proclaimed, “Gaza: The New Warsaw Ghetto.” In the 1970s many on the left joined Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasir Arafat in calling for a Palestinian “mini-state” in the West Bank and Gaza. Trotskyists, however, warned that a Palestinian “state” in the territories Israel conquered in 1967 – whether consisting of tiny enclaves separated by Israeli “security corridors” or the whole of the Occupied Territories – would be nothing more than the so-called “bantustans” in South Africa. These were the African “homelands” set up by the apartheid rulers to disguise their racist domination of the overwhelming black majority. Gaza is even worse – a giant concentration camp, an open air prison in which 1.5 million Palestinians are crammed into an area the size of the city of Detroit. It is a Palestinian ghetto, surrounded by steel walls and barbed wire, with the Zionist military acting as Nazi jailers.
And the Israelis play their role to the hilt. For 38 years, from 1967 to 2005, the Gaza strip was directly occupied by the Israeli army, even if after 1993 there was a fiction of administration by a Palestinian Authority (P.A.). Following the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) in response to a Zionist provocation at the Al Aksa mosque in September 2000, a barrier fence around the entire strip was erected by Israel and Egypt. Gaza’s airport was destroyed by Israeli bombs in 2002. In 2005, Israeli premier Ariel Sharon – the butcher who oversaw endless massacres of Palestinians – ordered the withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the strip, while the army only pulled back to the perimeter. Despite an agreement for hundreds of trucks a day to carry Gaza agricultural produce to Israel and bus convoys to the West Bank, Israel began restricting the flow of goods and people. Gaza exports barely reached 8 percent of the agreed-on amount. Following the unexpected landslide victory of the Islamic fundamentalist party Hamas in January 2006 P.A. elections in Gaza, Israel turned the restrictions into a full-scale blockade.
In June 2007, Hamas squelched an attempted takeover of Gaza by a U.S.-advised, Israeli-armed strike force of the bourgeois nationalist Fatah faction of the PLO, which had become notorious for its corruption administering the PA in collaboration with the Israeli occupiers. In response, the Israelis cut off all Gaza exports and reduced imports to a trickle, hoping to turn the Gaza population against Hamas out of sheer desperation. When this did not happen, Israel launched a full-scale war on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 that deliberately targeted civilian areas – apartment blocks, schools and universities (see “Defend Gaza! Defeat U.S./Israel War on the Palestinian People!” in The Internationalist No. 28, March-April 2009). Having already wrecked the Gaza economy, completely shutting down manufacturing and agricultural export production, the Israeli blockade is only letting in the bare minimum of food and fuel sufficient to prevent mass starvation. The Gaza population is being punished for the “crime” of voting for Hamas in a democratic election.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza is precisely the kind of collective punishment supposedly outlawed by the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in wartime and occupied territories. That convention was in response to Nazi reprisals against entire populations, from villages punished for resistance attacks to the imprisonment and annihilation of entire population groups, particularly Jews. The Nazis kept detailed lists of daily rations: for example, a “hard laborer” in the Auschwitz annihilation camp in December 1942 received about 1,800 calories a day, less than the 2,000 calorie minimum for adult men, while most inmates got far less, as little as 300 calories.1 It turns out that Israel keeps the same kind of records for Gaza. A suit by an Israeli human rights group Gisha forced the admission in court that a document titled “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip – Red Lines” set out the minimum calorie intake needed by the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, according to age and sex. But the authorities refused to divulge actual caloric levels as it would “damage national security and harm foreign relations.”
Back in 2006, at the beginning of the blockade, Sharon spokesman Dov Weinglas chillingly remarked: “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” As a result of this policy of half-starving the Gaza population, 10 percent of all children show stunted growth due to malnutrition, two-thirds of infants suffer from anemia. Hundreds of patients are lined up waiting to be allowed out for medical treatment. According to a “Socio-Economic and Food Security Survey Report” of the Gaza Strip published in November 2009 by the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP), “Only 23% of total households in the Gaza Strip are considered marginally secure and food secure,” meaning that they can cover their daily nutritional needs. Four-fifths of the remaining 77% can only survive with food handouts from the UN Relief and Works Agency. Even Amnesty International concluded in its 2009 annual report: “The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans....”
The Israelis are not the only ones guilty inflicting this barbaric crime. The U.S. encouraged the blockade from Day One, and U.S. Navy ships offshore help enforce it. Even after the Gaza flotilla massacre, U.S. senator Chuck Schumer (Democrat, New York) justified it in a June 9 speech to an organization of Orthodox Jewry, saying: “Since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas ... to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.” Now Israel says it will let in more food products, while still restricting the amount. Cement and steel are still banned, even as tens of thousands of Gaza families cannot rebuild their homes and apartments destroyed by Israel for lack of building materials. Thus Israel’s rulers and their U.S. backers continue the policy of trying blackmail the Palestinian population. The rationale for this is drenched in racism, presuming that Arabs can be cowed into submission. On their face, such tactics are self-defeating, for in reality they only stiffen opposition, just as U.S. terror-bombing of Germany did in World War II. But the Israeli government has more far-reaching aims: to prepare the way for mass expulsion of the Palestinian population.
in Beit Lahiya in December 2009 playing near their homes destroyed by
Israeli bombing a year earlier but never rebuilt because blockade
prohibits building materials.
