After keeping Gaza’s residents on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster for nearly two decades, Israel has decided to drop them into the deepest possible abyss. Amid the understandable public atmosphere of outrage, nausea, and disgust following the unprecedented, horrifying massacre and kidnappings of Israelis (as well as foreign citizens), the Israeli government ordered the electricity and water it sells to the besieged strip to be shut off, and is preventing any supplies from entering the enclave.
Nothing is going in or out of Gaza via the Israeli crossings — not people, not goods, and not emergency supplies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited the strip’s more than 2 million residents, half of them children, to leave; he knows that they have nowhere to go, and, what’s more, reports emerged on Tuesday that Israel had bombed the Rafah crossing with Egypt — the only route out of the strip that is not controlled by Israel — and “threatened” Cairo not to permit any goods to enter Gaza from its territory. Added to this is the entry to a newly formed emergency government of the supposedly moderate Benny Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff during the 2014 war on Gaza, in which 550 Palestinian children were killed and 11,000 buildings destroyed. An operation of a thousand eyes for an eye is underway.
As part of its policy of flirting with humanitarian disaster, Israel made Gaza’s residents dependent on it: for electricity, for water, and with everything going in and out of the strip being fully monitored. And now they’ve hit the off switch. There is nothing entering Gaza whatsoever: no medicines or medical equipment, no spare mechanical parts, no fruits and vegetables, no flour or animal feed, and no fuel for cars or the power stations that provide the remaining third of the electricity available in Gaza which does not come from the Israel Electric Company.
Israel sells about 10 million cubic liters of water to the Gaza Strip each year; the desalination plants that have been built there provide a little over half of that. When there is no electricity or fuel, those plants cannot operate. Gaza will dry up quickly. Sewage disposal and wastewater treatment facilities also need power. They will also shut down quite fast. To the threat of hunger and thirst will be added the danger of disease. Supplies in Gaza’s healthcare system are chronically lacking.
The scale of the poverty in Gaza is stark. Over 70 percent of those in the strip eligible for assistance from the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) — which is hundreds of thousands of people — regularly borrow food or money from their family and friends. In other words, the support of the WFP and UNRWA — itself facing a funding shortage — is still not enough for a reasonable life, much less anything more than that.
All this is the result of Israeli planning and the implementation of policy. The perception was that leaving the population with their heads barely above water would help Hamas maintain control, and keep the enmity between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization alive; this, it was estimated, would be enough to enable the preservation of Jewish supremacy in the West Bank.
Israel has worked for years to send Gaza’s residents back to the Middle Ages, and is now once again dropping missiles on them from the sky. But the worst is likely still to come, with the extent of the mobilization of Israel’s army reserves making clear that the decision to launch a ground invasion has already been made. In any event, a limited incursion will probably be required in order to repair the breach in the border fence, and to fix its formerly hermetic surveillance infrastructure.
And through it all, diplomats and foreign governments continue to accept Israel with open arms. They know how to clutch their pearls when dead children are pulled from the rubble of homes destroyed during another seasonal Israeli “operation” in the Gaza Strip, while still alienating themselves from Palestinian representatives. The goal has been achieved: the complete dehumanization of Palestinians — millions of people who, it is apparently necessary to point out, are just like you and me — laying the groundwork for what lies ahead.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.