Noam Chomsky: The Soul-Crushing Cruelties Perpetrated by America's Number 1 Ally
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The Israeli government was advised by its highest intelligence officials that the truce could be renewed by easing the criminal blockade and ending military attacks. But the government of Ehud Olmert – himself reputedly a dove – rejected these options, resorting to its huge advantage in violence: Operation Cast Lead.
The internationally respected Gazan human-rights advocate Raji Sourani analyzed the pattern of attack under Cast Lead. The bombing was concentrated in the north, targeting defenseless civilians in the most densely populated areas, with no possible military basis. The goal, Sourani suggests, may have been to drive the intimidated population to the south, near the Egyptian border. But the Samidin stayed put.
A further goal might have been to drive them beyond the border. From the earliest days of the Zionist colonization it was argued that Arabs have no real reason to be in Palestine: They can be just as happy somewhere else, and should leave – politely “transferred,” the doves suggested.
This is surely no small concern in Egypt, and perhaps a reason why Egypt doesn’t open the border freely to civilians or even to desperately needed supplies.
Sourani and other knowledgeable sources have observed that the discipline of the Samidin conceals a powder keg that might explode at any time, unexpectedly, like the first Intifada in Gaza in 1987, after years of repression.
A necessarily superficial impression after spending several days in Gaza is amazement, not only at Gazans’ ability to go on with life but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university, where I attended an international conference.
But one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. Reports indicate that there is simmering frustration among young people – a recognition that under the U.S.-Israeli occupation the future holds nothing for them.
Gaza has the look of a Third World country, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, undeveloped. Rather it is “de-developed,” and very systematically so, to borrow the term from Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza.
The Gaza Strip could have become a prosperous Mediterranean region, with rich agriculture and a flourishing fishing industry, marvelous beaches and, as discovered a decade ago, good prospects for extensive natural gas supplies within its territorial waters. By coincidence or not, that’s when Israel intensified its naval blockade. The favorable prospects were aborted in 1948, when the Strip had to absorb a flood of Palestinian refugees who fled in terror or were forcefully expelled from what became Israel – in some cases months after the formal cease-fire Israel’s 1967 conquests and their aftermath administered further blows, with terrible crimes continuing to the present day.
The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. 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.