By Gideon Levy
09/03/;06 "Haaretz" -- -- Gaza has been reoccupied. The world
must know this and Israelis must know it, too. It is in its
worst condition, ever. Since the abduction of Gilad Shalit, and
more so since the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israel
Defense Forces has been rampaging through Gaza - there's no
other word to describe it - killing and demolishing, bombing and
Nobody thinks about setting up a commission of inquiry; the
issue isn't even on the agenda. Nobody asks why it is being done
and who decided to do it. But under the cover of the darkness of
the Lebanon war, the IDF returned to its old practices in Gaza
as if there had been no disengagement. So it must be said
forthrightly, the disengagement is dead. Aside from the
settlements that remain piles of rubble, nothing is left of the
disengagement and its promises. How contemptible all the sublime
and nonsensical talk about 'the end of the occupation' and
'partitioning the land? now appears. Gaza is occupied, and with
greater brutality than before. The fact that it is more
convenient for the occupier to control it from outside has
nothing to do with the intolerable living conditions of the
In large parts of Gaza nowadays, there is no electricity. Israel
bombed the only power station in Gaza, and more than half the
electricity supply will be cut off for at least another year.
There's hardly any water. Since there is no electricity,
supplying homes with water is nearly impossible. Gaza is
filthier and smellier than ever: Because of the embargo Israel
and the world have imposed on the elected authority, no salaries
are being paid and the street cleaners have been on strike for
the past few weeks. Piles of garbage and obnoxious clouds of
stink strangle the coastal strip, turning it into Calcutta.
More than ever, Gaza is also like a prison. The Erez crossing is
empty, the Karni crossing has been open only a few days over the
last two months, and the same is true for the Rafah crossing.
Some 15,000 people waited for two months to enter Egypt, some
are still waiting, including many ailing and wounded people.
Another 5,000 waited on the other side to return to their homes.
Some died during the wait. One must see the scenes at Rafah to
understand how profound a human tragedy is taking place. A
crossing that was not supposed to have an Israeli presence
continues to be Israel?s means to pressure 1.5 million
inhabitants. This is disgraceful and shocking collective
punishment. The U.S. and Europe, whose police are at the Rafah
crossing, also bear responsibility for the situation.
Gaza is also poorer and hungrier than ever before. There is
nearly no merchandise moving in and out, fishing is banned, the
tens of thousands of PA workers receive no salaries, and the
possibility of working in Israel is out of the question.
And we still haven?t mentioned the death, destruction and
horror. In the last two months, Israel killed 224 Palestinians,
62 of them children and 25 of them women. It bombed and
assassinated, destroyed and shelled, and no one stopped it. No
Qassam cell or smuggling tunnel justifies such wide-scale
killing. A day doesn?t go by without deaths, most of them
Where are the days when there was still a debate inside Israel
about the assassinations? Today, Israel drops innumerable
missiles, shells and bombs on houses and kills entire families
on its way to another assassination. Hospitals are collapsing
with more than 900 people undergoing treatment. At Shifa
Hospital, the only such facility in Gaza that might be worthy of
being called a hospital, I saw heartrending scenes last week.
Children who lost limbs, on respirators, paralyzed, crippled for
the rest of their lives.
Families have been killed in their sleep, while riding on
donkeys or working in fields. Frightened children, traumatized
by what they have seen, huddle in their homes with a horror in
their eyes that is difficult to describe in words. A journalist
from Spain who spent time in Gaza recently, a veteran of war and
disaster zones around the world, said he had never been exposed
to scenes as horrific as the ones he saw and documented over the
last two months.
It is difficult to determine who decided on all this. It is
doubtful the ministers are aware of the reality in Gaza. They
are responsible for it, starting with the bad decision on the
embargo, through the bombing of Gaza?s bridges and power station
and the mass assassinations. Israel is responsible now once
again for all that happens in Gaza.
The events in Gaza expose the great fraud of Kadima: It came to
power on the coattails of the virtual success of the
disengagement, which is now going up in flames, and it promised
convergence, a promise that the prime minister has already
rescinded. Those who think Kadima is a centrist party should now
know it is nothing other than another rightist occupation party.
The same is true of Labor. Defense Minister Amir Peretz is
responsible for what is happening in Gaza no less than the prime
minister, and Peretz?s hands are as blood-soaked as Olmert's. He
can never present himself as a 'man of peace' again. The ground
invasions every week, each time somewhere else, the kill and
destroy operations from the sea, air and land are all dubbed
with names to whitewash the reality, like 'Summer Rains' or
'Locked Kindergarten.' No security excuse can explain the cycle
of madness, and no civic argument can excuse the outrageous
silence of us all. Gilad Shalit will not be released and the
Qassams will not cease. On the contrary, there is a horror
taking place in Gaza, and while it might prevent a few terror
attacks in the short run, it is bound to give birth to much more
murderous terror. Israel will then say with its
self-righteousness: 'But we returned Gaza to them.
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