How Israel is Turning Gaza into a Super-max Prison

Oct 29 2014 / 12:17 am
Washington and its allies are only too happy to see Hamas and Islamic Jihad deprived of the materials needed to resist Israel’s next onslaught. (Aljazeera/file)

By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth

It is astonishing that the reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age according to the explicit goals of an Israeli military doctrine known as “Dahiya”, has tentatively only just begun two months after the end of the fighting.

According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians – nearly one in three of Gaza’s population – homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help.

Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins. The cold and wet of winter are approaching. Aid agency Oxfam warns that at the current rate of progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza.

Where else in the world apart from the Palestinian territories would the international community stand by idly as so many people suffer – and not from a random act of God but willed by fellow humans?

The reason for the hold-up is, as ever, Israel’s “security needs”. Gaza can be rebuilt but only to the precise specifications laid down by Israeli officials.

We have been here before. Twelve years ago, Israeli bulldozers rolled into Jenin camp in the West Bank in the midst of the second intifada. Israel had just lost its largest number of soldiers in a single battle as the army struggled through a warren of narrow alleys. In scenes that shocked the world, Israel turned hundreds of homes to rubble.

With residents living in tents, Israel insisted on the terms of Jenin camp’s rehabilitation. The alleys that assisted the Palestinian resistance in its ambushes had to go. In their place, streets were built wide enough for Israeli tanks to patrol.

In short, both the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs and their right in international law to resist their oppressor were sacrificed to satisfy Israel’s desire to make the enforcement of its occupation more efficient.

It is hard not to view the agreement reached in Cairo this month for Gaza’s reconstruction in similar terms.

Donors pledged $5.4 billion – though, based on past experience, much of it won’t materialise. In addition, half will be immediately redirected to the distant West Bank to pay off the Palestinian Authority’s mounting debts. No one in the international community appears to have suggested that Israel, which has asset-stripped both the West Bank and Gaza in different ways, foot the bill.

The Cairo agreement has been widely welcomed, though the terms on which Gaza will be rebuilt have been only vaguely publicised. Leaks from worried insiders, however, have fleshed out the details.

One Israeli analyst has compared the proposed solution to transforming a third-world prison into a modern US super-max incarceration facility. The more civilised exterior will simply obscure its real purpose: not to make life better for the Palestinian inmates, but to offer greater security to the Israeli guards.

Humanitarian concern is being harnessed to allow Israel to streamline an eight-year blockade that has barred many essential items, including those needed to rebuild Gaza after previous assaults.

The agreement passes nominal control over Gaza’s borders and the transfer of reconstruction materials to the PA and UN in order to bypass and weaken Hamas. But the overseers – and true decision-makers – will be Israel. For example, it will get a veto over who supplies the massive quantities of cement needed. That means much of the donors’ money will end up in the pockets of Israeli cement-makers and middlemen.

But the problem runs deeper than that. The system must satisfy Israel’s desire to know where every bag of cement or steel rod ends up, to prevent Hamas rebuilding its home-made rockets and network of tunnels.

The tunnels, and element of surprise they offered, were the reason Israel lost so many soldiers. Without them, Israel will have a freer hand next time it wants to “mow the grass”, as its commanders call Gaza’s repeated destruction.

Last week Israel’s defence minister Moshe Yaalon warned that rebuilding Gaza would be conditioned on Hamas’s good behaviour. Israel wanted to be sure “the funds and equipment are not used for terrorism, therefore we are closely monitoring all of the developments”.

The PA and UN will have to submit to a database reviewed by Israel the details of every home that needs rebuilding. Indications are that Israeli drones will watch every move on the ground.
Israel will be able to veto anyone it considers a militant – which means anyone with a connection to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Presumably, Israel hopes this will dissuade most Palestinians from associating with the resistance movements.

Further, it is hard not to assume that the supervision system will provide Israel with the GPS co-ordinates of every home in Gaza, and the details of every family, consolidating its control when it next decides to attack. And Israel can hold the whole process to ransom, pulling the plug at any moment.

Sadly, the UN – desperate to see relief for Gaza’s families – has agreed to conspire in this new version of the blockade, despite its violating international law and Palestinians’ rights.

Washington and its allies, it seems, are only too happy to see Hamas and Islamic Jihad deprived of the materials needed to resist Israel’s next onslaught.

The New York Times summed up the concern: “What is the point of raising and spending many millions of dollars … to rebuild the Gaza Strip just so it can be destroyed in the next war?”
For some donors exasperated by years of sinking money into a bottomless hole, upgrading Gaza to a super-max prison looks like a better return on their investment.

– Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.jonathan-cook.net. (A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.)

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Posted by on Oct 29 2014 . Filed under Articles, Commentary . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “How Israel is Turning Gaza into a Super-max Prison”

  1. Stan Qgoldman

    No tears for terrorists. Using funds to build tunnels and to make missiles while their population suffers is the hallmark of murderers. To fight using schools
    , hospitals and residences shows their cowardly, sick mindset. These terrorists are interested not in the salvation of their people but the death of anyone including their own people. The problem rests with the donor nations that are giving funds to terrorists. Do you really believe they will use the money to benefit their people ? No…not at all. They will lead their people to one thing and one thing alone…more death and destruction.

  2. Jacobo

    Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto

    same place
    different time
    while the world stands by
    genocide
    live

  3. Abraham Paz

    No country in the world would permit an entity as Hamas to launch rockets against his territory

  4. Calvin Cork

    You are right Stan in your comment and Israel cannot take security risks on its southern border when you have Arab/Islamist terrorists running the show. Egypt, the largest Arab country, has also now realised this.

  5. Martin O'Brien

    About 80% of the current residents of the Gaza Strip are Nakba refugees/exiles or descendants of Nakba refugees/exiles. Their right to return to their homes and possessions and neighbourhoods is fundamental and inalienable, both in International Law and by any standards of civilised behaviour. This right, together with the same right of four-to-five million other Nakba exiles, has been constantly thwarted by Israel and world leaders, in order to keep Israel “Jewish”. Naturally, if these exiles returned to Israel and exercised their right to govern their country, Israel would not continue to be the partner of The West in its many crimes. Neither Israel nor the West want this to happen.

  6. Anonymous

    I don’t think I would lay down and let a bulldozer run over me to satisfy an illegal country tear my home down, destroy my crops, steal my land, murder my wife and imprison my children just because Zionazis demand it. I would do my level best to take you out with whatever I have at hand, be it rockets, or rocks.
    In fact, my last breath would be to condemn you to hell for what you are doing to my country.

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