One of the greatest misconceptions of Israel’s siege on Gaza is that it has been eased, that Gazans can import, export, buy, sell, and trade whatever and whenever they please. But the seemingly packed supermarket shelves are nothing more than a “façade of normalcy”, says journalist Rana Baker in her latest for Al-Monitor — a façade Gazans are not falling for, as evidenced by the latest calls for boycott.
The siege and blockade on Gaza began in 2006 as a set of rigid sanctions that were hardened during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip to prevent Palestinians from maintaining or even rebuilding the territory’s infrastructure. Multiple attempts by international activists to break the siege by boat brought widespread pressure against Israel (and Egypt) to open Gaza’s borders. Israel eased the blockade in 2010, but fundamental necessities such as construction materials and various foods were still arbitrarily prevented from entering.
It was later discovered that top Israeli officials had actually calculated the minimum number of food calories necessary to keep Gazans above malnourishment.
Israel allegedly eased its siege on Gaza following its eight-day assault on the coastal enclave last November as part of its truce agreement.
But is “eased siege” an accurate term? The answer is no. As Baker expertly points out, siege does not necessary imply starvation. It does, however, keep the besieged population from becoming self-dependent. Instead, the besieged become a major consumer market to the besiegers.
A closer look at supermarket shelves in Gaza reveal this very phenomenon. Products made in Israel have quite literally been pumped into Gaza since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded to the mounting pressure resulting from Israel’s deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara.
This has a broad range of implications. First, Palestinians in Gaza are still not permitted to import goods, materials, or ingredients necessary for their own domestic product manufacturing. This means there is little to nothing available for export. Gaza’s economy consequently remains below a sustainable threshold and its infrastructure remains right on the brink, just where Israel intends for it to stay.
Second, the imports Gazans are permitted invariably boost Israel’s economy.
Third, this boost to Israel’s economy suggests that the siege, a component of the greater occupation, is profitable.
How disturbing is it that the occupied are forced to patronize the very occupiers that isolate them from all associated freedoms? Very.
But Gaza’s farmers and fishermen are certainly not oblivious to this. Earlier this week, dozens launched several days of action to call for boycotts against Israeli corporations flooding Gaza’s market with Israeli- and settlement-grown produce.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 57,405 truckloads of food, produce, and other material entered the Gaza Strip through Israeli-run checkpoints in 2012. Gazans were only allowed to export 210 truckloads. This is in contrast to 49,283 and 268 exports in 2011.
Though import levels are on the rise in Gaza, it is all part of the siege design. Palestinians are increasingly limited in what they can produce, market, and export, and Israel’s economy gets a boost.
For a comprehensive overview of Gaza’s siege, read Rana Baker’s report for Al-Monitor published February 8, 2012. For information on the latest boycott calls against Israeli produce in Gaza, read Joe Catron’s report for the Electronic Intifada also published February 8, 2012.