Tuesday, December 30, 2008

good fences make good neighbors

You may have seen on the news that the Israelis have been active recently in bombing the shit out of the Gaza Strip. This is the Israeli response to Palestinian militants continually firing rudimentary rockets over the border into Israel, which has caused injuries, a few deaths, and some terror.

For me, the Gaza Strip is something I always heard about, but never really conceptualized in any detail. Sure, I had a rough idea what its political significance was, where it was located, etc. But now that I've done a bit of research, I've gained a more refined idea of what the Gaza Strip really is.

First, here's a map:

As you can see, it is roughly rectangular, roughly 25 miles long and 4-7 miles wide, bordered on 2 sides by Israel, on one side by Egypt, and on the other side by the Mediterranean. If you looked at this map from a geographical view alone, without bringing in any political or demographic considerations, the territory here might appear to be a nice section of beachfront. Perhaps the locale for some fancy resorts, or a rather largish coastal retreat for an investment banker.

Sadly, no. The coastal border has no port, and is tirelessly patrolled by Israeli gunboats. The three land borders are bounded by 30ft walls that look like this:

There's an airport in the southeast corner. Here's a picture of it:

You might notice a few, er, gaps in the runway there. Those are from bombs. No plane can land there or has been able to land there for many years.

You may ask, how do people ingress and egress this place, the Gaza Strip? Short answer: they don't. Although there are a handful of (highly militarized) border crossings, these are usually closed. Up until recently, the Israelis allowed supply trucks to cross into Gaza to allow food and medical supplies in amounts sufficient to keep Gazans from dying in large numbers. On November 5, this practice was drastically curtailed. According to this article in the London Review of Books, during the last two months 90-95% of the scheduled humanitarian shipments into Gaza have been stopped. An average of roughly 12 trucks per day have been allowed to cross into Gaza.

Did I mention that 1.5 million people live in Gaza? They are roughly 99% Arab Muslims. Unemployment is 50% and rising rapidly. Even before the recent blockade, 20% of children suffered from "chronic malnutrition" and 45% were found by a Johns Hopkins study to be "anemic". What might these figures be now that only 5-10% of the usual supplies are being allowed in? No one knows for sure, but it's a good bet that lots of people are starving.

Apart from any questions of how the Israelis might best handle the situation given that they certainly need to provide for their own security, given all of the facts above, how can the Gaza Strip be classified as anything other than a giant concentration camp?


Gleemonex said...

eeesh. I had no idea it was that bad. You know, this is one of those problems -- really the whole Israeli-Palestinian thing -- that I just flat out DO NOT UNDERSTAND. I have no idea whose side I'm supposed to be on, and it just seems like such endless, totally pointless misery and suffering on all sides.

HHL said...

agreed. and it's only been this way for a couple thousand years.

it's obviously not right that the Israelis have to live in constant fear of rockets hitting their homes, people exploding at bus stops and cafes, etc.

but rounding up all the arabs, forcing them to live in a pen, and then slowly starving them to death doesn't appear to be quite the right answer.

as far as these folks constantly lobbing missiles over the fence, to paraphrase Chris Rock: i ain't sayin' it's right, but i understand.

Gleemonex said...