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Waging resource warfare on Palestine

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A Palestinian man reacts as a fire burns the only power plant supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip. Israeli shells struck the plant. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

A Palestinian man reacts as a fire burns the only power plant supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip. Israeli shells struck the plant. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Occupation comes in many forms. Alongside the brutality like that witnessed in Gaza during the summer of 2014 are less overstated but similarly debilitating methods by which Israel exerts control over the occupied territories. Occupation is a system of total control. Even as it is underwritten by shows of violent force, it has an administrative foundation with dire ramifications for people living under it. One element of the Zionist project is the restriction of resources.

During Israel’s most recent military campaigns in Gaza, a common refrain emerging from its defenders was that Palestinians were somehow deficient in tending the infrastructure and economy of the area, that Israel should be praised for supplying Gaza with electricity, and that without obedience, Gaza’s power should be cut. This argument implicates the obligations of Israel as occupying power under International law, but it is also heavily guided by myths about the occupation.

It is true that some electric power reaches Gaza through the state-owned Israel Electric Corporation. Other electricity comes via Egypt, and other still from the sole power plant in Gaza, the Gaza Power Generating Co.. Before we hand out ribbons for diplomacy and cooperation, however, it is also true that Israel has bombed the plant in Gaza not once but twice since that it was built in 2002. The first assault, in 2006, came as part of Operation Summer Rains, while the second, on July 29, 2014, was part of Israel’s summer of bombardment of the region.

When it is not being bombed, the plant, as explained in Sharon Weinberger’s 2009 IEEE profile, operates in a state of chronic undercapacity, with its Israeli-rationed diesel fuel supply available at less than half the quantity needed to fully power the installation. And repairing plant machinery, whether routine maintenance or parts damaged by Israeli bombs, requires Israeli administrative approval of each individual repair. The approval is not always forthcoming. In 2009, plant manager Rafiq Maliha said the halted nature of resupply was unworkable, noting “if you are running a power plant, you need a continuous flow of spare parts and consumables.”

Another myth that provides the foundation for placing blame at the feet of Gazans is one of ignorance or willful blindness—many of those who are critical of Palestinians for, to paraphrase, “building terror tunnels rather than factories” are quite possibly not aware that Gaza is under a siege that eviscerates the territory’s ability to construct. What’s more, Gaza’s industry is under regular assault by the Israeli military. Other basic necessities are restricted as well—United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk noted in 2013 that “up to 40 percent of Gaza’s population receives water only once every few days.” Fuel shortages, he offered, verge on “catastrophe.”

The realities of the siege, then, mean the feigned empathy and unasked-for advice is empty, even if it was honest in the first place. Palestinian industry is leveled with arbitrary inhumanity each time Israeli politicians decide they’d like to teach their prisoners a lesson, and the resources Palestinians in Gaza need to survive are denied with regularity.

Occupation By Permit

Sabotage of Palestinian infrastructure is mirrored elsewhere in the West Bank and Negev Desert by Israel’s selective supply and treatment of construction and energy projects there. Like would be construction initiatives in Gaza, construction in the other occupied territories are also not simply a matter of Palestinians’ deciding to build something and then doing it. Zionist land policy is historically ethnocentric, and for as long as Israel has existed been a stacked deck.

Often, questions of compliance hang for years over issues as basic as whether a village will be allowed to have electric light at nighttime. The Southern West Bank village of Imneizil, for example, has seen its solar power system, important to residents’ safety and quality of life, mired for years in threats of destruction from Israeli authorities. The village does not have access to the Israeli power grid, but its Spanish-funded solar power system was slated for destruction in 2012 because, according to Israeli spokesperson Guy Inbar, it represented “illegal or unco-ordinated (sic) activity”—it apparently did not have the proper permits.

That same year, the European Union denounced Israel’s destruction of aid projects in Area C of the West Bank, activity that is by no means isolated. Phoebe Greenwood, writing in The Guardian, described Imneizil’s particular lack of access to Israel’s power grid as typical for that part of the West Bank.

Documents provided by the Electricity Department of the Israeli Civil Administration, which has responsibility for overseeing electricity matters in the West Bank, assures readers that electricity is treated as “outside the conflict.” When the conflict completely captures domestic Israeli politics, however, and originates in dispossession, it is hard to see how any development could possibly exist independently. Sometimes, the overlaps are surreal.

