Collectively Punished

Israeli blockade leaves the Gaza Strip in the dark.

Much of the Gaza Strip is in darkness tonight as Israel continues to block shipments of industrial diesel fuel into the besieged territory. Israel began the blockade last week, in retaliation to Palestinian rockets fired from within Gaza. In a statement issued today, the Israeli Defense Ministry claims that despite the blockade, Gaza is receiving enough power from Israeli and Egyptian grids to operate at 75 percent capacity.

Within Gaza, however, the story is different. Most of the strip has been hit with “a total power blackout,” according to Sameh Habeeb, a photojournalist and peace activist living in Gaza. He adds that Israel has also announced a comprehensive closing of already-blocked borders, making any delivery of fuel to Gaza’s sole power plant impossible.

Habeeb describes the collective mood within the territory as “an amalgamation of fear, sadness and frustration.” He goes on to say that within Gaza, “no one is allowed to move or travel. We are always awaiting another bad day.” Despite efforts by the Free Gaza Movement with the cooperation of the Popular Committee Against Siege (PCAS), an international committee of activists and politicians that has been sending siege-breaking boats into the territories, Israel has refused to end its policy of collective punishment. It was only at the behest of Tony Blair, former British prime minister and present envoy of the Middle East Quartet, that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed to allow for a “limited resumption” of supplies into Gaza. Article 33 of the Geneva Convention explicitly forbids collective punishment, yet Gaza’s 1.5 million citizens are in darkness, paralyzed with fear at this very moment. When is the world going to organize in support of the millions of innocent Palestinians held captive by Israeli policy? When are Americans going to demand that our government stop bowing to lobbies, and revoke Israel’s carte blanche in the Middle East?