Someone asked for me to update people about the crisis going on in the Gaza Strip. I can’t definitively state what is going on right now, but if people would like a background to the recent history of the Gaza Strip, one can read my article and interview last year with the Red Cross’s Director for the Middle East about the humanitarian and medical crisis caused by Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
In short: Israel proclaimed Independence in 1948 from the former British Mandate of Palestine. The 50-50 split of the Mandate by the United Nations became more of a 2/3 to 1/3 split in favor of Israel. Egypt occupied Gaza while Jordan controlled the West Bank. In 1967, Israel simulatenously defeated five Arab nations in the Six Day War and occupying (illegally) East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. The illegal occupation and building of settlements on this land continues to this day.
The Palestinian Authority was formed in the 1990s as part of the Oslo Peace Process. After the death of Palestinian Liberation Organization founder, Yasser Arafat, in the early 2000s Mahmood Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat unified the Palestinian movement for independence, and his death opened the chance for a split between Palestinians. That happened in the 2006 parliamentary election, when Hamas (an offshoot of the Egyptian fundamentalist group the Muslim Brotherhood) fairly won an internationally observed election against the non-religious Fatah Party of Abbas and Arafat. In response, the West cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority starving it of salaries to pay its government workers. Economic chaos ensued. And Hamas, idiotically, chose to shoot comically inaccurate missiles into Israel.
Israel (which pledged to end the occupation) had “withdrawn” from the Gaza Strip before 2006. In reality, it meant that the settlements were shutdown, but there was an aerial and naval blockade…. there was no real independence for the Strip. Egypt, which controls Gaza’s other border, also closed its gates because it felt that Hamas would encourage the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This makes Egypt the most despised Arab nation in the Middle East as hundreds of thousands of Gazans are cut off from food and supplies by their own “Arab brothers.”
This invasion began after a Hamas ceasefire with Israel ended last month, and hundreds of Gazans have died due to the misrule of Hamas and Isareli bombings. Hamas is deluded in thinking it can prevail in a conflict with Israel like Hezbollah did. Hezbollah is far better run, and while Hamas is kind of a joke militarily.
To be fair, Hamas did fairly win elections against Fatah which had grown corrupt. Putting sanctions on a country for electing someone you don’t like is not a way to encourage democracy in the Middle East. Hamas had a reputation for being quite clean and running efficient social welfare programs like Hezbollah. My understanding is that it became corrupt as well after winning elections.
I would encourage readers to check out Robert Fisk’s work for the Independent. He is a British Middle East correspondent who has covered the region for decades including Lebanon’s civil war, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and even interviewed Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Independent – Robert Fisk’s Columns