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Why does Israel see Gaza as an “existential threat”?

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In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, in which more than 2000 Palestinians were killed by Israel, a basic question is addressed “Why is Gaza such a problem for Israel?”

Published in: News & Politics
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Why does Israel see Gaza as an “existential threat”?

  1. 1. Why does Israel see Gaza as an “existential threat”? Peter Larson Chair, National Education Committee on Israel-Palestine
  2. 2. Outline • Where is Gaza? • What is an “existential threat”? • Hamas as a military threat • How did it come to this? – a bit of history • Gaza today • Who lives there • Deteriorating situation • The rights of refugees • Why is Gaza a special problem • Conclusions Ahlar Arab Hospital in Gaza – supported by Anglican Church
  3. 3. A little geography reminder….. Haifa Acre
  4. 4. Definition: Existential threat That which challenges the very existence of a person or group of people Examples of “existential threats” • Thermonuclear war • Catastrophic climate change • Genocide • Desertification • invasion
  5. 5. Military capability Israel Gaza Pop’n 8 million 1.8 million GDP $300 Bn (US) $6.6 Bn Per capita GDP $36 K (us) $6 K Armed forces (active and reserve) 600,000 10,000 Attack aircraft 600 0 Helicopter gunships 191 0 Self Propelled Guns 176 0 Tanks 3780 0 Light armoured vehicles (LAV) 9436 0 Naval ships 110 0 Nuclear weapons 80 – 100 0 Rockets ??? 5000? Source: Janes Military Aircraft, CIA world fact book, Israeli sources, USA Today
  6. 6. Damage incurred during Operation Protective Edge Israel Gaza Mortalities 64 mil’ry +6 civils 2160 Severely injured Infrastructure destroyed ??? hundreds of buildings, including hospitals, schools, medical clinics, power station, sewage pumping facilities, roads, etc. Left: Israeli examines a hole left by Hamas rocket
  7. 7. Gaza after “Protective Edge”
  8. 8. How did it come to this? - A bit of history Nov. 1947 – United Nations decides to divide Palestine in two in order to create a new State for Jews
  9. 9. UN Partition plan • Israel 56%, Arab state 43% •Jaffa Palestinian •Jerusalem to be international Post 1949 truce  Israel 72%  Jaffa Israeli  Jordan controls WB  Gaza smaller and under Egyptian protection  Jerusalem divided
  10. 10. The “Naqba” (Dec. ‘47 – Dec. ‘48)  Starting immediately after UN vote, in December ‘47, Jewish militias move to “liberate” Israel of Palestinians  by May 15th, 400,000 Palestinians expelled  the operation continues another 6 months - in total about 750,000 flee
  11. 11. About 100,000 fled to Gaza • After Jaffa, Gaza biggest Palestinian city • Relatively rich - Best agricultural land along the coast • The major agricultural products are strawberries, citrus, dates, olives, flowers, and various vegetables • Heading for safety to Egypt
  12. 12. Twenty years later, Israel military completes takeover of historic Palestine • 1967 – “the Six Day War” • defeats Jordan to take over the West Bank, (which it calls Samaria and Judea) • And defeats Egypt to take over Gaza
  13. 13. Where are the Palestinians today? 1. West Bank 2.4 M 2. Gaza 1.8 M 3. Israel 1.4 M 4. Refugees (Lebanon, Jordan, Syria)* 3.7 M 5. Diaspora 2.0 M Total 11.3 M * - there are also refugee camps in Gaza and the WB Israel 1.4 M West Bank 2.4 M Gaza 1.8 M
  14. 14. Gaza today Approximately 1.8 million Of whom • 1.2 million refugees • 600,000 “Gazans” • Total area 365 km2 • (15% of Ottawa) • Under almost complete Israeli blockade • Parched, but surrounded by rich farm land
  15. 15. Facts & Figures • 1,240,082 registered Palestine refugees • Eight camps • 245 schools with 232,384 pupils • Two vocational and technical training centres • 22 primary health centres • Eight community rehabilitation centres • Ten women’s programme centres Figures as of 1 January 2014 Source: UNRWA
  16. 16. Suffocating Gaza – The Israeli blockade’s effect on Palestinians Israel's military blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, an area of land just 40 kilometers long. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law
  17. 17. 03 September 2014 “Palestinian economic deterioration, which is largely rooted in the territory's occupied status, has resulted in weak growth, a precarious fiscal position, forced dependence on the Israeli economy, mass unemployment, wider and deeper poverty, and greater food insecurity.” NOTE: This report prepared before Operation Protective Edge
  18. 18. Trying to get out 65 years of fruitless negotiations 2006 Hamas elected • Hamas elected (76 of 132 members). • Hamas leaders in Gaza not allowed to come to Ramallah • Israel cut off relations, starts complete blockade • Economic conditions in Gaza deteriorate rapidly • Their issues completely ignored in “Peace negotiations” Hamas program • Dig tunnels to get out and get goods in • Send rockets into Israel • Israel responds: • Operation Pillar of Cloud • Operation Cast Lead • Operation Protective Edge
  19. 19. “Protective edge” Israeli attacks on Gaza focused on refugee camps This was also true in • Operation Cast Lead • Operation Pillar of Cloud
  20. 20. Where are the Palestinian refugees? • There are 5 million Palestinian refugees • Their right to return is supported by international law (and fairness) • But they are mostly distributed in 58 UN refugee camps in 3 different countries (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan) • They are not an effective political/military force • Israel hopes that they will “eventually’ be absorbed into their “host” countries
  21. 21. Why is Gaza special? Gaza is the biggest concentration of refugees (over 1 million) and they are still on Palestinian soil. They have no place to go… but back home But Israel doesn’t want to allow them to return Because they are not Jewish and if they return Israel will no longer be a “Jewish State” This is an existential threat to The Israel as a Jewish State
  22. 22. What are Israel’s options? 1. Exterminate the Palestinians in Gaza 2. Drive them out of Gaza  Militarily – by killing leadership  Economically - make Gaza unliveable  Diplomatically – by moving their refugee camps to Egypt 3. Say “sorry” and begin a process of truth and reconciliation
  23. 23. Until the refugees are accommodated, exterminated or dispersed, Israel will have a big problem on its hands
  24. 24. Conclusion • Gaza is an “existential threat” to the Jewish State of Israel • The threat lies in the 1 million Gazan refugees who want to return but can’t because they are not Jewish • The refugee camps in Gaza are the “flip side” of the “ethnically cleansed” State of Israel • Until this is resolved, the refugees in Gaza will continue to resist, and Israel will be obliged to continue to bomb and attack them. • Canadian values of fairness and human rights should impel us to push Israel towards a process of truth and reconciliation

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