Robert Wright at the Atlantic addresses “The mainstream media’s biased coverage of the Gaza blockade,” a wonderful headline if I ever read one, pointing out that the media have failed to explain the why’s of the Israeli siege. In the passage below, Wright, a humanist who is surely offended by this logic, gets at the inherent racism in the blockade– that Gaza’s 1.7 million Palestinians are a demographic threat to Israel’s self-conception.
The closest [New York Times reporters] Kirkpatrick and Rudoren get to a plausible reason for the export restrictions is in positing an Israeli fear of winding up “with responsibility for the impoverished enclave.” But even here they’re not putting nearly a fine enough point on it. Here’s the fine-point version:
Recall that a very plausible motivation for Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was to address “the demographic problem”–the fact that the number of Palestinians in the occupied territory, plus the number in Israel proper, was beginning to approach the number of Israeli Jews. That meant that if Israel’s aggressive settlement program eventually led to Israel’s absorption of the occupied territories, Israel wouldn’t remain a Jewish state unless it were an apartheid state–i.e., unless it continued to deny Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territories the right to vote. But once you remove Gaza from the equation, and define it as outside of the occupied territory, the math changes (though Gazans contend their territory is still, for practical purposes, occupied, since Israel controls the ports and airspace and the Israeli border and enters Gaza at will to kill Gazans). In this scenario–the divide and conquer scenario–the last thing Israel wants to do now is permit the sort of organic economic ties between Gaza and the West Bank that would make it easier to think of their Palestinian inhabitants as a single people.
The inevitable next step in this sequence is to explain to Americans what Jeff Halper and Mazin Qumsiyeh have documented, the pattern of quiet ethnic cleansing, in which Palestinians are forced into enclaves in the West Bank and the Negev so that more land is opened up for Jews. Gaza also served this function in 1948– a repository for unwanted Palestinians from Jaffa and Lydda, among other places. As I said, Wright is a humanist; and his path of inquiry will lead inevitably to the ideology of Zionism, and its contradictions in this era of Jewish history.