Israel’s blockade of Gaza chokes a possible state

Israel’s deliberate tactic of keeping Gaza poor seeks to strangle Palestinian statehood

A Palestinian boy picks flowers in front of the destroyed Gaza airport. Israel's destruction of Gaza is based on a policy of strangling the Strip so that it can never prosper and be part of a future Palestinian state (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

What could Gaza look like without the stranglehold of Israeli occupation? This is the question – so rarely asked, despite the Palestinian territory's prominence in the news these past months – that The National's spread yesterday set out to answer.

And the answer is: quite beautiful. Gaza is blessed with natural resources and natural beauty (if not, alas, good neighbours). Without the occupation, the full potential of Gaza’s land could be developed – now nearly half of the agricultural land is off-limits. Investment could build a port and an airport – plans for the former have languished since the 1990s, and the latter has been destroyed by Israel. The full potential of tourism could be exploited, as could the resources of the off-shore gas field , discovered as long ago as 2000.

All are essential to Gaza’s ability to be a functioning entity, part of an independent Palestine. And it is in that statement that the true reason why Israel strangles the territory becomes clear.

The most grotesque element of this situation is that it is deliberate. The Israelis have taken a clear decision to systematically dismantle anything that could be used to build a state, benefit the Palestinians or make them prosperous.

Look, for evidence, at one of the most heinous crimes that the Israeli government has committed: the near-starvation siege of Gaza. Since the blockade of the Strip began in 2007, the Israeli military has made precise calculations of the daily calorie count required to offset malnutrition, restricting the food allowed into Gaza so that Palestinians never fell to “starvation levels” – about which Israel was concerned at the public relations implications – but were never able to be properly fed.

The reason behind all these policies is to keep Gaza poor, to keep Palestine under-developed, and thus strangle the potential for a real state. Israel makes a big play of providing power to Gaza, even though the reason is that Israel’s military keeps bombing the power plants.

Israel fears the Palestinian people; it fears that, left to their own creativity and industriousness, they could build an independent state, one not reliant, as Israel is, on billions a year in aid from the United States. Gaza, and the West Bank, could be a flourishing country. A supremacist Israel will never allow that.