The confinement of Gaza: Of Hopelessness and worst-case scenario

  • Furquan Ameen Siddiqui, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Jan 25, 2016 20:51 IST
Journalist Jonathan Shainin (left) moderating the session, Eyeless in Gaza with Molly Crabapple (second from left) OmarBarghouti (second from right) and Laleh Khalili (right) at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur on Monday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

Gaza is under blockade. This means that only very few goods get into Gaza; that there aren’t enough construction supplies to rebuild after the war; that a student from Gaza can’t go abroad to study, or somebody who wants to get medical treatment in Egypt can’t cross the border to get that.

The picture presented by American activist and Vice columnist Molly Crabapple at the session entitled Eyeless in Gaza at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur on Monday gave the audience a fair idea of the situation in Gaza, which has only got worse after Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014. The war was started by the Israelis under the pretext that Hamas was involved in the kidnapping of three teenagers, “which later turned out to be entirely untrue,” says Crabapple. “Operation Protective Edge was a war of intense brutality. 2,100 people were killed, allegedly 70% of them were civilians and five percent were kids,” she says.

Gaza is a tiny place that’s 25 miles long and 3.5 miles to 7.5 miles wide, where many are confined. “It is this anguish of collective punishment. A lot of people told me that it is not one case, one or two years until another war starts,” she says. About the strategy that Israel uses to confine people in Gaza, Leleh Khalili, Professor in Middle Eastern Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies said: “It is a particular brand of warfare waged by countries; they claim to follow the rule of law and because of this claim, they cannot openly engage in unrestrained mass slaughter. If they do, they have to dress it up in something. And that something often is a kind of a legal retaliation or collateral damage.”

“In these instances, what you end up getting are policies of confinement, policies of siege, forced starvation, control of populations, massive use of intelligence against the populations, massive control of their movements and ever more increasing surveillance.”

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Palestinian workers remove debris from buildings destroyed in the war between Israel and Hamas militants. (AFP)

According to Khalili, it is important to remember that the massive apartheid walls being built to separate the West Bank were, in a sense, first tested in Gaza in the 1970s by (Ariel) Sharon. He believed these walls were a means to control the population she said adding that Israel is also using starvation as a weapon.

“They actually had memos which counted the minimum number of calories needed for children, women and men in order for them not to starve,” says Khalili, who believes the underlying logic of displacing people and confining others to a small area is one set in colonialism. She traces it to the Iron Wall doctrine developed by hardline Zionists in the 1920s.

A Palestinian child looks out of a house painted by Palestinian artists in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. (AFP)

“When you have made the local population completely hopeless of national aspirations is when you actually get the win,” Khalili said.

Omar Barghouti of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement took Khalili’s points further: “Hopelessness is the key weapon used to colonise the mind of the oppressed. In the worst case scenario, it will be Gaza.”

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Incidentally, BDS was started in 2005 with a goal of achieving basic Palestinian rights under the international law. Barghouti believes the conflict and the resultant plight of the people is not only a Palestinian or an Arab problem, it is an international problem which requires justice to be done under international law.

An issue common in other countries is the intersectionality of struggle, believes Barghouti, who added that Indians could ask why they should care about Gaza or Palestine. “At a basic level, it is about withdrawing cooperation from an evil system. India is complicit in maintaining this evil system… especially through the military trade,” he said.

For more JLF 2016 stories click here.

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