Gaza blockade stems from its ‘demographic’ threat to Jewish state — Wright

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.

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Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 8 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    Gaza is occupied because (in part) Israel “enters Gaza at will to kill Gazans)”. Well, that is insufficient proof of “belligerent occupation”. That’s merely war (or war-crime). USA enters Pakistan (and many other places) with drones, with special forces, with bombers (think Nixon in Cambodia). USA didn’t “occupy” but merely — (merely ?) — made war.

    However, the world still regards Gaza as occupied. Of that I am quite sure, though I’m not sure why I’m sure. I’m also sure that the world agrees that the settlements are illegal, etc. However, since “the world” never acts, it’s not very important what the world thinks or agrees or says.

    I/P is important, parochially, but man-made climate change is our problem, whether we or anyone addresses it or not, whatever Fox (Faux) News may say.

  2. mondonut says:

    Associating the blockade to a demographic threat only makes sense if the point of the blockade is to prevent Gazan emigration to the West Bank. Which it is not. The Israelis can prevent access to the West Bank in the absence of the blockade, as they are doing right now to those who leave Gaza through Egypt.

    • Donald says:

      The idea is to split Gaza off from the West Bank and keep the Palestinians divided both politically and on a personal level. What’s so difficult to understand about this? The blockade was originally meant to hurt the Gazans, thereby “proving” that Hamas rule brought poverty and rule by the PA (who were seen as more pliable) brought relative prosperity. And that’s part of the divide strategy. Hamas and Fatah are already at each other’s throats, but having Israel favor one side (and with US help, try to stage a coup which backfired) makes reunification less likely. Obviously neither the US nor Israel want to see Hamas unify with Fatah. The blockade impoverishes the Gazans, and maybe if they break under pressure they’d willingly join with Egypt. I’ve seen that suggested by some Israelis and/or their supporters. Then there would be 1.7 million fewer “demographic threats” for the Israelis to worry about. Then they only have to worry about how much of the WB they can steal without absorbing too many Palestinians. Perhaps they can shoved off onto Jordan, or so the thinking goes.

      • mondonut says:

        Donald says: Then there would be 1.7 million fewer “demographic threats”
        The essay states that the blockade “stems from” a demographic threat, not some loose association. So your theory is that the point of the blockade is to get Gaza to join to Egypt?

        • Donald says:

          I don’t really have a theory I’d push very hard–I just see what people have said, and what some pro-Israel types have said is that Gaza should link with Egypt and the West Bank (or what’s left of it after Israel takes what it wants) should link up with Jordan. Mainly, though, I think the blockade is intended to cause suffering and hardship for ordinary Gazans, as a way of discrediting Hamas. That’s hardly a secret. The long term political goal–well, I don’t think Israelis have shown any interest in seeing Hamas and Fatah reconcile. Quite the contrary. So logically they want two separate and weaker Palestinian entities. Whether the Israeli government has some long term plan I don’t know, so the notion that they might want Gaza to be annexed by Egypt is speculative, based on what I’ve seen some pro-Israel types suggest. (As they have also suggested that Jordan take over whatever portion of the WB Israel decides not to steal.) But it’s entirely possible the Israeli government has no long term plan, other than keeping the Gazans bottled up.

  3. piotr says:

    Blockade is indeed about separating Gaza as a “totally different entity” so Israel could annex West Bank without Gaza and thus preserving the “Jewish majority”. This is one reason why Israel wants to deport about 20,000 Palestinians from West Bank to Gaza, otherwise, why should they care?

  4. yourstruly says:

    what jewish nationalists refer to as a demographic threat is really a grand opening, one that has the potential to democratize the apartheid entity israel. democratize in the sense that apartheid south africa was democratized, once white only became one person one vote. in a related vein, today in the u.s. of a., democracy can’t help but be further advanced by the reduction to minority status of a heretofore dominant white population, forced by the circumstances of changing demographics to accomodate themselves to the demands of a newly emerging multicultural majority.

  5. Les says:

    If our media could name a single supporter of Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians who is not a racist, they would do so.