An example: a planned solar field in the Negev Desert, championed by US-Israeli venture “BrightSource,” says that it aims by 2016 to produce green energy for “40,000 Israeli homes.” In late in 2013, “40,000” and “Negev Desert” found themselves also in the same sentence, then as the number and location of Bedouin Arabs (and Israeli citizens) placed on the table for ethnic cleansing by the Knesset.

When occupation and hostility to Palestinians seem to provide the life force upon which the far-right Israeli governing coalition is animated, any potential separation of resources and Zionism in the West Bank comes with that heavy grain of salt. And when Palestinians in Gaza are chided for their lack of self-improvement, the mirror should be turned squarely back at those supporting the repression. Resources are the archetypal tool of control, and, in character, Israel wields it unforgivingly.

Dan Massoglia
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10 Responses

  1. Donald
    Donald on August 22, 2014, 1:30 pm

    “that Israel should be praised for supplying Gaza with electricity, and that without obedience, Gaza’s power should be cut. This argument implicates the obligations of Israel as occupying power under International law, but it is also heavily guided by myths about the occupation.”

    I’ve even seen that argument in the NYT–not in op ed pieces, but in the news section.
    The rebuttal is pretty simple. Israel and Egypt keep the people of Gaza in a vast open air prison. They are under a blockade. If they didn’t allow for some goods and basic necessities (including electricity) to enter, they wouldn’t be running a prison camp. They’d be running a death camp.

    We don’t praise countries that have large numbers of political prisoners for not starving them to death. There are nearly 2 million political prisoners in Gaza.

  2. Kay24
    Kay24 on August 22, 2014, 2:02 pm

    This is pure evil. To deprive human beings of basic needs especially water and electricity is heartless and cruel. Bibi and the zios have shown this time and time again. They have not only STOLEN the water from Palestinians, but their occupation makes them have the power to deprive them of it.

    • Walid
      Walid on August 22, 2014, 2:11 pm

      Kay, I’m glad you asked about the water, here’s Palestine’s participation in the ice bucket challenge among that of others; you can’t say Palestinians aren’t good sports:

      • chocopie
        chocopie on August 22, 2014, 2:17 pm

        Good one!

      • Kay24
        Kay24 on August 22, 2014, 4:31 pm

        Wonderful! He is a sport indeed, and best of all he conveys with humor, the plight they are in regarding the control of water of their occupier.
        I hope this video is seen all over the world.

      • Walid
        Walid on August 24, 2014, 7:54 am

        Another Palestinian version of the challenge:

        Saturday, 23 August 2014
        “What does cold water have to do with us? It’s for some disease,” says a Palestinian who chose to douse himself with sand to raise awareness of human suffering in the ongoing Gaza conflict, instead of taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, a viral campaign that aims to spread awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
        “But we have Gaza’s children. And that is not what they feel,” the man says.
        “They be sitting in their homes, and suddenly it collapses… like this,” he adds, dumping a bucket of sand over his head.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid on August 22, 2014, 3:14 pm

    “UN agencies and countries donating financial aid to the Palestinians are demanding that Israel lift its blockade on trade and movement in to and out of the Gaza Strip as a precondition for any future reconstruction plan.
    The donors, led by Norway, are making the call because of the scale of physical destruction during Israel’s Protective Edge military operation in Gaza, which Robert Serry, a senior UN official, this week said would be about three times the extent of damage caused by Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, until now Israel’s most destructive war against Hamas.
    They want a relaxation of the current regime – under which Israel meticulously vets imports into Gaza of construction and other materials that it says might have dual-purpose use for military ends, such as building tunnels – because it would slow what is expected to be a massive rebuilding effort to a crawl.
    Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general for the UN Relief and Works Agency, said it would take 15 years or more to rebuild if the current regime were not relaxed.”

  4. concernedhuman
    concernedhuman on August 22, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Gaza counts cost of war as more than 360 factories destroyed or damaged

    Israel has destroyed every life line of gazans who were first crippled under siege of years. lives, live stock, livelihood and homes gone. many have become childless and many children orphan.

    And international community was observing quietly.

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on August 22, 2014, 5:58 pm

      “And international community was observing quietly.”

      Worse than that, the US was arming them, gave them more ammunition, and gave them that green light. We should be ashamed at the part our nation has played in this massacre and attempt to bomb Gaza to the stone age. Israel is an evil nation.

    • Kay24
      Kay24 on August 22, 2014, 6:06 pm

      I just read the Guardian article, and once again cannot fathom how a people can be so evil, so cruel, and can inflict such pain, death, and suffering, on a people they wield power over. This is inhumane, and to make women and children suffer so much shows a sadistic mind set. Some lessons the nazis taught them.

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