There are multiple players influencing life in Gaza, but the humanitarian situation there is largely the result of Israel’s restrictive access policy.
Travel permit requests go unanswered for months, even for those seeking urgent medical care or to visit ailing relatives. Hundreds of traders have been blocked and slapped with travel bans that curtail their ability to do business. Absurd new restrictions were introduced, preventing students and aid workers from traveling with laptops.
Over the past few months, many unlikely characters seem to have started to care that Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis. Except it is not exactly compassion for the people facing the crisis driving the discourse as much as a warning call about the dangers lurking in their desperation.
Israel’s chief of staff, decorated generals, and even its decidedly not-dovish education minister, Naftali Bennett, have said that when Gaza suffers, Israelis are endangered. America is also concerned. In a “brainstorming session” held at the White House last Tuesday with representatives of the international community, US President Donald Trump stated that the worsening conditions in Gaza “require immediate attention.” If it weren’t so tragic, it might be comical considering that these are the same characters pulling the strings and deciding Gaza’s fate.
Most Israelis and many Americans think Israel left Gaza in 2005, when it pulled its troops and settlers from the territory. Few realize that Israel still controls almost every aspect of life there through its hold over movement — from the state of the economy and civilian infrastructure, to which family members a person can hope to visit and what kinds of medical treatment one might hope to never need to reach. Even in our modern era, control over borders, over sea and airspace, is everything. It determines the quality of your water, your education system, your markets, and even the quality of your relationships with your loved ones.