“Israel has withdrawn from Gaza completely,” is the hasbara slogan that Labor Party chairwoman Merav Michaeli chose to sell to the world in one of the many interviews she gave to the international media during the days of fighting. This blitz she described in a press release as “patriotism,” as part of the never-ending need of the Israeli left to prove to the right their burning loyalty to the country.
Israel may have evacuated its military facilities and settlements from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, but in no way is it possible to say that it “withdrew from Gaza completely.” It continues to control the access to and from the Gaza Strip ever since, in the air, by sea and on land, as well as aspects of the population registry that affect the Rafah crossing too. This is alongside the economic authority, control of construction and development, and much more.
Israel is present in almost all aspects of life as far as the residents of Gaza are concerned, including permission to wear camouflage-patterned clothing, or hiking boots (defined as “dual-use goods,” which can be used for military purposes). Even foreign journalists (and Israelis of course) are not allowed to cover what is going on there as they wish. This is because of the chutzpah that claims it is for their own safety. As if war correspondents for the leading media outlets in the world are not mature enough to make such decisions themselves.
So the claim that Israel has withdrawn from Gaza is at the very least deceptive; in practice it is closer to a lie.
This is exactly the problem: During the days when no missiles are being fired from Gaza, and specifically on Tel Aviv, the vast majority of Israelis, including the Zionist left such as Michaeli, is convinced that everything is wonderful. The Gazans may be very poor and frustrated, but that is only because of Hamas. After all, we left there during the disengagement, even Michaeli agrees, so what do they want?
Israel is supplying a living example of this these very days. Most Israelis are convinced that the cease-fire returned the situation to its previous status: We are here and they are there, and it’s over. But in practice, ever since the cease-fire, the crossings to and from Gaza have been closed to goods and people. A defense official who briefed Walla journalist Amir Buhbut on Sunday gave this amazing statement: “Every request for the passage of food, the bodies of Palestinians who died in hospitals in Israel, and civilians who want to return to Gaza – is rejected out of hand.”
Why is a request to transfer food, a humanitarian commodity by any measure, rejected out of hand after the cease-fire? The reason was not provided initially, even to the dozens of foreign journalists who waited on Sunday to enter Gaza, but was provided in the end by Defense Minister Benny Gantz when he announced that the Gaza Strip will remain “at a basic humanitarian level,” and any additional aid would be conditioned on a solution to the issue of the Israeli captives and missing.
What exactly is the basic humanitarian level? Did anyone provide details? Is food or the possibility of transferring the sick not included in this category? In spite of statements by the defense establishment Monday morning, made after international pressure, that Israel would allow the movement of UN medical equipment and entry of aid workers and journalists, as of this article’s writing organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights were still forbidden to bring medical equipment into Gaza.
The declarations and briefings are clear: Israel has decided, once again, to apply collective punishment to Gaza. This is in response to a campaign of the families of the fallen and missing. As of now, it is not clear what exactly can enter under our grace and what can’t. Once again two million people are captives. And when the situation blows up again, Michaeli, along with the rest of Israelis, will raise an eyebrow and say: But Israel is no longer there.
Noa Landau, Journalist.
This article was originally published on Haaretz. Views in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect CGS policy.