Gaza’s only power plant closed on April 16th, more than two months ago. Even when it is going full blast it cannot provide enough electricity for the needs of Palestinians in Gaza. Photo by Mahmud Hams, AFP
June 20, 2017
Prior to the extreme electricity cuts in Gaza, the ongoing violation was treated as a daily tribulation. Now that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have collaborated in plunging the enclave into near total blackout, cautious reports have reached the media in such a way that they echo the preferred Zionist narrative that this is all down to an “internal political dispute”.
The UN’s concoction of the phrase, playing directly into Israel’s pocket, will suit the international community, Israel and the PA well. If less emphasis is placed upon the premeditation of the cutting of the electricity supply to the already besieged enclave, there is more chance of this latest violation becoming an appendage to the previous shortages, which gradually became accepted as a way of life and rarely elicits any condemnation from the international community. Over the years, the list of violations committed by Israel and the PA against the Palestinians in Gaza reads like a descriptive essay rather than being exposed as part of Israel’s gradual genocide of the Palestinian people.
Normalisation of such deprivation is the main reason why the imposed restrictions of just two to three hours of electricity a day have not generated any momentum of protest against Israel and the PA. The illegal blockade has crippled every aspect of life in Gaza. Politically and psychologically, the biggest ramification of this implosion has been the marginalisation of the Palestinian experience in the territory, despite abundant information and awareness. However, the dominant approach consists of a collective effort to dehumanise Gaza into an experimental zone where people do not matter; as one Israeli observer has put it, the territory is Israel’s “lab.” for military and security experiments. One of the desired results of all of this as far as the PA is concerned would be a weakened Hamas. This is most likely to backfire on the PA, which has increased its obsequious obeisance to colonial demands since Mahmoud Abbas’s meetings with US President Donald Trump.
Yet, like the electricity crisis, Abbas’s current political rampage in Gaza also has precedents. It must be remembered that in the days prior to the brokered end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the US expressed its preference for subjugating Gaza to PA rule. Abbas might relish the fantasy. Palestinians, however, despite criticism of Hamas, are unlikely to swap what started as a resistance movement for an entity that flaunts its dependency at every possible opportunity. For Israel, it might be the prelude to different forms of aggression, given its increasing rhetoric of “escalating tensions” while refusing to commit to specific details.
From a humanitarian perspective, the intended repercussion of cutting electricity supplies to almost nothing is to destroy what remains of normal life in Gaza. For some segments of society, it can translate into death due to the inability of hospitals to function properly, below the level of the already limited care provided. It is an abomination that the international community will not even consider changing its narrative to reflect the nature of such consequences as a direct result of colonial violence and complicity.
Politically, Israel and the PA are emphasising their collaboration to bring about a complete blackout of Gaza. The UN and its affiliated organisations are validating such actions through normalisation of human rights violations and will continue to determine Palestine’s narrative at an international level. For the sake of convenience, Gaza’s experience will only be disseminated internationally in a grotesque spotlight for different spectators. The extent of that viewing will be determined in accordance with what Israel and the PA determine; the latter is relishing its transient untouchable status.
As unlikely as it is for the international community to influence change in Gaza, it is also equally obvious that the PA’s current gloating over Gaza will backfire. If international isolation continues as a result of complicity, Palestinians will avail themselves of the opportunity to define their own political terms from within, to the exclusion of the PA. It may be able to enforce an electricity blackout, but the PA will not be able to enforce a political blackout, even with Israeli assistance.
Palestinian media says some 500 tons of diesel to be trucked in daily after Israel reduces electricity supply to the Strip
BY Stuart Winer, Times of Israel
June 20, 2017
Egypt will provide hundreds of tons of fuel oil for the Gaza Strip’s only power station, a measure expected to ease the ongoing electricity crisis in the Palestinian enclave, local media reported Tuesday.
The Safa news agency, which is close to Hamas, citing an unnamed official, said that 500 tons of fuel a day will be trucked through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, enough to bring the power station back on-line.
The power station was expected to return to operation by Wednesday, however, even at full capacity it cannot supply all of Gaza’s electricity needs.
Trucks will be able to enter Gaza even if the Rafa crossing is closed to other traffic, the official said. The report did not say how the cost of the fuel would be covered. Earlier this month a Hamas delegation traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials.
Last week Arab media reported that Egypt offered Hamas more freedom at its border and much-needed electricity in exchange for the terror group agreeing to a list of security requests that included, among other things a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, the cessation of weapons smuggling into the Sinai Peninsula, and information on the movement of militants into Gaza via underground tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported.
Safa did not report if the fuel oil truck supplies were dependent on Hamas agreeing to any of the Egyptian demands.
The fuel development comes a day after Israel, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, began reducing the amount of electricity it provides Gaza. Supplies were to be gradually dropped until they matched only what the PA was prepared to pay for after earlier this year it said it would fund little more than half the amount it had paid for in the past.
Israel had been supplying 125 megawatt-hours to Gaza and has been the Strip’s main source of power for over two months after the sole power station ran out of fuel in April, leaving the Hamas-ruled territory with just four to six hours of power a day.
On Tuesday, Israel apparently further reduced the supply by another 8 megawatt-hours, the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority said on its website, adding that it was informed that the reductions would continue daily until they reach the desired cut requested by the PA.
Qatar has in the past stepped in to buy fuel for the power plant, but has so far showed no intention of coming to the Strip’s rescue in the current crisis.
In April the PA told Israel that it would begin to pay only NIS 25 million ($7 million) of the NIS 40 million ($11 million) it has been paying monthly for power to Gaza. Israel at the time supplied 125 megawatt-hours to Gaza, around 30 percent of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day.
