How Israel Is Turning Gaza Into A Super-max Prison
04 November 2014
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
It is astonishing that the
reconstruction of Gaza, bombed into the Stone Age
according to the explicit goals of an Israeli military
doctrine known as "Dahiya", has tentatively only just
begun two months after the end of the fighting.
According to the United Nations,
100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving
600,000 Palestinians – nearly one in three of Gaza's
population – homeless or in urgent need of
Roads, schools and the electricity
plant to power water and sewerage systems are in
ruins. The cold and wet of winter are approaching. Aid
agency Oxfam warns that at the current rate of
progress it may take 50 years to rebuild Gaza.
Where else in the world apart from
the Palestinian territories would the international
community stand by idly as so many people suffer – and
not from a random act of God but willed by fellow
The reason for the hold-up is, as
ever, Israel's "security needs". Gaza can be rebuilt
but only to the precise specifications laid down by
We have been here before. Twelve
years ago, Israeli bulldozers rolled into Jenin camp
in the West Bank in the midst of the second intifada.
Israel had just lost its largest number of soldiers in
a single battle as the army struggled through a warren
of narrow alleys. In scenes that shocked the world,
Israel turned hundreds of homes to rubble.
With residents living in tents,
Israel insisted on the terms of Jenin camp's
rehabilitation. The alleys that assisted the
Palestinian resistance in its ambushes had to go. In
their place, streets were built wide enough for
Israeli tanks to patrol.
In short, both the Palestinians'
humanitarian needs and their right in international
law to resist their oppressor were sacrificed to
satisfy Israel's desire to make the enforcement of its
occupation more efficient.
It is hard not to view the agreement
reached in Cairo this month for Gaza's reconstruction
in similar terms.
Donors pledged $5.4 billion –
though, based on past experience, much of it won't
materialise. In addition, half will be immediately
redirected to the distant West Bank to pay off the
Palestinian Authority's mounting debts. No one in the
international community appears to have suggested that
Israel, which has asset-stripped both the West Bank
and Gaza in different ways, foot the bill.
The Cairo agreement has been widely
welcomed, though the terms on which Gaza will be
rebuilt have been only vaguely publicised. Leaks from
worried insiders, however, have fleshed out the
One Israeli analyst has compared the
proposed solution to transforming a third-world prison
into a modern US super-max incarceration facility. The
more civilised exterior will simply obscure its real
purpose: not to make life better for the Palestinian
inmates, but to offer greater security to the Israeli
Humanitarian concern is being
harnessed to allow Israel to streamline an eight-year
blockade that has barred many essential items,
including those needed to rebuild Gaza after previous
The agreement passes nominal control
over Gaza's borders and the transfer of reconstruction
materials to the PA and UN in order to bypass and
weaken Hamas. But the overseers – and true
decision-makers – will be Israel. For example, it will
get a veto over who supplies the massive quantities of
cement needed. That means much of the donors' money
will end up in the pockets of Israeli cement-makers
But the problem runs deeper than
that. The system must satisfy Israel's desire to know
where every bag of cement or steel rod ends up, to
prevent Hamas rebuilding its home-made rockets and
network of tunnels.
The tunnels, and element of surprise
they offered, were the reason Israel lost so many
soldiers. Without them, Israel will have a freer hand
next time it wants to "mow the grass", as its
commanders call Gaza's repeated destruction.
Last week Israel's defence minister
Moshe Yaalon warned that rebuilding Gaza would be
conditioned on Hamas's good behaviour. Israel wanted
to be sure "the funds and equipment are not used for
terrorism, therefore we are closely monitoring all of
The PA and UN will have to submit to
a database reviewed by Israel the details of every
home that needs rebuilding. Indications are that
Israeli drones will watch every move on the ground.
Israel will be able to veto anyone
it considers a militant – which means anyone with a
connection to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Presumably,
Israel hopes this will dissuade most Palestinians from
associating with the resistance movements.
Further, it is hard not to assume
that the supervision system will provide Israel with
the GPS co-ordinates of every home in Gaza, and the
details of every family, consolidating its control
when it next decides to attack. And Israel can hold
the whole process to ransom, pulling the plug at any
Sadly, the UN – desperate to see
relief for Gaza's families – has agreed to conspire in
this new version of the blockade, despite its
violating international law and Palestinians' rights.
Washington and its allies, it seems,
are only too happy to see Hamas and Islamic Jihad
deprived of the materials needed to resist Israel's
The New York Times summed up the
concern: "What is the point of raising and spending
many millions of dollars … to rebuild the Gaza Strip
just so it can be destroyed in the next war?"
For some donors exasperated by years
of sinking money into a bottomless hole, upgrading
Gaza to a super-max prison looks like a better return
on their investment.
Jonathan Cook won the Martha
Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest
books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations:
Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East"
(Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's
Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website