the Disillusioned kid: Peering Through the Smokescreen
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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Peering Through the Smokescreen

I have written in the past, although not for some time, about the "Gaza disengagement plan" which will see Israel withdraw its forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip (see e.g. here). On the face of it this seems like a good thing (although I wonder given how facile much of the media coverage has been whther those unfamiliar with the Israel-Palestine issue have any idea what's going on at all) and a step towards the creation of an independent Palestinian state exisitng peacefully alongside Israel. Unfortunately, the reality may be less rosy.

Justin Podur has written a worrying article (which originally appeared on his blog) warning that the withdrawal may actually exacerbate the already serious situation in Gaza:
...Gaza and its 1.3 million people are utterly irrelevant to Sharon, Israel and the US (other than the settler movement, which cares about Gaza, though not its inhabitants). That does not mean those people in Gaza are not facing genocide. They will be fenced in, besieged, left to starve and to drink dirty water and die, like the Iraqi children of the sanctions, because the settlers' water infrastructure will most certainly be destroyed and defiled and probably poisoned before the settlers finally leave. And when some of them think of revenge, trying hopelessly to launch a metal tube over the electric fence at their occupiers, Israel will be able to launch the heavy weaponry with an unheard of lack of discrimination, for there won't be an Israeli life at risk in the killing.
Already levels of poverty in Gaza are horrific. Unemployment stands at around 80% and in July 2001 80% of the population were living below the poverty line (calculated at $2 dollars a day). Malnutrition is a growing problem while daily water consumption is around 50-70% of WHO recomendations. If Gaza is sealed off we can only expect these figures to get worse. This will, of course, then be blamed on mismanagement on the part of Palestinian Authorities (cf the sanctions regime on Iraq).

Podur also notes that the Israeli government are largely unconcerned about Gaza and cites Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who, in 1992, expressed his hope that Gaza "would just sink into the sea." Gaza is of little strategic value and hardly worth the huge investment in terms of military resources which controlling it entails. The West Bank where Israel continues to build settlements is a different story. In protest against the ongoing occupation there, Palestinians last week burned runner tyres along the route of the apartheid wall/security fence. Ayed Morrar, coordinator of the Popular Committee to Resist the Wall in Ram Allah explained:
The black smoke symbolises everything negative that the Wall is doing to us - killing, transfer, choking, imprisonment. Behind the smokescreen of the Gaza disengagement, the very foundations of peace are destroyed as the apartheid wall continues to be constructed to the deafening silence of the international community.
That Palestinians continue to resist after so many years is an inspiration. It is also the only thing which has stopped the Israeli government from crushing them. Those of us in the West who stand in solidarity with them must do what we can to help people here see through the smokescreen.

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