by Hugh Fitzgerald
Those 250 “global artists and writers” who deplore the “devastated health care system in Gaza” appear to believe that Israel is somehow at fault. They are wrong.
“Long before the global outbreak of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm the already devastated health care system in Gaza, the UN had predicted that the blockaded coastal strip would be unlivable by 2020,” their online letter said.
Well, we are almost halfway through 2020. Has that U.N. prediction come true? Is Gaza now “unlivable”? It doesn’t look that way. See, in Part 1, the description of some of the goods and services available in “unlivable” Gaza, including what is on offer at its three shopping malls.. Has its health care system been so “devastated” that it can’t handle the coronavirus epidemic? We don’t know, because Gaza is one of the handful of places in the world that has been least affected by the coronavirus. Where else has there been not a single reported coronavirus death? Out of 195 countries, only Greenland (a quasi-country, bellowing to Denmark), and a handful of small islands in the middle of the Pacific. That’s it.
Who has been helping the Gazans? Israel has donated thousands of PPE (masks, gloves, hospital gowns) to the Strip. It has also delivered medical items for others, including at least one shipment of 50,000 masks that came from WHO. Since May, Gazan factories have been manufacturing PPE – one factory alone has become a net exporter of masks and gowns, turning out 150,000 masks a week; for these masks made in Gaza, Israel is now the chief customer.
“With the pandemic, Gaza’s almost two million inhabitants, predominantly refugees, face a mortal threat in the world’s largest open-air prison,” it added.
The pandemic is a “mortal threat” in Gaza? This is hysteria. By late May, there have still been no coronavirus deaths in Gaza, and only two among the Palestinians in the West Bank. Did anyone bother to inform the 250 co-signers of this letter that there is still not the slightest sign of such a “mortal threat”?
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas started controlling the enclave.
The co-signers of that letter refer to an “Israeli blockade.” But why do they make no mention of Egypt’s blockade of Gaza, which is at least as severe as that imposed by Israel? That would never do; it would only confuse people; blame must be put, and kept, on Israel alone. Are these “global artists and writers” prepared to condone Egypt’s blockade while condemning that of Israel? Why not?
And what about that Israeli blockade, again? It’s easy to forget how limited is that blockade. Those “global artists and writers” will never admit that Israel’s blockade of Gaza does not include medicines, medical equipment, or any other form of humanitarian aid. So let’s keep reminding them.
“Well before the ongoing crisis, Gaza’s hospitals were already stretched to breaking point through lack of essential resources denied by Israel’s siege. Its health care system could not cope with the thousands of gunshot wounds, leading to many amputations,” the artists said.
Why do Gaza’s hospitals have a “lack of resources”? It had nothing to do with Israel. It is the leaders of Hamas who, ever since they came to power in Gaza in 2007, chose to steal from their own people massive sums that might have been spent on medical equipment and hospitals. Just two of those former leaders of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal and Moussa Abu Marzouk, have each amassed a fortune of at least $2.5 billion, according to both Arab and American sources. Some reports suggest that Meshaal alone may have stolen as much as $5 billion. Other Hamas leaders, such as Ismail Haniyeh, have fortunes in the tens of millions, while his successor Yahya Sinwar only has a few million (but give him time, he’s new at the job), and beneath that top level, an estimated 600 Hamas millionaires are now living in Gaza. That grand theft is the first, and most important reason, for the lack of a decent medical system.
The second reason is the choice that Hamas has made to plow so much money into its terrorist activities. The thousands of rockets that have been hurled into Israel from Gaza cost a great deal. Also costly have been the tunnels that Hamas has built from Gaza into Egypt and Israel. Recently the Egyptians announced that in the past five years they had destroyed more than 3,000 of those tunnels, each of them at least 3 kilometers long and 30 meters deep; tunnels this long and this deep cost at least $2 million to build. The total cost, then, for the tunnels running from Gaza to Egypt must have been $6 billion. Israel reports that it has destroyed several dozen elaborate terror tunnels extending from Gaza to Israel; it estimates their total cost as between $60 and $100 million. If you add it all up — the amounts stolen by Hamas leaders for their own benefit, and what Hamas has spent on thousands of rockets it has hurled into Israel (600 rockets hit Israel in just the first week of May 2019), on the 3,000 tunnels Hamas built from Gaza to Egypt, and on the dozens of tunnels going from Gaza into Israel, you arrive, as the lowest possible estimate, at a figure of more than $12 billion. How many PPE, how many ventilators, how many ICU beds, how many new hospitals could have been provided the people of Gaza had their leaders not chosen to enrich themselves, and to carry on an expensive terror war against Israel?
