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In the past days, news about Gaza hit the headlines as the Palestinian territory fell under an unjust attack by the Israeli military machine. In the past 14 years, Israel has waged four wars against the Gaza Strip; the latest was in May 2021. These wars resulted in the deaths of 6,000 Palestinians and 90 Israelis, not to mention the destruction of infrastructure and tens of thousands of houses. Gaza has been subjected to a strict siege since Hamas took control of the strip in 2007.
Gaza poses a substantial problem for Israel as it is a hotbed of resistance. The strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with two million Palestinians living in a narrow space of no more than 360 square kilometres. This area constitutes 6 per cent of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and 1.3 per cent of the size of historic Palestine.
Palestinian refugees, who inhabited the strip post-Nakba, represent about 70 per cent of the population. Their living conditions are poor, as they live in eight miserable camps supervised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Compared to the West Bank, Gaza lacks water resources and economic activities such as agriculture, manufacturing and services. Poverty rates have increased due to unemployment and population growth.
Since many residents of the Gaza strip used to work in Israel and the industrial zone of Erez, the poor conditions were exacerbated by the second Intifada. Labour movements to Israel and Erez were halted as a result of the siege, the Intifada and the harsh Israeli measures aimed at starving and impoverishing the Palestinians to bring about their political subjugation.
Gaza has always been a thorn in Israel’s side, a model of resistance and a historical landmark of the contemporary liberation movement of the Palestinian people. The idea of a Palestinian entity was established in the first National Council that convened in Gaza City, following the Nakba, under the leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, from which the ‘All-Palestine Government’ emerged.
Subsequently, the guerrilla vanguard from which Fatah would emanate in the mid-1960s started in Gaza. The most prominent founders of this movement were refugees from the Gaza Strip, including Abu Jihad al-Wazir, Abu Yousef al-Najjar and Abu Iyad.
Moreover, the grand Palestinian Intifada rose from the heart of Gaza in 1987 along with the Islamic resistance represented in al-Jihad and Hamas. Gaza was the first territory in Palestine that Israel, in 2007, had willingly withdrawn from.
Thus, it was not odd for former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to wish to wake up one day and find the Gaza strip sinking into the sea. This statement reflects Israel’s desperation and inability to control the territory. It also stirred up debate among Israelis about the occupation’s futility and the failure of the settlements project. Undoubtedly, this controversial debate would not have reached the levels it did had it not been for the Palestinians’ resistance to the occupation and Israel’s inability to impose its dictates on the Palestinians.
The first Intifada had played a significant role in setting Israelis’ minds on the inevitability of exiting Gaza, which explains how the Oslo Accords came to include Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza as a primary condition.
On the other hand, the second Intifada led to the dismantlement of settlements in the strip and the eviction of settlers, whether civilians or military. All was done in accordance with a plan for unilateral withdrawal — designed by Ariel Sharon and carried out under Ehud Olmert.
Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s former minister of defence, confirmed that “having settlements inside Gaza won’t serve Israel’s interests.” He, too, stated: “The Gaza Strip is not the land of our ancestors. I claim that the founding fathers of the ‘Gaza and Jericho First’ agreement made a mistake when they allowed the Israeli settlements to remain in the Gaza Strip.”
Hence, Gaza led the Israelis to admit to their lack of rights in the strip since it was not part of their promised land but a political, security, economic and ethical burden.
The ongoing attacks do not aim to acquire any land, for their sole purpose is to break the Palestinians’ will, forcing them to accept Israel’s political terms and killing their meagre hope for a relatively just resolution. These attacks followed Israel’s subversion of the Oslo Accords as it has failed to implement its obligations over the past three decades, despite all the concessions made by the Palestinian leadership and their security coordination with Israel.
On the other hand, it is clear that Israel can kill or abuse Palestinians, but it can never bend their will or break them. Therefore, using force is futile; it can only result in more destruction, bloodshed and conflict.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.