In the first part of this series we considered a little of the history of modern Palestine. A few things were noted most evangelicals may not know including a position in the Israeli government since pre-1948: that the Palestinians should be dispossessed.
If you have not read the above I encourage you to do so before continuing. Some context will be helpful. For reasons probably obvious let me state I am not against Israel, their right to exist as a sovereign nation, nor their right to self-defense. If my posts seem one sided it is due to my effort in providing needed balance within the evangelical community. In most cases I am not reiterating that which is commonly accepted as true; those arguments have been made many times. I also do not defend terroristic or militaristic threats from either side.
Hatred flows both ways in this struggle. Much is made about Hamas’ platform that Israel should not exist, but little is made of Israel’s ongoing desire (and forced effort) to occupy as much of Palestine as possible. Remember the King-Crane commission found a mindset among the Jews to completely dispossess the non-Jewish residents of Palestine. This matched the desire of many in the Arab nations to have neither the Jews in Palestine nor the displaced Palestinians in their own country (though thousands ended up inside those borders anyway).
So what is really going on in Gaza? This from Diane Buttu, a Canadian attorney who has counseled both the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas:
Today, the people of Gaza suffer from a brutal blockade that has lasted for more than 6 years and isolation that has lasted for more than 20 years. Israel strictly controls imports into Gaza and exports are virtually non-existent. Palestinian life is so controlled by Israel that the Israeli government even sets policies on the minimum number of calories needed to prevent malnutrition. Access to the sea – one of their main sources of livelihood – is strictly curtailed and the water of the Gaza Strip is barely drinkable, with less than 5 per cent of their water supply fit for human consumption.
This via Wikileaks and published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz:
“As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge,” one of the cables read.
Israel wanted the coastal territory’s economy “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”, according to the Nov. 3, 2008 cable.
Note two of the objectives: to regulate the amount of food–down to the number of calories residents received–to avoid an official humanitarian crisis (ie, Darfur), and keep the economy on the brink of collapse. Note the source of the economic warfare is not a shrieking Palestinian terrorist, but an official diplomatic cable.
Water is needed for any people to survive as we all know. Prolific author and M.I.T. professor, Noam Chomsky, wrote in a November 9, 2012 article,
Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine-gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and toward land, forcing them to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of U.S.-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems they destroyed.
The Oslo Accords laid plans for two desalination plants, a necessity in this arid region. One, an advanced facility, was built: in Israel. The second one is in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza. The engineer in charge at Khan Yunis explained that this plant was designed so that it can’t use seawater, but must rely on underground water, a cheaper process that further degrades the meager aquifer, guaranteeing severe problems in the future.
The water supply is still severely limited. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees but not other Gazans, recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become “irreversible,” and that without quick remedial action, Gaza may cease to be a “livable place” by 2020.
Writing in the Boston Globe last week, Sara Roy addressed the issues of arable land and fishing, both of which have been curtailed by Israel’s government:
Gaza’s economic decline is seen in the near collapse of its agricultural sector. One factor is the destruction of around 7,800 acres of agricultural land during Cast Lead. Consequently, approximately one-third of Gaza’s total arable land is out of production. Furthermore, Israeli-imposed buffer zones — areas of restricted access — now absorb nearly 14 percent of Gaza’s total land and at least 48 percent of total arable land.
Similarly, the sea buffer zone covers 85 percent of the maritime area promised to Palestinians in the Oslo Accords, reducing 20 nautical miles to three, where waters are fouled by sewage flows in excess of 23 million gallons daily.
And it is not limited to Gaza. According to Pakistani reporter M. AQavi, writing in the Tribune, dispossession is still taking place in East Jerusalem. From March of this year, he writes,
Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, is across the road from the American Colony Hotel where Mr Tony Blair and his staff have their offices. It is also one of the sites where a Jewish Settlers’ organisation is planning to build a 200 unit Settlement in place of the existing Arab housing.
Arab homes are being forcibly occupied by Settlers and their Arab occupants thrown out on the street…A Mr Al Kurd, who is one of the evicted Arabs, stands out and of course a swarm of children from the neighbourhood also gather around. The routine is to gather around the Sheikh Jarrah mosque holding banners in Hebrew, Arabic and English and clutching Palestinian flags. After 15 minutes or so, we march to visit each occupied house in turn, to remind the new occupants they are living in someone else’s house. Each occupied house is guarded by border police, video monitors, and at one of the houses I notice barbed wire as well. On the way back from visiting the last occupied house I see male members of a Settler family heading home for the Sabbath, all dressed in fine traditional dress with circular fir hats and all that.
In the last few days, a Israeli government official said, in response to the U.N. granting “non-member observer status” to Palestine, and confirmed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided build the 3,000 settler units in response to the Palestinians success at the UN. The purpose? To “prevent territorial contiguity between the northern and southern West Bank, making it difficult for a future Palestinian state to function.”
In Israel possession continues to be 10/10ths of the law and dispossession is the means of keeping it.
After 6+ decades of dissension there is no end of examples, but Bob Roberts, Jr. can summarize the situation better than I. Theologian, missiologist, pastor and statesman, Roberts has friends in both Israel and among the Palestinians. He has been on the ground there. He is aware of the dire situation in Gaza. This is an excerpt from his blog on November 17, 2012. All emphasis is mine.:
First, each side overwhelmingly in every survey done wants a two state solution. From Jewish & Palestinian college students, cabbies, men, women, faith leaders, and yes – even governmental leaders on each side, I’ve heard the same thing.
Second, as one Palestinian scholar told me – the biggest problem is they are both “victim” cultures. The Jewish statement “never again” causes overreach on the part of the Jews in how they can be heavy handed with the Palestinians. The displacement of millions of Palestinians having been driven from their homeland after centuries and millennia prevents them from thinking about moving forward with where things are versus what they wish they could go back to.
Third, not just during this current crisis – but everyone who has been living in bunkers with sirens for the past 60+ years – this has got to be incredibly destabilizing for people as individuals and culture in general. Gaza is the most densely populated places in the world. Putting a wall around it with automatic movement operated machine guns, mines and trying to cut the people off from the world and daily necessities is a recipe for an explosion. People when forced to live in that animal environment become animals. Frankly, I’m amazed there hasn’t been more conflict – if it was Texas, speaking as a Texan – I assure you there would be. Ever heard of the Alamo?
Let’s be clear, there are Palestinian terrorist [sic] that don’t want to compromise, respect Israel, her right to exist and would circumvent any movement towards peace – this cannot be. Let’s be equally clear, it isn’t a fence or a barrier – it is a 30 foot concrete wall, with machine gun towers pointing down on the people that has been built around Palestinians in Gaza, Bethlehem, Ramallah, other cities – putting entire populations of millions in virtual “prison” – this is simply unsustainable.
I have thought often about the scenario Roberts references in his “Remember the Alamo?” statement. Unless you literally move to flatten every structure in Gaza and commit genocide on this race of people, the increases in pressure will result in eruptions. Whether a masked Hamas terrorist, a teenager throwing rocks or a kid making obscene gestures, there will be a response. And we should not be surprised when there is.