“Reports of the first cases of coronavirus in densely-populated Gaza are therefore deeply disturbing,” they said.
No, “reports of the first cases of coronavirus in Gaza” are not “deeply disturbing,” but in fact, heartening. Where else in the world have there been similar reports of no deaths from coronavirus? Just Greenland, just those Pacific islands. And the partial sealing off of Gaza from the outside is chiefly responsible; it has had the effect of severely limiting the spread of the virus into the Strip.
The “global artists and writers” need to be set straight on a number of things. Let’s go through them again, one by one.
First, there is no “siege” of Gaza. The Israeli “blockade” is far from total. It is intended to prevent Hamas from obtaining certain items that can have a military use. It has never applied to medicines or medical equipment. Israel does not blockade humanitarian aid — medicine, food, medical equipment . In just one week in April, for example, Israel sent 88 tons of its own humanitarian aid to Gaza. During the pandemic, Israel has sent thousands of test kits and PPE (masks, hospital gowns, gloves); it has donated and delivered more such aid to help Gazans fight the pandemic than has any other country.
Second, the only items that are blockaded by Israel are those that have a potential military use. That includes such “dual-use” items as cement. Cement can be used to build civilian housing. But it can also be used to build bunkers, terror tunnels, rocket emplacements. It is for that reason that cement is one of the main items Israel keeps out of Gaza.
Third, Israel has trained Palestinian doctors and nurses both to recognize, and treat, the coronavirus. Israeli doctors from Sheba Medical Center have been training Palestinian medical personnel from Gaza at the Erez Crossing; other Gazan doctors have been brought to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon for such training, and some have received training in still other hospitals in Israel. No other country has been training doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel in Gaza in the treatment of patients with the coronavirus. This Israel-Gazan cooperation and coordination was hailed as “excellent” by the U.N.’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov. The “global artists and writers” should take note that it is Israel, the object of their hysteria and hatred, that is providing the training, and the Palestinians who are receiving it, one more example of the largely unsung help Israel has extended to the people of Gaza.
Fourth, Gaza is not an “open-air prison,” but a place with shopping malls, luxury car dealerships, rooftop restaurants, and seaside villas. 5,000 Gazans are permitted to work in Israel. When there is relative calm, thousands more will be admitted as workers. They are not being held in an “open-air prison.”
Fifth, the sorry state of Gaza’s health care system has nothing to do with Israel. It is the result of the greed of Hamas leaders who have stolen billions of dollars, and of the choices those leaders made in spending billions more on weapons and terror tunnels. At least $12 billion has either been stolen or misspent on war-making; that money could have paid for everything the people of Gaza needed for their health care — medicines, medical equipment, medical personnel, and well-equipped hospitals.
The “global artists and writers” don’t want to hear any of that. Their minds are made up. They refuse to think things through. They fail to note that there have been no coronavirus deaths in Gaza, that Gaza is still “livable” in 2020 (despite those endless predictions that “by 2020, Gaza will be unlivable”), and that Israel has been doing its best to help the people of Gaza, who have been repeatedly betrayed by their own thieving leaders, during this pandemic. These “global artists and writers” exhibit, at best, a palpable want of sympathy for Israel, and at worst, some of them – though they would of course indignantly deny it – display a hatred that is pathological.
For this is what they demand:
“We back Amnesty International’s call on all world governments to impose a military embargo on Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law.”
Were such a worldwide military embargo on Israel to succeed, that would be equivalent to a death sentence for the Jewish state. It will never happen. But those who have signed this ignorant and vicious letter themselves deserve to undergo something that disrupts their comfortable careers – a siege, a blockade, a boycott, an embargo – whatever you think would, under the circumstances, be the most fitting.
First published in Jihad Watch.