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Why we talk about a Berlin airlift

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The great Sara Roy, who has examined her own Holocaust background so as to understand the occupation, writes in the Nation:

Hence, within the annexation (West Bank)/alien (Gaza Strip) paradigm, any resistance by Palestinians, be they in the West Bank or Gaza, to Israel’s repressive occupation, including attempts at meaningful economic empowerment, are now considered by Israel and certain donors to be illegitimate and unlawful. This is the context in which the sanctions regime against Gaza has been justified, a regime that has not mitigated since the end of the war. Normal trade (upon which Gaza’s tiny economy is desperately dependent) continues to be prohibited; traditional imports and exports have almost disappeared from Gaza. In fact, with certain limited exceptions, no construction materials or raw materials have been allowed to enter the Strip since June 14, 2007…

Gaza’s protracted blockade has resulted in the near total collapse of the private sector. At least 95 percent of Gaza’s industrial establishments (3,750 enterprises) were either forced to close or were destroyed over the past four years, resulting in a loss of between 100,000 and 120,000 jobs. The remaining 5 percent operate at 20-50 percent of their capacity.

There are many illustrations, but one that is particularly startling concerns changes in the banking sector. A few days after Gaza was declared an enemy entity [in 2007], Israel’s banks announced their intention to end all direct transactions with Gaza-based banks and deal only with their parent institutions in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Accordingly, the Ramallah-based banks became responsible for currency transfers to their branches in the Gaza Strip. However, Israeli regulations prohibit the transfer of large amounts of currency without the approval of the Defense Ministry and other Israeli security forces. Consequently, over the past two years Gaza’s banking sector has had serious problems in meeting the cash demands of its customers. This in turn has given rise to an informal banking sector, which is now controlled largely by people affiliated with the Hamas-led government, making Hamas Gaza’s key financial middleman. Consequently, moneychangers, who can easily generate capital, are now arguably stronger than the formal banking system in Gaza, which cannot….

The people of Gaza know they have been abandoned. Some told me the only time they felt hope was when they were being bombed, because at least then the world was paying attention. Gaza is now a place where poverty masquerades as livelihood and charity as business. Yet, despite attempts by Israel and the West to caricature Gaza as a terrorist haven, Gazans still resist. Perhaps what they resist most is surrender: not to Israel , not to Hamas, but to hate. So many people still speak of peace, of wanting to resolve the conflict and live a normal life. Yet, in Gaza today, this is not a reason for optimism but despair.

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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