The Zionist regime is not reacting to mythical waves of “thousands” of Hamas rockets hitting Israeli towns and suicide bombers blowing up Israeli civilians, as it regularly pretends. Quite the opposite. The London Economist (5 June) reports: “So far this year 34 rockets have landed in Israel, none launched by Hamas. ‘Hamas is defending Israel,’ chuckles an Israeli foreign ministry official.” As for the justification that Hamas “refuses to recognize Israel,” this is another red herring. Hamas has repeatedly offered to negotiate an extended (ten-year) ceasefire with Israel. And if it did capitulate and agree to accept Israel as a “Jewish state,” it would instantly lose credibility with the almost 5 million Palestinian refugees living in Gaza and the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere, many of them still confined to refugee camps six decades after being forced from their homes by the Zionist terrorists in 1948, Plus there are the more than a million Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, who are second-class citizens of Israel. And Israel would keep on persecuting Hamas, just as it did with Arafat after the PLO recognized Israel.
The Zionists will never agree to a Palestinian state unless obliged to do so by overwhelming force, and U.S. imperialism, which relies on Israel to do its dirty work in the Near East and elsewhere, is not about to force it. While Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have timidly tried to get Israel to agree to an impotent Palestinian pseudo-state (no army, no territorial integrity, economically dependent on Israel), they back down when Israeli leaders and the powerful Zionist lobby in the U.S. growl. The vaunted “peace process” has been all process and no peace. In fact, as As’sad Abu Khalil of the Angry Arab News Service remarked on Al Jazeera TV on June 6, ever since the Rogers Plan in 1970 (rejected by Israel), “the illusion of a peace process enabled Israel to wage wars, to perpetrate massacres and more occupations.”
rightist and ultra-rightist Zionists in Israel are growing more
Foreign minister Liberman, a former member of Meir Kahane’s fascist
in 2003 talked of drowning Palestinian prisoners in the Dead Sea, in
Arab members of the Knesset would be “executed” for collaborating with
Palestinian cause, and in the 2009 elections campaigned on the demand
that Israeli Arabs swear
loyalty to a
Jewish state or have their citizenship canceled. Many liberals dismiss
Liberman’s threats as the ravings of a fringe element, but in the
the Gaza flotilla massacre, even so-called “moderate” Zionist forces
whipping up anti-Arab sentiment. Representatives of ex-Mossad agent
Livni’s Kadima were the most vociferous calling to cancel the
rights of Hanin Zoubi of the Arab Balad slate for participating in the
flotilla, where she tended to the wounded on the Mavi
Marmara. Another Knesset member of the United Arab List, Talab
al-Sana, received death threats for remarking that “the public is
venting its anger
on the [Arab] minority in its midst” and noting that in “other
right-wing fascist extremists have exploited the mood of crisis to take
The witchhunt of Hanin Zoubi has become a
flashpoint for violent Zionist reaction against Israeli Arabs. When
Zoubi sought to speak in a June 2 Knesset debate about the Gaza
flotilla raid, there was an explosion of epithets from right-wing
deputies calling her “traitor,” “terrorist” and “parliamentary spy.” A
Likud legislator tried to rush the podium, and after five minutes of
pandemonium her speech was cut off. But the uproar was not only from
the right-wingers. Yossi Sarid, former head of the liberal Zionist
Meretz party, accused Zoubi in a Haaretz
(4 June) column of “provocation” for joining the Gaza
Flotilla. After her Knesset appearance, a Facebook page was set up
calling for Zoubi’s execution – thousands quickly signed up. Israel’s
secret police, the Shin Bet, reported more than a dozen concrete plots
to kill her. A Knesset committee stripped her diplomatic passport and
now a bill has been introduced (the “Zoubi law”) to expel any MK who
denies Israel’s existence as a Jewish state or supports the armed
struggle of a “terrorist” group. As Jonathan Cook noted in recounting
this “maelstrom,” such a measure could be used to ban all ten Arabs in
the Knesset (MERIP, 16 June).
Ultimately, the siege mentality of the Zionists will stoke the fires for what in Israeli politics is euphemistically known as “transfer” – namely, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Palestinian Arabs from their lands which the Zionists claim as “Eretz Israel,” at a minimum everything from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, if not beyond. Just fantasy? In early April, the Israeli military issued an order authorizing it to deport from the West Bank any Palestinian not holding residency papers (for example, anyone born in Gaza). Tens of thousands of Palestinians were suddenly made into criminals, subject to jail terms of five to seven years. This could well be the beginning of mass expulsions of Arabs from the Occupied Territories.
Traditionally, “transfer” has been advocated by fascists like Kahane’s Kach and the ultra-rightist Molodets party of General Benjamin Elon. But the historian Benny Morris showed that the “transfer” option was always part of the ideology of Zionism, that David Ben Gurion and Ezra Weizman embraced it, that this was behind the expulsion of over 800,000 Arabs who lived in areas conquered by the Zionist army in 1948, and that there was an explicit blueprint (the so-called “Plan D”) to carry this out on a far more sweeping scale. At the time Morris first reported this (in his 1987 book Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1948), it was taken as a debunking of Israel’s founding myths. But on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Morris came out for “helping to resolve Israeli-Arab conflict by transferring or expelling some or all of the Arabs from Palestine,” saying Ben Gurion perhaps “would now regret his restraint” (London Guardian, 3 October 2002). Today, “liberal” Zionists including Morris wave the spectre of a new Holocaust if Iran gets nuclear capacity, talking of an Israeli nuclear first strike to take it out and mass “transfer” of Palestinians as a consequence. ■
German imperialists and Israeli Zionists are not the only ones to
collective punishment – the “democratic” imperialists, with the
See also: Israel’s
Bloody War Provocation
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