Posted by Parsin on January 5, 2009
Gaza: A Virtual Concentration Camp
Gazans are dying in growing numbers due to a nearly hermetic Israeli blockade which has already reduced the 365 sq km coastal territory into a real concentration camp.The cruel blockade hermetically seals the area, with its estimated 1.5 million human beings, from the rest of the world by a fence guarded by watchtowers, trigger-happy snipers, and tanks, with their big guns trained toward Gaza’s population centers.
Israel also controls Gaza’s coastal waters, airspace, border crossings as well as food, electricity, and fuel supplies. Nothing may get into or out of Gaza without an Israeli permission.
The cruel siege, which many Palestinians and some foreign visitors are likening to the Ghetto Warsaw plight in 1943, has already caused catastrophic effects on every conceivable aspect of life in the Gaza Strip.
The dearth of money, medicine, and medical care, coupled with an acute — and worsening — shortage of essential nutrients and other basic commodities, is placing, already tormented by years of years of sustained Israeli repression, a state of real distress, which elderly Palestinians say is unprecedented since the Nakba or catastrophe in 1948.
The health sector troubles Palestinian officials the most. It has suffered serious paralyses, with hospitals running out of basic medical supplies vaccines, antibiotics, and anesthetic drugs, thus undermining their ability to perform urgently-needed surgical operations.
As this piece was being written on Tuesday, Dec. 11, another Gaza child succumbed to his illness after the Israeli occupation authorities refused to allow her to travel abroad for badly-needed medical treatment unavailable in the Gaza Strip.
Rawan Diab’s health deteriorated rapidly recently and her kidneys stopped functioning. The 2-year-old child was admitted into the intensive care unit at a local hospital in downtown Gaza in a last desperate effort to save her life. Rawan died shortly after admission.
Another Palestinian woman named Aisha Abu Ghanima died at dawn Sunday, Dec. 9, for the lack of medical care.
Similarly, an unnamed Palestinian baby born last week with a congenital heart anomaly is fighting for his life as Israeli authorities have so far refused to allow him to travel abroad for an urgent operation that could save the baby’s life.
According to hospital sources in Gaza, the latest deaths brought to 34 the number of Gazans who have died as a direct result of the enduring Israeli siege on the occupied territory.
The same sources have warned that hundreds, or perhaps thousands of Palestinians, are awaiting an inescapable death if the Israeli government and army continued to play the callous card of barring helpless Gazans’ food, medicine, electricity, and fuel.
“Israel wants to kill us slowly and is already doing that. And unlike the dramatic deaths of a concentration camp, the slow-deaths caused by the siege don’t create big headlines in the media. This is why Israel is comfortable with what is happening. Israel is murdering us in the hundreds, but without the appearance of a murderer,” said Ra’ed Adul-Rahim, a ministry of health official.
On Sep. 19, the Israeli government declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity, citing Hamas’s control over the territory, following the mid-June bloody showdown with the Fateh forces loyal to the American-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Consequently, the Zionist state blocked delivery of essential goods and services, including a large variety of medicines, basic foods, and raw materials to the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, the Israeli army decided to seriously curtail fuel and electricity supplies to the occupied territory causing massive damage to all walks of life in the Strip.
Khaled Radhi, a spokesman for the Gaza-based government’s health ministry, describes the draconian Israeli measures as “a slow death penalty.”
“They are cutting off food supplies, medical supplies, fuel supplies, and are seriously curtailing electricity supplies. So what is left? Herding us to a concentration camp? “
Another, frustrated Gazan, a cabbie, related his concern. “Cutting off fuel means cutting off our lives. We use it for everything, in the place of wood and coal. It’s tragic not only that Israel is imposing this siege on Gaza, but also that some Palestinians are supporting this cruel embargo, with the naïve idea of causing the people to turn against Hamas.”
The drastic shortage in fuel supplies has already caused serious disruption to water supplies as diesel-pumps became dysfunctional. Oxfam International recently warned that soon 225,000 Gazans could suffer from inadequate water supplies, raising concerns for public health.
In fact, Gaza is collapsing and dying. Two weeks ago, Stuart Littlewood, a British peace activist, paid a brief visit to Gaza to show solidarity with its small Christian community and its Muslim citizens. Here how he described the situation there.
“Fuel and candles are running out. Supplies of basics are exhausted, so even hygiene is fast becoming impossible. Power cuts disrupt hospital treatment and what few drugs there are cannot be kept refrigerated. Many look death in the face as medi-care collapses. Flour to make bread has doubled in price; cement for concrete to repair damaged homes and infrastructure has gone up 1000% percent. Some schools have to teach three shifts a day. It is truly a humanitarian crisis … A friend emailed: ‘Today in Gaza, we have no cement to build graves for those who die.'”
