Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Essential reading [updated]

LRB · Sara Roy: If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy of Harvard is a leading expert on social and economic conditions in the West Bank and especially in Gaza. Her LRB essay is essential reading because she presents a factual and meticulous accounting of the systematic deprivation that is being imposed upon the people of Gaza.

There are some instances of mass human suffering that are beyond the control of men and women. One thinks of acts of nature, such as typhoons or earthquakes. Yet, there are other mass tragedies that are clearly the work of men. The suffering of the people of Zimbadwe comes immediately to mind. Gaza is in the same category. In this instance the government of Israel, in complicity with the Palestinian authority headed by Mahmoud 'Abbas, has conducted a campaign of collective punishment against the people of Gaza.

The point is to undermine Hamas and turn the public against the Palestinian group, which won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and crushed the opposing Fatah forces in Gaza in 2007 in what its opponents describe as a "coup". Previous efforts, by Israel, to undermine Hezbollah in Lebanon by punishing the broader public have generally backfired.

Whether the strategy in Gaza is likely to be successful or not, the systematic pauperizaton of Gaza is morally outrageous. The U.S. government is complicit because of its noteworthy silence, which lends encouragement to the policy. Of course, the firing of rockets or mortars into Israel has provoked this policy, but Israel's policy response is not only excessive, but a calculated refusal to meet its responsibilities as an occupying authority under the Laws of War.

Incidentially, Roy's point that the end game for Israel is to have Egypt accept accept responsibility for Gaza is worth pondering.

In contrast to the Roy essay, examine the options paper by Shai Feldman and Khalil Shikaki, which makes only passing reference to the conditions in Gaza: "For its part, Gaza has experienced a rapid deterioration of its economy, to the point that the ability to feed its population now rests entirely with external providers of humanitarian relief." Note that the authors offer no explanation for the "rapid deterioration," as though it were an act of nature. It is not.

Also see the recent OPED by Youssef Munnayer.

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