Middle East Monitor / December 22, 2020
Politicians are portraying Palestine in terms of a state of emergency, while avoiding any public recognition of the fact that colonialism has created permanent instability there that is exacerbated whenever humanitarian needs are amplified.
Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza is once again the subject of a petition, signed by 24 members of the European Parliament. Calling upon Israel to end the blockade, the petition states, in part, “The Israeli government has to end its siege of Gaza now, and WHO should make sure that Palestinians, whose healthcare system is collapsing, have access to decent healthcare.”
The coronavirus pandemic forms the premise behind this renewed plea to Israel, which will not be heeded. Indeed, as long as the Palestinian people’s humanitarian needs are highlighted only in terms of temporary, albeit lengthy, exceptions, such as during the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians are merely accepting that such deprivation stems from the normalised colonial occupation, from which the violations originate.
Two weeks ago, Gaza ran out of coronavirus testing kits which cannot be supplied by the Palestinian Authority, as it has a shortage as well. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned of the “collapse” of Gaza’s healthcare system if the virus spreads further in the densely-populated area.
Haaretz recently ran an article discussing how the pandemic has prompted Hamas leaders to negotiate with Israel. Even before Covid-19, and prior to the US withdrawal of financial aid for the Palestinian people, Hamas relied heavily on external aid to provide basic necessities within the enclave. For Israel, Gaza’s complete isolation is a bargaining platform, and one that it will use to grant the fewest possible concessions — if any at all —that have nothing to do with a political framework. No matter how much the term “negotiations” is thrown about, Israel intends to cripple Gaza permanently, and any concession that Hamas negotiates will come at a high price, even in terms of humanitarian assistance.
As well-intentioned as such pleas might be, there is no negating the fact that the situation in Palestine is not disseminated accurately, and the international community is to be blamed for this. The most prominent of the inaccuracies was that Gaza would be unliveable by 2020. How many times has Gaza been on the brink of collapse, according to international rhetoric, only for the phrase to be shelved temporarily while humanitarian aid makes its way back into the spotlight to portray Palestinians as thriving under difficult circumstances?
Lifting the blockade should be tied to the Palestinian people’s political and human rights, not Covid-19. The international community has forced a situation upon Palestinians where their rights are not recognised, even at crucial junctures such as this. Lifting the blockade because of the pandemic is not an unequivocal assertion highlighting the forced deprivation orchestrated by the Israeli government. When the pandemic is over, Gaza’s restrictions will once again be subject to two-state diplomacy, relegated to being a topic which the international community knows it will only raise occasionally to save face when it comes to human rights rhetoric. For the UN, the EU and their institutions, Gaza is an important commodity in terms of extending the two-state rhetoric and so it must be left to battle the political consequences of the blockade on its own.
Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America