Let’s imagine fancifully: Gaza 2026, the Israeli land, air and sea blockade lifted, its war-torn economy built and prospering, full employment, smiling faces, no more nightmare and trauma.
Not convinced! I would also imagine, and now going back into the real, hard world, the reality of Gaza is going to be far different, demeaning, more cruel and more drudge — thanks of course to a life-long embargo sealed by Israel, placed purely and simply to punish the 1.9 million inhabitants of the Strip. No politics, no security, but just a callous belief to hurt.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, it would starkly appear Israel, unfortunately, has a panache for being merciless and subversively destructive against a people it long occupied. As it casually completed the first 10 years of its illegal and atrocious embargo, and recognised for being so internationally, last month, it is obviously looking forward to continuing for another dogged decade. With no one to stop them and even turning a blind eye as if it is business-as-usual, Israel has all the time in the world to maintain its pernicious, armed regime.
With the international community toothless to stop them, the world and region in a state of flux, plagued by turbulence, chaos, terrorism, wars and other pressing issues, Israel sees itself as the par extraordinaire to maintain a despicable siege from all corners of the Strip, which some western leaders referred to as an “open-air” prison.
In Gaza, today, which is disconnected from the rest of the West Bank, and which at one time was supposed to serve as the fulcrum for an independent Palestinian state, as initialled in the now-beleaguered Oslo Accord of 1993, the situation is psychologically crippling. To add insult to injury, and not contented with the blockade and twists and turns of Palestinian politics that resulted in Hamas retreat into the territory, Gaza has been subjected to wars by Israel in 2008-09, 2002 and the most deadly one in 2014. Armed with top fighter plane technologies and looming drones, Israel can regularly bomb Gaza’s ramshackle urban slums and camps. The Gaza skies are helplessly open to Israel’s deadly steel pellets and bullets from gunships.
Its a travesty of justice for people to continue to seethe in such a situation, where unemployment is conservatively put at 43 per cent, and 68 per cent among the 18-24 age group and with 80 per cent of the population relying on relief and living in abject poverty. Electricity is out for most of the time and most of Gaza’s water is polluted.
Given such a horrendous situation, the United Nations regularly comes out with doomsday scenarios about the Gaza Strip. A report by one of its agencies, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, warned that Gaza would become “uninhabitable” within the next five years, if the Israeli embargo on the territory is not lifted, and it would become “unlivable” by 2020.
Of course, for Israel, this is like water off a duck’s back for Tel Aviv doesn’t really care for what happens to the people in Gaza. After all, over the years, there has been continuing reports and utterings by Israeli politicians, their advisers and strategists that sought to bolster ways of continuing a stringent blockade on the Strip, short off creating the wrath of the international community.
Reports as published in Israeli newspapers suggest of a document drawn up in 2012, stating that Gazans needed 2,279 calories per day to make sure they didn’t starve to death. Based on that, Israeli politicians and army have only allowed minimal quantities of provisions into the territory to keep it ticking at the survival mode. Imagine this is what good, elected democrats do!
With this kind of mentality, it clearly points to the fact that the siege is here to stay, come what may, and despite appeals and urgings by world leaders — with the latest from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made it clear to Tel Aviv that he would only normalise relations if the Gaza siege was lifted. Of course, this has fallen on deaf ears of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the architect of the siege, who is using it to force the people of the territory to reject Hamas.
Thus, stalemate and deadlock are likely to continue, since it is argued that Israel won’t go all the way and let the people starve to death, but to “administer enough pain” to keep them subdued, as one Israeli adviser put it.
Hamas, which shows no sign of being unseated, has displayed an increasing degree of pragmatism over the years, but especially after the June-August 2014 war on Gaza, when it made it known through behind-the-scenes channels that it would be prepared to consider and have an open-ended truce with Israel — something which the latter is clearly rejecting. The point emphasised by Israel, and maybe made for public and international consumption, is that the Islamic movement won’t recognise the Jewish state and wanted its destruction.
But this is surely outlandish and neither here nor there kind of a stance. Like everyone else, Hamas is aware and can well read the tidal waves of the changing international situation: Removing Iran out of the confrontation hub, containing Syria and going after the Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) terror network. The organisation is clearly aware of the latter’s rise in different parts of the region and right at its very doorstep. It is clearly sending the alarm signals to anyone who cares to listen in America, Europe and the region, that radical groups are emerging on its territory and may not be contained. And if the economic and social situation in Gaza doesn’t improve then it will surely become a fertile ground for disaffected and marginalised people to join outfits like Daesh and Al Qaida.
But knowing Israel, it likes to bide its time, patiently weighing the odds in what it sees as a high-stakes game. That, unfortunately, means the embargo will continue and the chains will remain on the gates of Gaza.
Marwan Asmar is a commentator based in Amman. He has long worked in journalism and has a PhD in Political Science from Leeds University in the UK.