Thursday, January 8, 2009

What You Don’t Know About Gaza - Rashid Khalidi (NYT Op-ed)

By RASHID KHALIDI, Op-ed Contributor 
New York Times, January 8, 2009

NEARLY everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Below are a few essential points that seem to be missing from the conversation, much of which has taken place in the press, about Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.

THE OCCUPATION The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza’s air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

THE BLOCKADE Israel’s blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.

The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights.

THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.

WAR CRIMES The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers. Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East."


Anonymous said...

As I understand now, Israel government already made Gaza as a big concentration camp. Pressure applied until resistance vanish and then the Gazan defeated and will becoming a slave people. That won't happen , as God create us as free human being. The Jews know that, as history shows in their life from ancient history (oppression by babilonians) until modern history (oppresion by the Nazi).

saadin said...

I've do understanding your delibration againts gaza. First of all, it's was since 1946 the conflict begun and yet it's getting worst and worstest ever. As US government sit at their side, nothing can be changed.For me, the OIC or form the new summit conference among muslim country, gathered in one unity, block all belonging wealth to western or US.

Pls use my blog for detail discussion at


D. said...

Nazis = death camps (NOT concentration camps).

It's a disanalogy.

That being said, the situation in Gaza is awful.

concerned arab said...

the apartheid state of israel will be defeated way before the palestinian people are defeated.

human rights and justice always win out on the battlefield against military power and tyranny!

Palestine will return to the Palestinian people!