IS IT possible to force a whole people to submit to foreign occupation by starving it?
That is, certainly, an interesting question. So interesting, indeed, that the governments of
The laboratory for the experiment is the Gaza Strip, and the guinea pigs are the million and a quarter Palestinians living there.
IN ORDER to meet the required scientific standards, it was necessary first of all to prepare the laboratory.
That was done in the following way: First, Ariel Sharon uprooted the Israeli settlements that were stuck there. After all, you can’t conduct a proper experiment with pets roaming around the laboratory. It was done with “determination and sensitivity”, tears flowed like water, the soldiers kissed and embraced the evicted settlers, and again it was shown that the Israeli army is the most-most in the world.
With the laboratory cleaned, the next phase could begin: all entrances and exits were hermetically sealed, in order to eliminate disturbing influences from the world outside. That was done without difficulty. Successive Israeli governments have prevented the building of a harbor in
There remained a sole connection with the outside world: the Rafah border crossing to
So everything was ready for the experiment.
THE SIGNAL for its beginning was given after the Palestinians had held spotlessly democratic elections, under the supervision of former President Jimmy Carter. George Bush was enthusiastic: his vision of bringing democracy to the
But the Palestinians flunked the test. Instead of electing “good Arabs”, devotees of the
To understand the significance of this: according to the “Paris Protocol” (the economic annex of the
When the Israeli government refuses to pass on this money, which belongs to the Palestinians, it is, simply put, robbery in broad daylight. But when one robs “terrorists”, who is going to complain?
The Palestinian Authority – both in the
Then came the Israeli occupation, and the situation became even worse. The occupied territories became a captive market for Israeli industry, and the military government prevented the establishment of any enterprise that could conceivably compete with an Israeli one.
The Palestinian workers were compelled to work in
When the intifada broke out, the Israeli captains of industry and agriculture discovered that it was possible to get along without the Palestinian workers. Indeed, it was even more profitable. Workers brought in from
That was the situation at the beginning of the experiment: the Palestinian infrastructure destroyed, practically no means of production, no work for the workers. All in all, an ideal setting for the great “experiment in hunger”.
THE IMPLEMENTATION started, as mentioned, with the stoppage of payments.
The passage between
The crossings between the Strip and
To round off the picture, the Israeli Air Force bombed the only power station in the Strip, so that for a part of the day there is no electricity, and the water supply (which depends on electric pumps) stops also. Even on the hottest days, with temperatures of over 30 degrees centigrade in the shade, there is no electricity for refrigerators, air conditioning, the water supply or other needs.
In the West Bank, a territory much larger than the Gaza Strip (which makes up only 6% of the occupied Palestinian territories but holds 40% of the inhabitants), the situation is not quite so desperate. But in the Strip, more than half of the population lives beneath the Palestinian “poverty line”, which lies of course very, very far below the Israeli “poverty line”. Many
What are the governments of
AT THE moment, the directors of the scientific experiment are pondering a puzzling question: how on earth do the Palestinians still hold out, in spite of everything? According to all the rules, they should have been broken long ago!
Indeed, there are some encouraging signs. The general atmosphere of frustration and desperation creates tension between Hamas and Fatah. Here and there clashes have broken out, people were killed and wounded, but in each case the deterioration was halted before it became a civil war. The thousands of hidden Israeli collaborators are also helping to stir things up. But contrary to all expectations, the resistance did not evaporate. Even the captured Israeli soldier has not been released.
One of the explanations has to do with the structure of Palestinian society. The Hamulah (extended family) plays a central role there. As long as one person in the family is working, the relatives, too, do not die of hunger, even if there is widespread malnutrition. Everyone who has any income shares it with all his brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, cousins and their children. That is a primitive system, but quite effective in such circumstances. It seems that the planners of the experiment did not take this into account.
In order to quicken the process, the whole might of the Israeli army is now being used again, as from this week. For three months the army was busy with the Second Lebanon War. It became apparent that the army, which for the last 39 years has been employed mainly as a colonial police force, does not function very well when suddenly confronted with a trained and armed opponent that can fight back. Hizbullah used deadly anti-tank weapons against the armored forces, and rockets rained down on
Now the army returns to the war it knows. The Palestinians in the Strip do not (yet) have effective anti-tank weapons, and the Qassam rockets cause only limited damage. The army can again use tanks against the population without hindrance. The Air Force, which in
How can a population that is hit by hunger, lacking medicaments and equipment for its primitive hospitals and exposed to attacks on land, from sea and from the air, hold out? Will it break? Will it go down on its knees and beg for mercy? Or will it find inhuman strength and stand the test?
In short: What and how much is needed to get a population to surrender?
All the scientists taking part in the experiment – Ehud Olmert and Condoleezza Rice, Amir Peretz and Angela Merkel, Dan Halutz and George Bush, not to mention Nobel Peace Price laureate Shimon Peres – are bent over the microscopes and waiting for an answer, which undoubtedly will be an important contribution to political science.
I hope the Nobel Committee is watching.