In addition to the policy of starving Gazans, the Israeli army generally prevents Gazans form traveling abroad or returning to Gaza. This effectively turned the Strip into the largest detention camp in the world.
“We are very much like the Ghetto Warsaw in 1943. To call Gaza a detention camp is an understatement in my opinion. In a detention camp the minimal nutritional and health needs of detainees are met. Gaza is actually becoming a huge concentration camp,” said Ahmed Salameh, a high-school teacher in Beit Hanun, a northern Gaza Suburb and frequent target of Israeli army incursions and bombings.
“Yes, people are not shipped to gas chambers, but people are starving and dying in significant numbers.”
When speaking to western media, Israeli officials have sought to justify the slow-motion genocide against the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip by arguing that the blockade is aimed at forcing Palestinian guerillas to stop firing homemade Qassam projectiles on nearby Jewish settlements, such the small town of Sderot.
However, this argument seems to be no more than pretext for two main reasons; first, the Gaza-based government proposed repeatedly a ceasefire whereby both sides would stop shooting. However, Israel consistently refused, arguing that “terror” and “counter-terror” can not be on the same par. Israel routinely refers to Palestinian resistance fighters — resisting a decade-old Nazi-like occupation of their country — as terrorists while considering its own harsh onslaught against the Palestinian populace as legitimate self-defense.
Second, the Qassam projectiles are effectively a little more than just a psychological weapon that makes a big noise but causes little or no damage.
Indeed, in seven years of Qassams’ firing onto Israeli settlements outside the Gaza Strip less than a dozen Israelis were killed and very little damage was caused. In contrast, thousands of Gazans, mostly civilians were killed and maimed in sustained Israeli bombardment, assassinations and indiscriminate strafing of civilian of heavily-populated civilian neighborhoods.
According to the Gazan journalist Salah Naami, Israel’s ultimate goal is to break the will of the Palestinian people in order to force them to surrender to Zionist insolence and hegemony.
“They are trying to communicate a certain message to our people, and that messages says that ‘you have no choice other than surrender because we have overwhelming power and we can impose our will on you.'”
Naami, a correspondent for the London-based Al-Shark Al-Awsat Arabic daily newspaper, also believes that Israel would like to repeat the Somali scenario in Gaza by weakening or even decimating the democratically-elected Hamas government for the purpose of reinstalling the Fateh-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Gaza Strip.
“Israel believes, and I would say rightly, that Palestinian resistance organizations, especially Hamas, are preventing PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas from giving strategic concessions to Israel in terms of Jerusalem and the right of return.
“So it (Israel) thinks that by neutralizing or destroying Hamas, the road will be paved for a final Palestinian capitulation to Zionism whereby a Palestinian quisling entity would be established, one without Jerusalem, without the right of return, without territorial continuity and with the bulk of Jewish settlements in the West Bank remaining intact.”
Gazans have more to worry about than the availability of food and medicine, electricity, and fuel supplies. Now, another deadly danger is looming in the horizon as Israeli military chief continues to warn of an impending military invasion of the Gaza Strip to destroy Palestinian “terrorist” organizations and possibly paving the way for the return of the Fateh authority to the strip.
This week, War Minister Ehud Barak warned on three occasions that the long-awaited “blitz” into Gaza was only a matter of time.
Observers and military experts predict that a large-scale military invasion of Gaza would result in thousands of casualties, especially among civilians, as well widespread destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure.
It is really hard to view these warnings as merely psychological war. Israel has long come to the conclusion that Hamas and like-minded organizations are the main reason preventing the liquidation of the Palestinian cause.
Last week, Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea disclosed that the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas reached an understanding whereby Israel would carry out a massive invasion of Gaza for the purpose of reoccupying the strip and then reinstalling Fateh there.
Last month, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu Al-Gheith remarked that Abbas had asked the Egyptian authorities to keep the Rafah border crossing closed in order to exert maximum pressure on Hamas to come to its knees.
More to the point, during the apparently ill-fated Annapolis conference in Annapolis, Maryland, the PA Chairman refrained from calling on the international community, particularly the US, Israel’s guardian-ally, to pressure the Zionist state to lift the crippling siege on Gaza.
This, coupled with the ongoing 4-month-old anti-Hamas inquisition in the West Bank, which is being carried out jointly by Israel and the Fateh organization, indicates that the Ramallah-based regime is at least acquiescing to the nightmare in Gaza.
This is at least the prevailing feeling among many Palestinians.