Gazans thirst for more than freedom

Palestinians, displaced by violence and living at a UN school in Gaza City, fill up their plastic jugs as a water supply truck makes its daily delivery (AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)
Palestinians, displaced by violence and living at a UN school in Gaza City, fill up their plastic jugs as a water supply truck makes its daily delivery (AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)
When it comes to assigning a hierarchy to the necessities of life, American psychologist Abraham Maslow was right to identify safe drinking water in the highest category, alongside other essentials like air, food and sleep. As The National reported yesterday, such is the effect of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza that even something as basic as ready access to clean water is now denied to hundreds of thousands of people in the besieged territory.

With the already meagre electricity generation capacity devastated by Israeli bombs and with many of the desalination plants destroyed, one third of the 1.7 million Gazans no longer have running water. Even a normally mundane job like delivering water by tanker truck has become an exercise in tempting fate, with most drivers giving up their jobs rather than risk being targeted by the Israeli military.

All this just exemplifies Israel’s unstated but clear policy of collectively punishing all Gazans because Hamas militants keep firing rockets over the border. It remains to be seen if the ceasefire that was being talked up this evening brings real progress.

During the early years of the siege, imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, the Israeli military calculated precisely how much food it needed to allow in to ward off malnutrition. The desperate nature of life in Gaza goes far beyond a paucity of food and drinkable water and extends to a strangling of economic opportunity.

Any group of people subjected to such conditions face two options: submission or defiance. Israel prefers the former, with its demand of “quiet for quiet” – it will stop bombarding Gaza if Hamas stops firing rockets.

Those who do not submit will take up arms against their oppressors, even if it is in the symbolic and Quixotic form such as Hamas’s generally ineffectual rockets or through other militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

If Israel truly seeks “quiet for quiet”, it needs to give Gaza – and the West Bank – self determination and freedom. By choosing to keep Gazans in abject conditions, it ensures that any quiet will be short-lived.

Published: August 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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