13 Inconvenient Truths About What Has Been Happening in Gaza
The cacophony that accompanies every upsurge in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can make it seem impossible for outsiders to sort out the facts. Recent events in Gaza are no exception. The shrillest voices on each side are already offering their own mutually exclusive narratives that acknowledge some realities while scrupulously avoiding others.
But while certain facts about Gaza may be inconvenient for the loudest partisans on either side, they should not be inconvenient to the rest of us.
To that end, here are 13 complicated, messy, true things about what has been happening in Gaza. They do not conform to one political narrative or another, and they do not attempt to conclusively apportion all blame. Try, as best you can, to hold them all in your mind at the same time.
1. The protests on Monday were not about President Donald Trump moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and have in fact been occurring weekly on the Gaza border since March. They are part of what the demonstrators have dubbed “The Great March of Return“—return, that is, to what is now Israel. (The Monday demonstration was scheduled months ago to coincide with Nakba Day, an annual occasion of protest; it was later moved up 24 hours to grab some of the media attention devoted to the embassy.) The fact that these long-standing Palestinian protests were mischaracterized by many in the media as simply a response to Trump obscured two disquieting realities: First, that the world has largely dismissed the genuine plight of Palestinians in Gaza, only bothering to pay attention to it when it could be tenuously connected to Trump. Second, that many Palestinians do not simply desire their own state and an end to the occupation and settlements that began 1967, but an end to the Jewish state that began in 1948.
2. The Israeli blockade of Gaza goes well beyond what is necessary for Israel’s security, and in many cases can be capricious and self-defeating. Import and export restrictions on food and produce have seesawed over the years, with what is permitted one year forbidden the next, making it difficult for Gazan farmers to plan for the future. Restrictions on movement between Gaza, the West Bank, and beyond can be similarly overbroad, preventing not simply potential terrorist operatives from traveling, but families and students. In one of the more infamous instances, the U.S. State Department was forced to withdraw all awards to students in Gaza after Israel did not grant them permission to leave. Today, official policy bars Gazans from traveling abroad unless they commit to not returning for a full year. It is past time that these issues be addressed, as outlined in part in a new letter from several prominent senators, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
3. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is an authoritarian, theocratic regime that has called for Jewish genocide in its charter, murdered scores of Israeli civilians, repressed Palestinian women, and harshly persecuted religious and sexual minorities. It is a designated terrorist group by the United States, Canada, and the European Union.