If Gaza falls . . .
London Review of Books
Israel’s siege of Gaza began on 5 November, the day after an Israeli attack inside the strip, no doubt
designed finally to undermine the truce between Israel and Hamas established last June. Although both
sides had violated the agreement before, this incursion was on a different scale. Hamas responded by
firing rockets into Israel and the violence has not abated since then. Israel’s siege has two fundamental
goals. One is to ensure that the Palestinians there are seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars
who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims. The second is to foist Gaza
onto Egypt. That is why the Israelis tolerate the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt around
which an informal but increasingly regulated commercial sector has begun to form. The overwhelming
majority of Gazans are impoverished and officially 49.1 per cent are unemployed. In fact the prospect
of steady employment is rapidly disappearing for the majority of the population.
On 5 November the Israeli government sealed all the ways into and out of Gaza. Food, medicine, fuel,
parts for water and sanitation systems, fertiliser, plastic sheeting, phones, paper, glue, shoes and even
teacups are no longer getting through in sufficient quantities or at all. According to Oxfam only 137
trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day
entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. The
two main food providers in Gaza are the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East (UNRWA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). UNRWA alone feeds approximately
750,000 people in Gaza, and requires 15 trucks of food daily to do so.
Between 5 November and 30 November, only 23 trucks arrived, around 6 per cent of the total needed;
during the week of 30 November it received 12 trucks, or 11 per cent of what was req