May they reap what they have sown

September 6, 2006

In News

By Gideon Levy

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 shelling, indiscriminately.

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

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 innocent civilians.

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