Revolution #150, December 14, 2008

From A World to Win News Service

Gaza: Tottering on the Brink

November 24, 2008. A World to Win News Service. In America’s favorite form of torture, waterboarding, the idea is to take the victim to the brink of death, and then, often—but not always—back off just slightly, so that the perpetrators can’t be accused of murder, even though they have imposed excruciating suffering. That is what Israel is doing to the inhabitants of Gaza, not one at a time but on a mass scale, by keeping them on the edge of starvation.

On November 24, as Gaza remained largely without electricity, its hospital intensive care units helpless, forced to choose between using diesel fuel to supply fresh water or pump raw sewage out to sea, and mass starvation only a few days away, Israel opened the tap just slightly. A convoy of about 45 trucks carrying food and other essential supplies was allowed to cross into Gaza from Egypt and some fuel came through a pipeline from Israel at the other end of Gaza. Then Israel shut the tap again.

The amount of food delivered was roughly enough to feed Gaza for three days under normal conditions. “Israel continues to trickle in the goods and never brings in enough. It’s literally a day-by-day existence,” an Al Jazeera reporter said. The last shipment of food, a similar amount, was a week previously, and the one before that about two weeks earlier.

When the Zionist state ended its occupation and direct military rule over Gaza in 2005, it kept complete control of this desert strip’s land, sea and air borders. Israel sent armored bulldozers to destroy Gaza’s fruit orchards, blockaded the fishing port, cut off supplies to factories and other businesses, and forbid most Gaza residents the right to work elsewhere or even leave. As a result, approximately a million of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are dependent on UN food distribution. The main UN agency’s centers locked their doors in mid-November for lack of supplies. Another one said it would continue giving out packages of grain, flour, sugar and oil for a few more weeks. UN officials did not expect any improvement in this situation. “It is just not enough,” an UNWRA [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East] spokesman speaking about the brief border openings told the Reuters news agency.

Clearly, Israeli policy is to keep Gaza’s people desperate.

But this situation is not stationary. It is deteriorating. A partially leaked but still-secret report by the International Red Cross “chronicles the ‘devastating’ effect of the siege that Israel imposed after Hamas seized control in June 2007 and notes that the dramatic fall in living standards has triggered a shift in diet that will damage the long-term health of those living in Gaza and has led to alarming deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and vitamin D.” (“Chronic malnutrition in Gaza blamed on Israel,” Independent, November 15, 2008)

The report notes “the progressive deterioration in food security for up to 70 percent of Gaza’s population” and warns that with most households living at “survival levels,” living mostly on flour products, sugar and oil and often without fuel to cook grain, “chronic malnutrition is on a steadily rising trend and micronutrient deficiencies are of great concern.”

Political Aims Behind the Lockdown

The political aims behind Israel’s lockdown are no secret: to bend Gaza’s population to the Zionists’ will. Even on the face of it, Israel’s actions are illegal: its officials say, “The borders are closed because of the ongoing rocket fire.” (“Israel renews blockade of Gaza crossings,” Reuters, November 18, 2008) This collective punishment of all Gaza residents—for the handful of rocket attacks on Israeli sand dunes and occasionally the city of Ashkelon near Gaza—is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention. But of course no Western government wants to see Israeli officials join Serbs and Africans on trial for war crimes at the international tribunal in The Hague.

The U.S. and the European powers approve of Israel’s actions because they approve of its goals: to crush Palestinian resistance and in particular to break Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist party that won the 2006 parliamentary elections which Israel and its backers expected the more pliant Palestinian Liberation Organization to win. The Western democracies back the collective punishment of Gaza residents for that vote.

At the same time, the situation is complex. Hamas is more interested in Islamic rule than Palestinian self-rule, let alone real liberation. The rhythm of Israel’s on-again/off-again strangulation of Gaza follows the on-again/off-again negotiations between Israel and Hamas, as well as Israel and the PLO. The long-term “calm” (suspension of armed activities) Hamas accepted with Israel was interrupted in early November when Israel attacked Gaza and killed Hamas members allegedly digging a cross-border tunnel. Some observers believe that both sides are taking armed action to exert pressure on each other in view of further negotiations.

The Role of
U.S.-Dependent Egypt

Further, with or without Hamas, Israeli policy is explicitly to force Egypt to take more control in Gaza and perhaps, at some point, swallow it up, relieving Israel of the burden and shame. Egypt and Israel have traded control of this part of Palestine back and forth since the Zionist state was founded. The U.S.-dependent regime of Hosni Mubarak uses its troops as prison guards to prevent Palestinians from escaping or supplies from getting in.

In another, little known but extreme demonstration of Mubarak’s willingness and ability to enforce Zionist interests, Egyptian border guards, acting at the request of Israel last year, are known to have shot or beaten to death at least three dozen African would-be immigrants crossing the desert near the Israeli border, according to a November 12 Human Rights Watch report. One was a pregnant woman. Egyptian border guards shot an African man dead November 24, the 28th killing recorded so far this year, officially because he tried to run away when they spotted him. The authorities explained that the absence of any papers found on his body was proof of his criminal intentions—to sneak into Israel and claim asylum. It was speculated that like many of the other murder victims, he was from Sudan, Ethiopia or Eritrea.

If a single Israeli is harmed as a result of the actions of a Palestinian, all hell breaks loose, the Palestinian population is punished, and the “international community” considers that just. But Israel and the Mubarak regime can kill all the Africans they want and no Western government or mainstream media even takes much notice. The same approval has been granted to Israel’s slow-motion murder (and often instant killings) of Palestinians—the West hasn’t bothered to lodge even a formal protest against Israel’s decision to ban journalists, doctors, academics and a delegation of European diplomats from entering Gaza to investigate conditions there.   

A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.


Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond