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Palestine and Israel

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Is Israel’s Blockade Causing a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza?

June 5th 2011

Palestine Topics - Gaza aerial shot 2011

Hamas would have the world believe that Gaza does not receive necessary humanitarian supplies due to Israel’s blockade.

Though Hamas attempts to assert that Israel is making Gaza into the world’s “largest open-air prison,” the facts paint a completely different story. In 2010, both the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) publicly reported that there were no shortages of food or supplies in Gaza. Even when Hamas resumed bombarding Israel with mortars and rockets, Israel continued to provide humanitarian assistance, electricity, and even waste disposal to Gaza.

In April 2011, Mathilde De Riedmatten, ICRC Deputy Head of Sub Delegation in Gaza, announced that there was “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza … there are products [in supermarkets], there are restaurants and a nice beach.” She noted that the ICRC and IDF “coordinate the entry of goods into Gaza and the entry and exit of people … sometimes patients who are going to Israel to receive medical care.” In fact, over the first quarter of 2011 alone, Israel delivered a daily average of 5,000 tons of food, goods, fuel, and development assistance via its land crossings with Gaza. Moreover, in 2010, Israel authorized the exit of more than 18,000 Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment—everything from cancer chemotherapy to heart surgeries.

p>While Israel continues to supply necessary humanitarian supplies, the citizens of Gaza can now also move and trade freely with Egypt. On May 25, 2011, the Supreme Military Council—ruling Egypt since the overthrow of President Mubarak—officially opened the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza at Rafah, ending a four-year closure of Gaza’s only international border outside of Israel. Now Israel’s detractors, who accused Israel of blockading the Strip while ignoring Egypt’s closure of the border, can no longer use Israeli policy as justification for future blockade-busting flotillas to supply Gazans.

Life in Gaza is certainly difficult, but the situation there does not constitute the humanitarian crisis Hamas and the media have portrayed. This is largely because Israel has ensured that a steady supply of food and basic supplies reach the Palestinian people. With its border now open to Egypt, Gazans can also no longer claim to be under a total blockade and can procure the resources they need through the Rafah crossing. The concern now is whether Egypt will allow Hamas to exploit that opening to smuggle in weapons for use against Israel.

Cutting Edge commentator Mitchell Bard is the Director of AICE and the Jewish Virtual Library. His latest books are The Arab Lobby; Will Israel Survive?; and 48 Hours of Kristallnacht: Night of Destruction, Dawn of the Holocaust.

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