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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

The twin strategies of violence crippling Gaza

Hospitals are denied resources as Palestinian protesters are systematically maimed

Palestinian medics carry a wounded youth during clashes after Friday protests near the border between Israel and Gaza Strip. Mohammed Saber / EPA
Palestinian medics carry a wounded youth during clashes after Friday protests near the border between Israel and Gaza Strip. Mohammed Saber / EPA

In the nine months since March, 170 Palestinian protesters have been gunned down by Israeli snipers. Contrary to Israeli claims, they were not storming the border and committing acts of violence, but merely demanding their most basic rights and freedoms. And the pain doesn’t stop there for a people subjected for decades to a brutal occupation. For all those killed by Israeli bullets, many more have sustained life-altering injuries as a result of the army’s policy of shooting demonstrators in the legs and ankles. A new report by Doctors Without Borders warns that thousands are at risk of infection because Gaza’s hospitals cannot adequately treat the wounded. With even rudimentary healthcare sorely lacking, many with treatable injuries will die. Meanwhile, sniper fire has left at least 1,000 facing amputations and disability. In all of these cases it is the families of the victims who will be forced to struggle with the loss of a loved one or to care for those who have been maimed. Most, however, lack the financial resources to manage such a burden.

The killing of defenceless Palestinians this year demonstrates the physical violence perpetrated Israel’s military, but the economic violence carried out against those who live on the Gaza strip is equally profound. Israel claims its punishing blockade is necessary to kneecap Hamas, the militant group that has ruled the territory since 2007. But with some $3.4 billion of economic activity eliminated annually by the occupation according to the World Bank, it is Gaza’s two million residents who suffer most.

And yet in an exclusive piece for The National, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt poured scorn on the Palestinian leadership, accusing it of stifling the promise of its people. In doing so he paid no mind to Israel’s stranglehold on Palestinian territory, the theft of Palestinian lands, restrictions imposed on Gaza’s labour market and the vital resources Israel routinely blocks. It is clear that the US, previously accused of self-interested inaction, is now actively destroying Palestinian hopes for liberty and independence. The Trump administration has already moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and slashed vital aid to Palestinians.

It is Israeli occupation, not poor Palestinian leadership – despite its many flaws – that smothers the Palestinian economy. “How many more [Palestinians] could be working for Microsoft, Google and Israeli technology companies right now?” wrote Mr Greenblatt. The thousands of Gazans dying from treatable wounds, or facing lifelong disability, are testament to the absurdity and callousness of such remarks.