I decided to write this article before going to bed this evening because I'm tired of the comment “Israel has a right to defend herself” when I try to discuss the humanitarian nightmare that is life in Gaza. Aside from the misinformation handed down by Israel and our own 'turn a blind eye' government, what do you really know about Gaza?
The Gaza Strip, named after its largest city, is 25 miles long and between 4-7.5 miles wide, with a total area of just 139 square miles. It has about 1.4 million Palestinian residents, who are either refugees or descendants of refugees from the Six-Day War with Israel (1967). That is how Gaza came to be. The Palestinians were herded into the Gaza Strip after the war. While Israel insists it no longer occupies Gaza, the fact is that Israeli citizens continue to cross the border to establish settlements in what is supposed to be Palestinian land. However, Israel's domination of Gaza doesn't end there.
In 2005, Palestinian-American attorney Gregory Khalil said, “Israel still controls every person, every good, literally every drop of water to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. It's troops may not be there, but it still restricts the ability for the Palestinian Authority to exercise control.” Human Rights Watch also disputed Israel's assertion that they had disengaged from Gaza.
Today, democratically-elected Hamas is the governing authority in Gaza, but Israel's oppression hasn't changed. So, when people write to me and tell me that prior to the most recent excursion of Israeli troops into Gaza, Israel had “held out its hand to the Palestinians,” I simply have to laugh. Furthermore, I have been told, the Palestinians brought it on themselves because they continue to send rockets into Israel. So, let's look at some facts that cannot be disputed.
A total of 13 Israelis were killed as a result of the rockets launched into Israel. The Israeli junket into Gaza to avenge these deaths resulted in 1,300+ dead Palestinians, of which more than 400 were children. It is a disproportionate use of force. In addition, the Israelis utilized white phosphorus in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, a violation of international law. So that I am not accused of misinterpreting the law, it is perfectly legal to use white phosphorus to mask troop movements, but it should only be used in the absence of heavy civilian populations. This is clearly not the case in Gaza, according to Human Rights Watch.
If, prior to this invasion, the Israelis extended a hand to the Palestinians, they have an odd way of showing it. Let's look at some before-and-after facts.
Flour stocks were so low that five out of six mills stopped operating
30 of 47 bakeries were forced to close down due to lack of cooking gas
Bakeries were forced to sell only 50 slices of bread per family per day
Only 9 bakeries remain operational
Hatchery owners were forced to kill 400,000 baby chicks in November of 2008 because there wasn't enough fuel to heat the hatcheries and not enough food to keep the chicks alive
80% of the water supply in Gaza did not meet World Health Organization standards for safe drinking
Half the population of Gaza City had access to water for only several hours a week