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Is Gaza actually an open-air prison? - opinion - The Jerusalem Post

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Source: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-770411

Image of Is Gaza actually an open-air prison? - opinion - The Jerusalem Post

Any problems in Gaza are not because it is some sort of open-air prison but rather because of the hatred of the Hamas leadership for both Jews and the Arab residents of Gaza.OCTOBER 27, 2023 12:40UMANITARIAN AID crosses from Egypt to Gaza, at the Rafah crossing, this week.Hamas belligerence has led to an Egyptian and Israeli attempt to control what comes into Gaza.Does that make it an open-air prison?(photo credit: Palestine Red Crescent Society/Reuters)Israel is in the midst of a war thrust upon it by the atrocious massacre of Israelis by Arabs from Gaza on October 7, 2023.Some anti-Israel media reports have tried to justify the barbarism by arguing that Gaza was a “large open-air prison”.Despite the irrelevance, as nothing can justify these hideous acts, it may be interesting to examine this assertion about Gaza.The Gaza Strip is a small, narrow piece of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, a mere 365 square kilometers (half the size of NYC), with a population that has exploded over the last century to approximately 2 million people, 2 million people whom absolutely no one wants, and who have been used as pawns by the Arab leadership.Conditions in the Gaza stripThe 1947 UN Partition Plan of the Land of Israel would have made Gaza part of the proposed Arab state west of the Jordan River. However, the Arabs rejected the partition plan, launching the 1948 War of Independence.At the conclusion of the war Gaza was occupied by Egypt, which refused to annex it or offer its residents Egyptian citizenship, i.e.Gaza was part of no country.That was the situation until 1967.Thus, from 1948 to 1967, conditions in the Gaza Strip were harsh.Egypt essentially isolated it, refusing to integrate either the locals or the 200,000 refugees, leading to severe economic conditions. In 1955, a member of the United Nations Secretariat, James Baster, wrote in the Middle East Journal that “For all practical purposes it would be true to say that for the last six years in Gaza over 300,000 poverty-stricken people have been physically confined to an area the size of a large city park.”In 1967, as a result of the Six Day War that was thrust upon Israel, the Gaza Strip came under Israeli jurisdiction and Jewish Israelis settled in it alongside the Arabs who were there.As one example of a goodwill gesture, Israel helped Gazans plant approximately 618,000 trees.Between 1967 and 1982, the economic growth in Gaza averaged a staggering 9.7% per annum, bringing an era of economic prosperity.But rather than continue to prosper economically under Israeli rule, the Arabs launched the bloody first intifada in 1987, resulting in hundreds of Jewish and Arab deaths.In 1994, following the signing of the Oslo Accords, civilian control of most of Gaza was given to the corrupt and murderous Yasser Arafat and his PLO, henceforth known as the Palestinian Authority (PA), and in 2000 the Arabs launched the bloody second intifada.AdvertisementTerrorism prevented passageDue to the Intifada, neither Israel nor Egypt allowed unfettered passage into or out of the Gaza Strip, with Egypt keen to isolate its problematic Sinai Islamist insurgents from the Gazan terrorists.IN AN unprecedented and – with hindsight – disastrous move, in 2005 Israel unilaterally fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip, forcibly expelling over 9000 Jews from 21 towns.Even more surprising, Israel withdrew from the southern edge of the Strip known as the Philadelphi Route, handing over full border control to Egypt.Thus, began a new era – and since 2005, Gaza has been fully self-governing. European and Arab aid money flowed in and the stage for a flourishing Middle East Singapore was laid.In early 2006, elections were held in Gaza, and Hamas won a plurality.For the next year and a half there was internecine fighting resulting in over 600 Gazans killed by their own, and by mid-2007 Hamas had full control over the Strip.The “innocent” residents should have known what they were getting – Hamas never hid their terrorist nature and their charter calls for the complete destruction of Israel.Since taking power, Hamas has refused to recognize any prior agreements signed between Palestinians and Israel and they have ruled over the inhabitants of Gaza with a reign of terror.It has been downhill – under the rule of Hamas, unemployment increased, civil rights were eliminated, and missiles and terror attacks on Israel increased, leading to repeated mini-wars with Israel.The ongoing Hamas belligerence has indeed led to an attempt by Egypt and Israel to control what comes into Gaza.Does that make it an open-air prison? As will be seen, if it is a blockade, it is not a very successful one.One of the