Israeli peace activists release a sky lantern, one of many being released in the hope of illuminating the sky over Gaza as they protest Israel’s reduction of power supply to Gaza, Ashkelon, Israel, June 19, 2017. Photo by Amir Cohen/ Reuters
The power cuts, as well as a number of other steps taken by the PA since last month, are aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the Strip, or begin footing the bill itself. Hamas seized control of Gaza from PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in a violent 2007 takeover.
The PA’s new strategy to squeeze Hamas out of power, which also includes cutting government salaries to Gazans and a massive reduction in medical aid supplied to the Strip, coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hamas’s violent takeover of Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence minister Avigdor Lieberman have both argued in recent days that Israel is not party to the internal Palestinian dispute between Hamas and the PA that has led to the power crisis in Gaza.
Last week Hamas warned that Israel’s decision to accede to Abbas’s request and reduce Gaza’s already paltry power supply would have “disastrous and dangerous” results and could lead to an outbreak of violence.
Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas, which openly seeks the destruction of Israel, would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if it didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.
The prospect of even lengthier blackouts in Gaza has raised fears of a new upsurge in violence. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
However, both Israel and Hamas have said they are not interested in fourth round of conflict.
Last Wednesday the United Nations along with 16 Israeli and international NGOs asked Israel not to reduce the power to Gaza, warning it could lead to a “total collapse” of basic services there.
The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, said Gaza’s hospitals, water supply, waste water treatment and sanitation services have already been dramatically cut back since mid-April, and depended almost exclusively on a UN emergency fuel operation.
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.
Lebanon’s Tyre port crammed with fishing and tourist boats. Israel lifted its two month siege of Lebanon in 2006 when European navies took on the job of partrolling the coast to keep out arms’ shipments. Photo September 15th 2015 by Hassoun.
Analysis Granted, the Palestinians’ political schism is worsening the Strip’s humanitarian crisis. But it is Israel that denies freedom of movement by land, sea and air to over 2 million Gazans
Jack Khoury, Haaretz premium
June 14, 2017
The dispute that broke out this week over the Gaza Strip’s electricity crisis, following the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to reduce power to Gaza in line with the Palestinian Authority’s reduction in payments, shows just how blind the public and media are to what’s been happening in the Strip in recent years.
Media reports focus mainly on security issues and developments within Hamas, such as the election of Yahya Sinwar and Ismail Haniyeh to head its military and political wings, respectively. They also stress that the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are the ones exerting pressure on Gaza – not Israel, not its blockade, not the control it exerts over more than 2 million Gazans.
But anyone who has been following the situation closely knows that Israel’s decision Sunday night to reduce the electricity it provides Gaza won’t have much of an impact on the anger, disappointment and despair gripping most Gazan residents.
A hard life made harder: in Gaza City a street vendor with battery lights and a wood fire tries to keep going. AFP photo
Granted, the Palestinians’ political schism and the power struggles between the PA and Hamas are worsening Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. Both sides have lost any sense of shame. They are sabotaging Palestinian national interests and the supreme goal of independence and self-determination, to which every Palestinian aspires. They are focused more on their own power and survival than on forging a unified strategy for achieving their people’s legitimate goals.
Nevertheless, Israel is a sovereign state. And as such it bears a greater responsibility than do the Palestinians, who haven’t yet achieved their freedom.
Israel’s claim that the borders are closed mainly due to security considerations might be logical if the Palestinians in either the West Bank or Gaza had another option for gaining freedom of movement, such as by sea or air.
Israel has the right to protect itself, like any country that has no diplomatic ties with a neighbour. But it doesn’t have the right to completely deny freedom of movement to more than 4.5 million Palestinians.
For proof that Israel has another option, look at Lebanon. It is home to Hezbollah, which Israel considers a bitter enemy. Hezbollah’s resources are far greater than those of Hamas, including the ability to launch rockets capable of hitting anyplace in Israel. It also has a much deeper hinterland than Hamas, thanks to neighbouring Syria.
The Palestinians can’t go anywhere unless Israel consents to every step.
Nevertheless, Israel hasn’t imposed either a naval blockade or an aerial blockade on Lebanon. Instead, its security services cope with the threat. Usually, they rely on technology and intelligence sources; sometimes Israel launches airstrikes inside Lebanon or Syria to protect what it deems its security interests; and sometimes it even goes to war against Hezbollah, as it did in 2006.
But when it comes to the Palestinians, and especially the residents of Gaza, Israel’s behaviour is completely different. The Palestinians can’t go anywhere unless Israel consents to every step. And ever since Hamas seized control of Gaza, sparking the internal Palestinian schism, Israel has maintained a status quo based on minimizing contact between the West Bank and Gaza.
Even though Israel assails Abbas for his lack of control over Gaza and claims it can’t make a peace deal with him because of that failing, it would actually be quite happy to keep the situation as it has been for the last few years, as long as its deterrence holds and its security isn’t harmed.
Israeli politicians and army officers frequently say Hamas has been deterred since 2014 and isn’t interested in another war. Even Hamas itself says it isn’t looking for another full-scale confrontation. But Hamas has also shown no flexibility over a formula that could enable the PA to resume control of Gaza, while the PA and Abbas understand they have no possibility of regaining control of Gaza in the current situation.
All three players have found a comfortable formula that enables them to conduct day-to-day business within the status quo and continue playing for time, while dealing from time to time with arising crises.
The worsening electricity shortage in Gaza is apparently just one more crisis that the parties will have to deal with in the near future. Most likely, it will be temporarily solved, once again, by an infusion of international aid.
Thus, Hamas and the PA will continue their spat, and Israel will continue with its policies, on the assumption that the Palestinians know quite well how to cope with suffering. The only question is, for how long?