Why Palestinians in Gaza have suffered for decades
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“We are putting a complete siege on Gaza. No electricity... no food, no water, no gas. It's all closed. We're fighting animals and are acting accordingly”. That was the defense minister of Israel... responding to the deadly attack on October 7th by Hamas... a militant group based in Gaza. Hamas launched rockets, killed over 1,400 civilians... and kidnapped close to 200 people. Within days, Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip... killing several thousand, wiping out entire families... and striking ambulances, border crossings... and residential buildings. At the same time, Israel told over 1 million civilians... to leave their homes and move south. Warning them of an escalation of violence in the north. But Israel is bombarding the south, too. Leaving Palestinians trapped.
For as long as this conflict has existed... movement in and out of the Gaza Strip... has been, to one degree or another, restricted. The prime minister of the Israeli occupation, Benjamin Netanyahu... he knows very well that people are not able to leave. The Gaza Strip is the smaller of the two Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. This sliver of land only 25 miles long and 7.5 miles wide... is home to over 2 million Palestinians. Making it one of the most densely populated areas in the world. For the last 16 years residents here have been living under a harsh blockade... that allows Israel to control the flow of electricity, fuel food, water, and medical supplies. So, they can dictate when Palestinians receive essentials... and when they're denied.
That control is rooted in violence and destruction... that goes back decades. Before the establishment of Israel... Gaza was part of what became known as historic Palestine... under Ottoman rule and later under British occupation. In 1947, as the British prepared to leave... they left the fate of Palestine... up to a newly formed United Nations... who voted to divide Palestine into a Jewish state... and an Arab state. Soon, Zionist forces and militias began to forcibly expel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land... to establish the state of Israel. Many internally displaced Palestinians fled to this narrow stretch of land... that would later become known as the Gaza Strip. So, these refugees became refugees because... they were pushed out of their towns and villages. Some of them literally live a mile away from what used to be their towns and villages.
Many others were forced to flee to neighboring Arab countries. Overwhelmed by refugees... these countries immediately declared a war against the new state of Israel to support Palestinian Arabs. They eventually lost to Israel... but Jordan ended up occupying the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza City and nearby towns along these ceasefire lines. Then in 1967... another war broke out. Amid Palestinian resistance and fearing threats from neighboring Arab countries... Israel launched a full-scale attack on Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. In just six days... Israel captured the Gaza Strip and the Sinai from Egypt... the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria.
This was the beginning of the Israeli occupation in Gaza... that continues today. Israel took control of all movement from and to the Gaza Strip... by land, air, and sea. It placed troops along this line and inside the Gaza Strip... and allowed Palestinians to travel between the Gaza Strip... Israel, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. But just a few months after the war even though Palestinians now lived under Israeli control... they began to be referred to as “non-citizens” or “foreign residents” in official Israeli documents.
This was also when Israel started to build settlements for Jewish Israelis inside of Gaza. To Palestinians... this meant even more land being taken away from them. And they were being closed in. Israel did not allow Palestinians here to operate their own seaport or airport. Within the Gaza Strip... Israel developed key industries like agriculture... to cater to Israeli and West Bank markets... taking advantage of Gaza's cheap labor market and paying Palestinians very little. These economic challenges led to the rise of a prominent Islamic social charity: Mujama al-Islamiya. At the time, this charity, partially funded by Israel... built schools, mosques, clinics and provided more food for Palestinians in Gaza. But tensions simmered. Israel feared a growing resistance movement. And in response, soldiers often frisked... arrested and detained residents.
In 1987, that tension reached a breaking point after an Israeli truck crashed into a civilian car... killing four Palestinians. Palestinians immediately responded with protests, strikes, and boycotts against occupation. It would become known as the first uprising... or intifada. And that same year Mujama al-Islamiya transformed into a militant group: Hamas. Hamas was a group that came about during the first Palestinian uprising. And was not really a part of institutional politics for some time. They weren't in charge of Gaza yet, but they wanted to liberate Palestinian territories from Israel's control... and considered Israel an illegitimate state. After the first year of the intifada... during which over 140 Palestinians in Gaza were killed... Hamas and other militant groups began to attack Israelis more directly.
Then the intifada grew more violent in 1991... which is also when Israel introduced a permit system that greatly restricted Gaza residents’ ability to work... travel through Israel... or access the West Bank and East Jerusalem. By the end of the First Intifada... Israeli forces had killed over 1,000 Palestinians... and Palestinian militants had killed over 100 Israelis... throughout Israel and the occupied territories. The uprising ended after the internationally brokered Oslo Peace Accords... between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization... or the PLO. This was a liberation movement with an armed wing... that fought for Palestinian rights for decades. The PLO agreed to disarm and recognize Israel's right to exist. But Hamas, which had very little political support at the time strongly opposed it. The deal also created a new governing body: The Palestinian Authority, or PA... which allowed political parties and elections in the Gaza Strip.
