[News] Israel using electricity to blackmail Gaza

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 10 11:10:37 EST 2018


  Israel using electricity to blackmail Gaza

Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> - 9 
January 2018


Israel has restored supplies of electricity it sells to the Gaza Strip 
which it cut in June, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis.

But it is openly blackmailing residents of the besieged territory, which 
still receives far less electricity than it needs, including to run 
life-saving medical services 
and sanitation 

Israel says Gaza won’t get more power without progress on the release of 
Israelis detained in Gaza – a use of basic humanitarian needs as 
bargaining chips in gross violation of international law.

On Monday, Israel began supplying 120 megawatts to Gaza, which means 
that Gaza’s two million residents may now receive up to six hours of 
electricity per day, followed by an outage of 12 hours.

This came after the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud 
Abbas asked Israel to restore the supply 
<http://english.wafa.ps/page.aspx?id=VNgm4ea95898632280aVNgm4e> amid a 
faltering reconciliation deal 
with rival Hamas, which has ruled in Gaza over the last decade.

Five of The Electronic Intifada’s contributors in different parts of 
Gaza said they had noticed slight to modest improvements in the 
situation since Monday.

Rami Almeghari <https://electronicintifada.net/people/rami-almeghari>, 
who lives in central Gaza’s Maghazi refugee camp, said that the 
connection time had risen to six to eight hours, compared with two to 
four previously.

Hamza Abu Eltarabesh 
<https://electronicintifada.net/people/hamza-abu-eltarabesh>, who lives 
in western Gaza City, observed, “The change is very slight. In fact we 
didn’t feel it.”

    Punitive cuts

Any increase marks an improvement only by the dire standards of Gaza.

“Even under ‘ordinary’ conditions, for years the amount of electricity 
available to Gaza residents has only met about half of actual demand,” 
according to Gisha <http://gisha.org/updates/8480>, an Israeli human 
rights group that monitors the siege of Gaza.

Gisha notes that Gaza’s sole power plant relies on fuel purchased from 
either Israel or Egypt and that additional electricity supplied over 
lines from Egypt “has been sporadic due to unstable security conditions 
in the region.”

That “ordinary” situation got considerably worse last year, after Abbas 
and Israel implemented a series of punitive measures aimed at forcing 
Hamas to give up power in Gaza.

In mid-April Gaza’s power plant stopped functioning 
after emergency fuel supplies funded by Turkey and Qatar ran out and a 
dispute over charges between the PA and Hamas meant that no more fuel 
was being purchased.

Within weeks, the Red Cross warned 
that Gaza’s health system was on the brink of “systemic collapse.”

In June, Israel tightened the noose by sharply cutting the electricity 
it supplies to Gaza at the request of Abbas’ authority 
<http://www.gedco.ps/posts/details/5242> from 120 megawatts to just 70.

    Health “catastrophe”

By July, Gaza’s electricity supply plunged to an all-time low 
– just 90 megawatts of the estimated 400-500 it needs daily – and a 
month later hospitals were warning 
of “catastrophe.”

Hospitals postponed surgeries 
because they could not keep the power on long enough to run life support 

Rights groups said that even if the cuts had been requested by the PA, 
Israel, as the occupying power, could not wash its hands of the situation.

“Israel controls the borders, the airspace, the waters of Gaza, so 
Israel has an obligation that goes beyond merely responding to a request 
from Palestinian authorities,” Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir stated 

Sixteen human rights organizations wrote to Israel’s attorney general 
denouncing the cuts <http://gisha.org/press/7830> as a clear violation 
of international humanitarian law.


Given the silence and complicity of the so-called international 
when Israel implemented the cuts in June, it is no surprise now that 
Israel – assured of impunity – continues to violate its legal 

COGAT <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/cogat> – the bureaucratic 
enforcement arm of Israel’s military occupation, which tries to brand 
as a “humanitarian” body – is attempting to blackmail the civilian 
population in Gaza over further electricity supplies.

In a statement 
Monday, COGAT said Israel had agreed to restore the 120 megawatts it was 
supplying before June, which the PA would have to pay for, but that 
“humanitarian issues are not one sided.”

COGAT said that Israel would not consider selling an additional 100 
megawatts “before humanitarian issues such as the return of the bodies 
of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul and the return of additional Israeli 
citizens held in Gaza are discussed.”

Israel’s attempt to use electricity as a negotiating chip for Israelis 
detained in Gaza 
is a blatant violation of its legal obligations as an occupying power 

The Fourth Geneva Convention requires 
Israel to use “the fullest extent of the means available to it” to 
ensure supplies of food and medical services, and to maintain public 
health and hygiene in the occupied territory. These are services for 
which an adequate supply of electricity is absolutely essential.

Such blackmail could violate the Fourth Geneva Convention’s prohibition 
on collective punishment 
<https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/380-600038> and the 
prohibition in international law on siege warfare 
against a civilian population.

The International Committee of the Red Cross already stated in 2010 
that Israel’s blockade of Gaza that began a decade ago “constitutes a 
collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations 
under international humanitarian law” and that the “whole of Gaza’s 
civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no 

    Sheer hypocrisy

The family of Hadar Goldin 
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/hadar-goldin>, an Israeli 
occupation soldier who went missing during Israel’s 2014 invasion of 
Gaza, slammed the Israeli government 
<https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5067645,00.html> for 
increasing the electricity supply to Gaza at all. The family remains 
determined that two million people – half of them children – should be 
made to suffer until they learn news of their son’s fate.

Following Goldin’s disappearance, the Israeli army went on a three-day 
killing spree 
in Gaza that left 225 Palestinians dead and thousands of homes damaged 
or destroyed.

COGAT even supplied a quote 
from Leah Goldin, the missing soldier’s mother, stating that “every 
mother wants to visit her son’s grave and the inability to return Hadar 
Goldin for his burial is considered a crime in Islam.”

Neither she nor Israeli occupation officials at COGAT noted the irony – 
not to say the sheer hypocrisy of such a statement – given that Israel 
systematically withholds the bodies of Palestinians killed by its 
forces, often in suspected extrajudicial executions 
<https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/8765>, a policy that human 
rights defenders denounce as a “severe violation of international law.”

Israel has withheld some bodies for decades 
burying them in its so-called “cemetery of numbers” where families 
cannot visit to mourn their loved ones.

In November, Israel seized the bodies of five fighters from the 
resistance group Islamic Jihad killed in the detonation of a tunnel 
along the Gaza-Israel boundary.

According to human rights defenders, Israel is illegally using the 
bodies as bargaining chips 

While Palestinians in Gaza will welcome any easing of the electricity 
siege, the situation remains dire despite Monday’s increase in supply.

As 2018 started, the World Health Organization said 
that Gaza’s health system remained “on the edge of collapse.”

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