Where is Gaza heading in 2020?
As the sun set for the last time in 2019 and people around the world celebrated the start of 2020 with spectacular displays of fireworks in Sydney, Dubai, London and New York, the besieged Gaza Strip entered the year in which a 2012 UN report stated that the area was expected to become unlivable.
If the world had heeded that warning from the United Nations, every effort should have been made to ensure a sustainable solution to problems brought about by overcrowding and a tight, immoral siege imposed by one of its members on almost 2 million human beings under occupation was found.
The solution to the overcrowding is obvious. Since 80% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, their return to the homes, villages and towns from which their forefathers and likely some of them were expelled through violence in 1948, which was permitted in UN Resolution 194, should have been implemented.
The world’s failure to force Israel to implement this right resulted, on March 31, 2018, in the Palestinians in Gaza marching up to the fence that prevents them from returning to their land. Instead of allowing them in, Israel deployed snipers with the intent of injuring, killing and maiming protesters. Israel’s brutality saw more than 200 Palestinians, including journalists and paramedics, killed.
The nearly 50 children killed included unarmed Uthman Rami Hillis, 14, who died from a bullet to the chest that exited through his back on July 13, 2018. The Israeli sniper who killed him was sentenced to a month’s community service and his rank downgraded. This is the value Israel places on a Palestinian life.
Israel’s refusal to allow the refugees to return means the overcrowding in Gaza will worsen. However, it was reported that Israel was looking to secure agreements with countries that might take in Palestinians who wish to relocate from Gaza.
The sun set December 31 and rose January 1 with the Gaza population still confined by a blockade designed by Israel to ensure enough food was allowed into the strip to keep the Palestinians alive but with little hope of a solution to their problems.
The Guardian newspaper reported in 2012 that Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli military spokesman, said the calculation, based on a person’s average requirement of 2,300 calories a day, was meant to identify warning signs to help avoid a humanitarian crisis and that it was never used to restrict the flow of food. However, Israel has interfered in the types of food allowed into the besieged strip.
What the UN report did not factor in were two wars Israel launched against Gaza after its publication that caused further misery and destruction to Gaza’s fragile infrastructure.
The unemployment rate stands at 45% and is at 60% among Gaza’s youth. The intermittent electricity supply hardly reaches half of what is required and more than 90% of aquifer water is undrinkable. The population must spend precious income on drinking water and electricity generators and tends to buy fresh food as needed rather than for freezing, which costs additional money.
The medical situation is dire, despite many initiatives by medical charities and supportive governments. The effect of the siege hits cancer patients; children and those on dialysis treatment are are particularly affected.
As Israel controls access to medical facilities in East Jerusalem and West Bank, patients require permits to travel, permits that are often delayed or refused. Cases have been reported of children travelling alone for treatment because Israel refuses to issue their relatives permits to accompany them.
While Israel has made some efforts to ease the economic situation, it remains in complete control of this, including how far fishermen can go in the search for their catch.
Israel’s siege is calculated to ensure the population lives but does not thrive.
If the intended reason for the siege was to defeat Hamas, the de facto ruler of the strip, this has failed spectacularly, bringing into question the calculations Israel made when it imposed it. While claiming it does not negotiate with Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist organisation, it must do this through intermediaries when violence breaks out or to secure the release of captured Israelis.
There seems to be no urgency by the international community to find a sustainable solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hope, particularly for young Palestinians there, is in very short supply. As the Arabic saying goes: “We are alive for lack of dying.”
Those who look to elections in Israel and the Palestinian territories to change the situation will be disappointed. Even if elections take place in Palestinian areas, they may not bring relief to the strip unless Israel changes course.
The third set of Israeli elections in one year, set for March, will not have candidates competing to explain how they will end the siege on Gaza but rather how hard they have hit the strip in the past, implying a vote for them would bring quiet.
However, recent images of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scuppering to a bomb shelter confirm that no amount of force will bring permanent quiet to the area.
The Gaza Strip is always one rocket away from another heavy attack by Israel regardless of whether it is liveable or not.