arguments is that Israel and Egypt restrict movement of the Gazan residents in and out of the territory.On September 19, 2023, Palestinian TV broadcast a program called Emigration from Gaza – what no one talks about, which claimed that in the past 15 years, about a quarter of a million young Gazans had left for abroad.The bottleneck that has prevented more people from leaving is Hamas bureaucracy and the hesitancy of other countries to accept them.Just last month (Sept 2023) there were violent clashes involving hundreds of young Gazans outside the sole travel agency in Gaza City authorized to issue visas to Turkey.In a prison, people might try to leave, but it is usually not possible; and if they do, do they return to visit?According to news reports, in July 2022, over 15,000 expatriates returned to the Gaza Strip for the feast of Eid al-Adha.They were excited to visit and reported that the markets were full with plenty of livestock for the festival. There seems to be an awful lot of traffic for a prison!The medical situation is often discussed, with claims that the “blockade” leaves Gazans with poor medical care and lack of supplies.Yet drugs that Hamas wants, it is apparently quite capable of getting.On Oct 7, thousands of terrorists streamed into southern Israel, many of them high on Captagon, colloquially known as “the drug of Jihad,” or “the drug of ISIS”, popular among ISIS terrorists for its leading to hyperarousal and hyperstimulation.Additionally, the medical stats in general are quite surprising.The maternal mortality rate is 20 deaths/100,000 live births, better than Ethiopia (267), South Africa (127), Cyprus (68) and even the US (21).Infant mortality is 14.87 deaths/1,000 live births, far better than Nigeria (55) or India (30), and comparable to Egypt (17) and Venezuela (14).And life expectancy at birth (75.66 years) is comparable to its neighbors – Egypt (74.7), Syria (74.5), and Saudi Arabia (76.9). They have more physicians per capita (2.71 physicians/1,000 population) than Lebanon (2.21), Egypt (0.75), or even the US (2.61) and similar to Saudi Arabia (2.74).What Gazans are particularly good at is reproducing.Over 13% of girls are married by age 18.In 2000, a New York Times article said it well: “Gaza’s extremely high fertility rate… is comparable to...Uganda’s.But unlike those countries, almost all of the babies survive… .”In other words, the birth rate, which has somewhat moderated in recent years, is like the third world, but the health care is far better. Indeed, it has been said that Gazans view the demographic route as a way to settle the score with Israelis.This has resulted in a staggering 40% of the population under age 14, among the highest in the world, and only 3% over 65.AN IMPORTANT civilian asset is concrete.Is that getting into the “jail?” In 2021, Hamas claimed to have built 500 kilometers (311 miles) worth of tunnels under Gaza, almost half the size of the NYC subway system.It is sophisticated and wired with electricity and reinforced by concrete.Building supplies thus seem to be entering this “jail”, and workers are busy.Unfortunately, it is not a civilian transport system but a terror network. The claimed shortage of housing has nothing to do with a blockade – the quantity of building materials, the cost of manpower and capital that Hamas invested could have built many new sports facilities.And, unlike a jail, there are nice neighborhoods.Gazan CNN journalist Ibrahim Dahman describes where he works: in a “beautiful, upscale neighborhood in which all press offices and foreign and international institutions are located.” Does not sound jail-like.On some issues there is nuance and two sides.In the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, there is only good and evil.Some of those who want to introduce nuance claim that Israel has created an open-air prison.It is simply not true. Despite there being some degree of blockade by Egypt and Israel, and the claim that this has led to shortages in food and medicine, within that small area of Gaza there are thousands of rockets, unlimited machine guns and ammo, and enough cement for miles of underground tunnels.There seems to be no scarcity of weapons.If that money had been spent on the needs of the people it could have been used to purchase MRI machines, computers for schools, and more than enough food for the entire population.Any problems in Gaza are not because it is some sort of open-air prison but rather because of the hatred of the Hamas leadership for both Jews and the Arab residents of Gaza.Is Gaza an open-air prison?In a way it is.There are many restrictions placed on the residents – what they can wear, who they can associate with, what they can think, etc.However, this is not because of Israel or any other external element but rather because of the oppressive, evil, Hamas regime that has been strangling all life in Gaza for 16 years.The writer is a professor of neuroscience at Bar-IIan University.

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