Above photo: Palestinians flee to safety as the Israeli military attacks the Shejaiya neighborhood between Gaza City and the Israeli border. Ashraf Amra.
Israel’s bombing of the besieged Gaza Strip must be met with an “urgent and comprehensive military embargo,” the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee stated on Sunday.
Israel has bombed Gaza every night for the past 12 days in response, or so it claims, to incendiary balloons flown from the territory. Those balloons have caused fires on agricultural land in southern Israel.
Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.1 million are refugees, some of them from the lands just on the other side of the Gaza boundary fence. Israel denies them their right to return, enshrined in international law, while encouraging Jews worldwide to emigrate to Israel.
Gaza has been under a devastating blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt for the past 13 years.
Israel has faced and has paid little consequence aside from Palestinian resistance in the form of mass protests, rocket fire and incendiary balloons.
Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are deprived of basic human rights under the siege.
Coupled with repeated Israeli military offensives, the siege has eroded the functioning of the health system while Gaza’s authorities cope with the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside of quarantine centers in the territory.
Health authorities on Monday confirmed four cases in the same family in Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza’s central region.
Authorities declared an immediate 48-hour lockdown in hopes of thwarting community transmission.
The infection was brought to Gaza by a member of the affected family who had recently visited a hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, the health ministry said.
The health ministry said it would hold Israel responsible for any escalated military aggression during the current state of emergency in Gaza.
#Breaking| The Ministry of Health: The occupation state of ‘Israel’ will be responsible for the consequences of any aggression it starts against the #Gaza strip during this difficult time. #Covid19 pic.twitter.com/6UgTfw9X4k
— Quds News Network (@Qudsn_en) August 24, 2020
Israel’s siege has also sharply increased poverty and aid dependency in the territory has grown ten-fold.
The bleak environment in Gaza has driven many of its young people to despair.
Nearly half of Gaza’s population are children under the age of 15. Most households are moderately to severely food insecure with unemployment rates in the territory among the highest in the world.
Gaza’s children have already lived through multiple Israeli military campaigns.
A Qatari envoy is reportedly planning to visit Gaza this week to prevent another escalated confrontation.
A senior Hamas official told the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz that the incendiary balloons won’t stop unless Israel significantly eases the siege.
“I belong to the ranks of senior academics in Gaza and this weekend I couldn’t bring food for my children, so you can understand what happens to the weaker population,” the unnamed official said.
Gaza’s sole power station stopped generating electricity last week after Israel halted fuel supplies in an act of collective punishment over the incendiary balloons launched from the Strip.
Collective punishment is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – a war crime.
Currently, households in Gaza have three to four hours of electricity per day on average.
A week since Gaza’s power plant shut down following Israel’s ban on entry of fuel into Gaza, Al Amir, an ice cream factory, reports sales are down to 1/6 of what they were. “Ice cream is to freezers as fish is to water,” says the CEO, estimating losses at ~60,000 USD & counting. pic.twitter.com/HWOx19Yk4A
— Gisha גישה مسلك (@Gisha_Access) August 24, 2020
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee noted in its statement on Sunday that the “new wave of Israeli bombings of Gaza coincides with the sixth anniversary of Israel’s 2014 massacre.”
More than 2,250 Palestinians, including 550 children, were killed during that 51-day offensive.
An independent commission of inquiry formed by the United Nations investigated Israel’s conduct in Gaza in 2014 and stated its concern that “impunity prevails across the board” when it comes to rights violations committed by Israeli forces.
The commission added that the “persistent lack of implementation of recommendations” by previous investigators and various UN bodies towards accountability “lies at the heart of the systematic recurrence of violations.”
Instead, Israel has only been rewarded with normalized relations with “despotic Arab regimes,” as the boycott national committee put it. Those regimes include the UAE, which recently formalized relations with Israel.
That development was applauded by UN Secretary-General António Guterres:
— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) August 13, 2020
The UAE-Israel agreement was also welcomed by Nickolay Mladenov, the secretary-general’s Middle East peace envoy:
I welcome the @POTUS @MohamedBinZayed, @netanyahu agreement. It stops Israeli #annexation plans, which the #UN has consistently called for. I hope it will create opportunities for Israeli and Palestinian re-engagement. The UN will work with all for dialogue, peace and stability.
— Nickolay E. MLADENOV (@nmladenov) August 13, 2020
With those plaudits came statements of hope for re-engagement in “meaningful negotiations” towards a two-state solution.
Though without having to pay any price, it is hard to see why Israel would see any reason to stop proceeding as usual.
That means meeting any Palestinian resistance to decades of oppression with lethal force.
It means continuing with de facto annexation of West Bank land through confiscation and settlement construction.
It means making life so miserable for Palestinians that many who can leave do just that – even if it costs them their lives.
And it means profiting from the situation by marketing weaponry as “field-tested” on Palestinians to the very countries that instead of sanctioning Israel, purchase its war and surveillance technologies.
As the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said, the complicity of Western government such as the US, UK and the European Union allows Israel’s “crimes against a captive civilian population” in Gaza to proceed with impunity.
The group is calling for popular pressure on governments to impose military embargoes on Israel. It is also encouraging intensified academic and cultural boycott campaigns, as well as campaigns targeting corporations that enable and profit from Israel’s crimes.
For the long-suffering Palestinians in Gaza, a return to the status quo – as UN and Qatari officials seem keen to secure – is not an option.