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Monday, 4 August 2014

Israel mows the lawn

Mouin Rabbini

In 2004, a year before Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, Dov Weissglass, √©minence grise to Ariel Sharon, explained the initiative’s purpose to an interviewer from Haaretz:
The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process … And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with … a [US] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress … The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.

In 2006 Weissglass was just as frank about Israel’s policy towards Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants: ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.’ He was not speaking metaphorically: it later emerged that the Israeli defence ministry had conducted detailed research on how to translate his vision into reality, and arrived at a figure of 2279 calories per person per day – some 8 per cent less than a previous calculation because the research team had originally neglected to account for ‘culture and experience’ in determining nutritional ‘red lines’.

This wasn’t an academic exercise. After pursuing a policy of enforced integration between 1967 and the late 1980s, Israeli policy shifted towards separation during the 1987-93 uprising, and then fragmentation during the Oslo years. For the Gaza Strip, an area about the size of Greater Glasgow, these changes entailed a gradual severance from the outside world, with the movement of persons and goods into and out of the territory increasingly restricted.

The screws were turned tighter during the 2000-5 uprising, and in 2007 the Gaza Strip was effectively sealed shut. All exports were banned, and just 131 truckloads of foodstuffs and other essential products were permitted entry per day. Israel also strictly controlled which products could and could not be imported. Prohibited items have included A4 paper, chocolate, coriander, crayons, jam, pasta, shampoo, shoes and wheelchairs.

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