The immediate consequence of the separation policy was to disconnect Gaza from the West Bank (and Palestinian East Jerusalem), from its population, its education centres and health services, from jobs in Israel and from family members and friends. No wonder Israel now defines Gazans who live in the West Bank as ‘illegal sojourners’ unless they have an Israeli permit to be there. The tight siege imposed in Gaza over the last two years has merely exacerbated the situation. The separation policy of the 1990s (along with the rapid expansion of Jewish colonies in the West Bank) was designed to destroy the foundation of a future Palestinian state.
Israel suppressed the second intifada with lethal means that it did not dare use in the first, not just because the Palestinians had now acquired guns, or because of the suicide bombings, but rather because since the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has treated the ‘other side’ as sovereign and independent – when it wants to. As if the PA enclaves were not under occupation. Thanks to this very effective propaganda, most Israelis believe that the creation of the PA resembles the founding of an independent state – an ungrateful one at that, attacking little, peace-seeking Israel. They find it easy enough to ignore the fact that Israel continues to control – both directly and indirectly – all parameters of sovereignty and independence: land, borders, resources, water, population registry, economics, construction, education, health and medical services.
The unilateral disengagement from Gaza and the fact that Hamas spun it as a victory – the result of armed resistance – allowed Israel to claim that the occupation of Gaza had ended....
What the siege has done is reduce an entire society to the status of beggars, denying it nearly all productive activity, suffocating it in an open-air prison, disconnected from the rest of the world. The denial of the right to a livelihood, and the denial of freedom of movement: that is the essence of the siege, the foundation block of the separation policy. The closure policy is an assault on the human dignity of the Palestinians, and especially those in Gaza. Now, Israel has shown that the cage can also be a deathtrap.
Amira Hass, a journalist for Haaretz, is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza. She lives in Ramallah.