Gaza: Desperation and Hope

Ever since the end of Israel’s horrific military assault on Gaza in last December-January, the plight of the desperate people of Gaza has largely disappeared from the mainstream media. The Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission, which powerfully documenting Israeli war crimes during that offensive, has been in the news, but that of course was a backward looking report, exposing the atrocities of last year. Unfortunately, the atrocities continue, not in the form of massive bombardment, as occurred during Operation Cast Lead, but in the continuing economic blockade.

All exports from Gaza are still blocked, and Gazans are still denied the supplies they need to rebuild their devastated economy, their infrastructure, and their homes.[1] During Cast Lead, Israeli forces intentionally destroyed water and sewage facilities, a chicken farm, a flour mill, housing — targets struck for no conceivable military purpose.[2] And now the wherewithal to repair this damage is blocked. Even school supplies, such as notebooks and pens, are stopped at the border.[3] This is an ongoing collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza.[4] And it is a collective punishment engaged in not just by Israel. As former President Carter declared:

“Tragically, the international community largely ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings. …The responsibility for this terrible human rights crime lies in Jerusalem, Cairo, Washington, and throughout the international community.”[5]

It should not surprise anyone that in such hopeless circumstances, a desperate people will find comfort in all sorts of fundamentalist ideologies. But what is quite extraordinary about the Palestinians of Gaza is that in the face of all this there is a mass base for leftwing politics. That is, for a politics that is represented neither by the Islamic fundamentalism of Hamas nor by the corrupt and compromised Fatah. On December 12, some 70,000 Gazans attended a mass gathering in support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As the pictures of this event show (in addition to the ones displayed here), thousands rallied under red flags. Whatever one thinks of the PFLP’s attempt to outbid Hamas in calling for armed struggle — though without matching its words with actions — what is quite remarkable is how many are willing to support an organization that calls itself Marxist.

If only the left outside Gaza could be as successful in its mobilizations on behalf of the people of Palestine!


1. See United Nations, Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Press statement, Nov. 9, 2009,. For more detail, see OCHA, Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact of Two Years of Blockade on the Gaza Strip, Aug. 2009. See also Press Release, “Statement by Humanitarian Organisations, NGOs and UN Organisations On the Second Anniversary of the Gaza Blockade,” Jerusalem, June 17, 2009.

2. Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/12/48, Sept. 25, 2009, paras. 913-1031; Amnesty International, Israel/Gaza: Operation Cast Lead: 22 days of death and destruction, MDE 15/015/2009, July 2, 2009, pp. 54-65; Palestinian Center for Human Rights, The Impact of the Israeli offensive (27 December 200818 January 2009) on the Water and Sewage Sectors in the Gaza Strip, July 2009; Gisha, Red Lines Crossed: Destruction of Gazas Infrastructure, Aug. 2009.

3. Human Rights Watch, Israel: Stop Blocking School Supplies From Entering Gaza, Oct. 11, 2009.

4. See, among other sources, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: The grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip, Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the implementation of the Human Rights Council resolution S-9/1, A/HRC/12/37, Aug. 10, 2009, para. 80.

5. Rory McCarthy, Carter challenges Gaza blockade as he meets Hamas leaders: Ex-US president urges peace as he witnesses Israeli destruction, Guardian, June 16, 2009.

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