Gazans have been ground into poverty by years of methodical Israeli restrictions and closures; 80 percent of the population now depends on food aid for day-to-day subsistence. With the aid, they were receiving “enough to survive, not to live,” as the International Red Cross put it. Without it, they will die.
All this is supposed to be in response to Palestinian militant groups’ firing of crude homemade rockets into Israel, which rarely cause any actual damage. There can be no excuse for firing rockets at civilian targets, but Israel was squeezing Gaza long before the first of those primitive projectiles was cobbled together. The first fatal rocket attack took place four years ago; Israel has been occupying Gaza for four decades.
The current squeeze on Gaza began in 1991. It was tightened with the institutionalization of the Israeli occupation enabled by the Oslo Accords of 1993. It was tightened further with the intensification of the occupation in response to the second intifada in 2000. It was tightened further still when Israel redeployed its settlers and troops from inside Gaza in 2005 and transformed the territory into what John Dugard, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, referred to as a prison, the key to which, Dugard said, Israel had “thrown away.” It was tightened to the point of strangulation following the Hamas electoral victory in 2006, when Israel began restricting supplies of food and other resources into Gaza. It was tightened beyond the point of strangulation following the deposition of the Hamas-led government in June 2007. And now this.
When Israel limited commercial shipments of food–but not humanitarian relief–into Gaza in 2006, a senior government adviser, Dov Weisglass, explained that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger.”