If human rights groups were really concerned about human rights, they demand that the rulers of Gaza talk to Israelis rather than try to kill them.
Israel’s enemies accuse Israel of all sorts of things, real and imagined.
One of the most persistent accusations is that Israel has turned Gaza into an “open air prison”. This accusation has been leveled against Israel by Arab and Western commentators, political leaders, journalists and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch.
Are these accusations true? And if so, are they legit?
Freedom of movement
There are only two exit options for Gazans seeking to leave the territory: Israel’s Erez crossing and Egypt’s Rafah crossing. (An additional crossing for goods is controlled by Israel.)
There is no doubt that Israel and Egypt have restricted the movement of Gazans into their countries.
The result is that many Gazans have never left Gaza, and many others with pressing social, family, professional and medical needs have been unable to meet those needs.
But many accusers who condemn Israel for its restrictions fail to cite Egypt for its much tougher restrictions.
Many reports and opinion pieces that condemn Israel make no mention of the Egyptian restrictions, despite them being far more onerous than those imposed by Israel. For long periods, the Egyptian authorities sealed off the Rafah border crossing entirely, making their policy more of a siege than a restriction.
Since May 2018, Egypt has relaxed its lockdown. But, according to travelers from Gaza, getting to Egypt is always like running a nightmarish gauntlet. For example, Gazans often have to wait weeks before being allowed to cross. To avoid days of waiting in transit, they have to pay thousands of dollars for the “VIP passage”. This allows travelers to get to Cairo in six to seven hours.
But for the vast majority who cannot afford this option, the journey can take up to three days. Travelers endure long waits at many checkpoints that don’t protect them from the scorching sun. Egyptian authorities subject travelers to intrusive questions about political and religious beliefs and activities, and can deny passage at will. Authorities regularly confiscate laptops, cell phones, and other personal items.
Gazans entering Israel must also obtain permission. But I have never heard of any Gazans being asked or forced to pay fees to Israeli officials. I have seen numerous reports claiming that Israel has imposed a “siege” on Gaza. It’s absurd. During a siege, no goods or people enter or leave. But at least on the Israeli side, hundreds of trucks and thousands of people come in and out of Gaza every day. Israel allows this, at the risk of terrorist infiltration, in order to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Of course, given the history of Arab violence against Israel, shipments must be searched and travelers must be screened. Has anyone ever admitted that this is a burden not only for Gazans, but also for the Israeli authorities?
A favorite technique of Israel haters is to condemn Israel’s restrictions without any mention of the security threats posed by open transit. For example, Human Rights Watch recently published a detailed report condemning the Israeli (and Egyptian) restrictions. But remarkably, the lengthy report makes no mention of Gaza’s aggression: thousands of rocket attacks, numerous terrorist incursions across the border, a maze of terrorist tunnels and organized border riots that serve as cover for terrorists. to enter Israel and carry out their repeated threats to “slit the throats of the Jews”. The report also does not mention a single Israeli victim of the Gaza attacks. There have been many such victims.
Israel’s enemies often accuse Israel of causing overpopulation and overcrowding in Gaza. But is Gaza really more densely populated than any other place?
Recently I decided to check this out. Using population density statistics from the World Population Review, I found that two countries and two territories have the highest population densities in the world (people per square kilometer):
Hong Kong 7,126
In comparison, the Gaza Strip has a much lower population density:
Gaza Strip 5,453
It should be noted that the four regions with much higher population densities are among the wealthiest in the world. And none are a threat to their neighbors. It debunks the lie that overcrowding in Gaza is so onerous that Gazans have no choice but to attack Israel.
No choice but to fire rockets?
Commentators claim that Gaza is so crowded that its rulers have no choice but to fire rockets from densely populated areas. Then, when Israel launches a protective counterattack, innocent Gazans are killed.
Of course, there is no reason for terrorist groups in Gaza to fire rockets. Yes, the grandparents of many Gazans today were moved from their homes in what is now Israel. But that was almost entirely due to Israel’s unprovoked invasion by five of its neighboring Arab states – not to mention the numerous Arab militias that ruthlessly attacked Jews and Jewish communities before and after Israel’s founding in 1948.
Shortly after 1949, many more Jews were expelled or forced to leave their homelands in the Arab world. I don’t see Jews firing rockets at Arabs in retaliation, and they never deliberately target civilians. Jews know that they cannot safely return to their confiscated homes and properties in Arab countries. And all Israeli military operations are for the sole purpose of self-defense.
Although those who hate Israel will not admit it, it is widely understood in the region that if Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza stop their attacks on Israel, calm will return. But, if Israel stopped its defensive actions, Israel would be devastated by Arab attacks.
But even for those who think Gazans should launch rockets into Israel, is it true that they must be fired from schoolyards, crowded residential neighborhoods and hospital rooftops?
The best way to demystify this is to look at aerial maps of Gaza which are readily available to anyone with a computer using Google Maps. What this shows is that any terrorist would find it easy to fire rockets from Gaza’s many empty spaces, such as sports fields and agricultural areas.
It is no coincidence that Hamas has located one of its main military command bunkers in the basement of Gaza’s main hospital or that it is known to use children as human shields by assembling them next to rocket launch pads.
And for those who unfairly accuse Israel of war crimes, consider that locating military assets in civilian areas – a common practice among Gaza’s rulers – is certainly a war crime.
If Gaza is indeed an open-air prison, it is a prison built and maintained by Gazans’ own hateful leaders. The human rights groups that cover these violent leaders and their war against Israel are doing Gazans no service.
If they were really concerned about human rights, they would demand that the rulers of Gaza talk to Israelis rather than try to kill them.