ALONG THE ISRAEL-GAZA BORDERThe flareup of deadly violence in
Gaza is of a new kind, even in the inventive annals of Mideast
conflicts: Israeli soldiers shooting at Palestinian demonstrators
burning tires and hurling firebombs across what looks like an
international border, inflicting casualties while claiming concerns
of a mass breach of the barrier.
But viewed another way, its just the latest reflection of basic
facts on the ground: the situation for the 2 million people of Gaza
is extraordinarily harsh and difficult to resolve. Its not
surprising so many would risk death by converging on the border
fence, which has now happened three Fridays in a row, with dozens
killed and hundreds injured.
By and large the people of Gaza over two-thirds of them
descended from refugees from what is now Israel cannot leave their
tiny strip of arid land along the Mediterranean coast. Anger toward
Israel runs deep, yet dependence is great.
Israel blocks Gazans to the north and east, controlling who and
what goes in and out. It blockades their waters to the west and
prevents construction of sea and airports, with Egypt completing
the blockade to the south.
Israels argument is that Hamas, the militant group that controls
Gaza, will use materials that come into the strip for building
rockets, making bombs and digging attack tunnels. The fear is
Israel also severely restricts Gazans leaving the territory in a
policy it defends on security grounds, but which often looks
punitive. Every exit, even to cross Israel en route to Jordan and
beyond for medical, academic, professional or personal purposes,
requires the approval of Israel or Egypt, where the anti-Islamist
government also deeply distrusts Hamas.
Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, expelled
by Hamas from Gaza in 2007, largely control power supplies. There
are just a few hours of electricity a day.
Hamas remains committed to conflict with Israel, and attempts to
pressure the population against Hamas are questionable. Gazans
simply dont have the means to overthrow the well-armed group, even
if they so wanted.
Meanwhile, half the strips workforce is unemployed. Much of the
vast destruction from the last war with Israel, in 2014, still has
not been rebuilt. Public entertainment is almost nonexistent and
alcohol, in the name of Islam, is banned.
Adding insult to injury, the Palestinians do not have a
currency. The few bills of cash in Gazan pockets are Israeli
shekels emblazoned with the likenesses of Jewish religious and
Zionist political figures.
Hamas says the border protests will continue through May 15, the
anniversary of Israels founding and the nabka (catastrophe) for the
Palestinians a day of mourning to mark the mass displa...