The PA was granted some autonomy within small areas... but Israel still controlled the territories and the flow through these crossings. The Oslo agreement also promised Palestinians some level of autonomy... and a path to statehood in five years. But that never happened. Instead, what followed was more Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. And a year later, following an attack by an Israeli settler in the West Bank and a series of bombings by Palestinian militants including Hamas... Israel’s prime minister called for the construction of a fence around the Gaza Strip. Gaza now had a physical barrier between it and the outside world. These moves made Palestinians trust the Israeli government and peace negotiations even less... and it would lead to a second uprising.
On September 28th, 2000 Israeli politician Ariel Sharon visited Al-Aqsa Mosque... a Muslim holy site in Jerusalem that's largely inaccessible to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This visit sparked widespread protests and violent clashes... resulting in Israeli forces killing four Palestinian children the next day. And Palestinian militants carried out suicide bombings. Back in the Gaza Strip... Palestinians broke down much of this barrier. The Israeli government soon built it back up and heavily militarized it with more troops and observation posts. They further canceled travel and work permits... restricting movement through this crossing even more.... and eventually destroyed Gaza's only major airport... and its under-construction seaport.
By the end of the Second Intifada in 2005... Palestinian militants had killed over 900 Israelis... and Israeli forces killed over 3000 Palestinians. The Second Intifada gradually came to an end... as Israel dismantled all Jewish Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip... and withdrew the ground troops. Then another internationally brokered agreement gave the PA control of this crossing with Egypt on the Gaza side... and allowed trucks and convoys to flow between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But Israel didn't let that happen. At the time of the first legislative election after the Second Intifada... Fatah, a party backed by the PA and PLO... that had negotiated with Israel, was in power. But many Palestinians saw Fatah and its approach as ineffective. Hamas, which was now a political party in addition to being a militant group... won most of the seats in 2006. People voted for Hamas as a way to... to express their disapproval of the ongoing status quo which was that the peace process had failed and they had had two uprisings and no state was in sight. In response to an armed militant party winning... Israel banned laborers from leaving Gaza for work.
Then, when militants captured an Israeli soldier... Israel carried out airstrikes in Gaza... and tightened its control on the sea limiting fishing capabilities to only six miles. Politically, within Gaza, Hamas had won the election... but the PA was still the governing body... with Fatah under its wing. A conflict broke out between Hamas and Fatah... and Hamas seized power of the entire strip in 2007. This is when Israel put Gaza under the official blockade that continues today... tightening Israel's grip over Gaza even more... trapping over 2 million Palestinians inside. This time, Israel closed the main crossing for commercial goods... made travel even more restrictive... banned exports from Gaza... and imposed restrictions on the import of essential items... such as fuel, medicine, and food.
They even used mathematical formulas... to determine the necessary caloric intake... for people in Gaza to control how much food they would allow in. Basically, we live a slow death in Gaza. Even before major escalations. People cannot travel freely. We have Israeli drones... hovering around 24/7. There's always stress. Over the next several years reoccurring conflicts and airstrikes made the already devastating impacts of this blockade worse. Israeli airstrikes destroyed vital infrastructure... such as water and power plants. Repairs were delayed by the blockade... which impacted the delivery of construction materials. And for each militant attack on Israelis... Israel killed far more Palestinians in retaliation. At times, Israel would slightly lift restrictions... but it was never close to matching the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza.
According to a UN report from 2022... The 16-year blockade had made 78% of the water in Gaza undrinkable... left 62% of Palestinians inside of Gaza in need of food assistance... living with rolling power cuts that last on average 11 hours per day. That is our normal life. We would have 8 hours of electricity, 12 hours of electricity... It changes depending on the situation and the availability of fuel. We are completely dependent on Israel. This is what many Palestinians and international law calls collective punishment. Collective punishment is when cancer patients cannot travel... because they get denied. And collective punishment... It means also that Palestinians cannot have their own hospitals... and they cannot treat... their patients. Collective punishment means the people of Gaza now are punished... for the most recent escalation.
When you look at the crime of genocide... which is, you know, the intentional destruction... of a whole people in part or in whole. We are seeing elements of that crime being committed and carried out in the Gaza Strip... right now. There's equating... between Hamas and all Palestinians. And this is not the first time that we're going to see people in Gaza and civilians in Gaza, half of whom are children... pay the price for Hamas or anything else. Israeli and US leaders have emphasized that Israel has a right to defend itself... by wiping out Hamas completely. But the majority of casualties in the Gaza Strip... aren't Hamas fighters.
They're civilians. It's an interesting question to consider whether or not... things would have been different if Hamas didn't exist. But the thing is, Hamas didn't exist until the late 80s. But the occupation of the Palestinian territories has been since 1967. And the original Palestinian displacement was 1948. And Hamas didn't really emerge until much later than that. Anybody who follows Israeli and Palestinian politics with some level of honesty... knew that if... what happened hadn't happened something else was going to happen... because the status quo was unsustainable. The world has to recognize this suffering. Even before we have escalations. The reason we have escalations is because... people cannot find any hope. No one wanted to get to this point.
News ID : 2790