If human rights groups were truly concerned about human rights, they would demand that Gaza’s leaders talk to Israelis rather than try to kill them.
Israel haters accuse Israel of all sorts of things, real and imagined.
One of the most tenacious of the accusations is that Israel has converted 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 legitimate?
Freedom of Movement
There are only two exit options for Gazans seeking to leave the territory: the Israeli Erez crossing and the Egyptian crossing at Rafah. (One additional crossing for goods is controlled by Israel.)
There is no question that both Israel and Egypt have restricted the movement of Gazans into their countries.
The result is that many Gazans have never been outside of Gaza, and many others with pressing social, family, career and medical needs have been unable to get those needs met.
But many accusers who condemn Israel for its restrictions, fail to cite Egypt for their far more severe restrictions.
Many reports and opinion pieces that condemn Israel make no mention of the Egyptian restrictions, although they are far more onerous than those imposed by Israel. For long periods of time, Egyptian authorities have fully sealed the Rafah border crossing, making their policy more like a siege than a restriction.
Since May 2018 Egypt has relaxed its closure. But, according to Gazan travelers, making it into Egypt is still like running a nightmarish gauntlet. For example, Gazans often must wait weeks for permission to cross. To avoid days-long waits in transit, they must pay thousands of dollars for “VIP passage.” This allows travelers to get to Cairo in six to seven hours.
But for the great majority who cannot afford this option, the journey can take up to three days. Travelers endure long waits at numerous checkpoints that provide no cover from the blistering sun. Egyptian authorities subject travelers to intrusive questions about political and religious beliefs and activities, and can deny passage at their whim. The authorities routinely confiscate laptops, mobile phones and other personal items.
Gazans who cross into Israel must also secure permission. But I have never heard that any Gazan is asked or forced to pay fees to Israeli officials. I have seen many reports that claim that Israel has imposed a “siege” on Gaza. That is nonsense. In a siege, no goods or people get in or out. But at least on the Israeli side, hundreds of trucks and thousands of people cross into and out of Gaza every day. Israel allows this, at risk of terrorist infiltrations, in order to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Of course, given the history of Arab violence against Israel, shipments have to be searched and travelers need to be screened. Has anyone ever admitted that this is a burden not only on Gazans, but also on Israeli authorities?
A favored technique of the Israel-haters is to condemn Israel’s restrictions without any mention of the security threats posed by open transit. For example, recently Human Rights Watch issued an extensive report condemning Israeli (and Egyptian) restrictions. But remarkably, the lengthy report made not a single mention of Gazan aggression: thousands of rocket attacks, numerous terrorist border incursions, a maze of terrorist tunnels, and organized border riots that serve as a cover for terrorists to enter Israel and carry out their repeated threats to “slit the throats of the Jews.” Nor does the report mention a single Israeli casualty of Gazan attacks. There have been many such casualties.
Israel-haters often accuse Israel of causing overpopulation and crowding in Gaza. But is Gaza really more densely populated than any other place?
Recently I decided to check this out. Drawing on population density statistics from the World Population Review, I found that two countries and two territories have the world’s highest population densities (persons per square kilometer):
Hong Kong 7,126
By comparison, the Gaza Strip has a far lower population density:
Gaza Strip 5,453
It is worth noting that all four areas with far higher population densities are among the most affluent in the world. And none is a threat to its neighbors. This debunks the lie that Gazan crowding 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 their leaders have no choice but to fire rockets from densely populated areas. Then, when Israel launches a protective counter-attack, innocent Gazans are killed.
Of course there is no reason for terrorist groups in Gaza to fire rockets at all. Yes, the grandparents of many of today’s Gazans were displaced from their homes in what is today Israel. But this was almost entirely due to the unprovoked invasion of Israel by five of its Arab neighbor states—-not to mention the numerous Arab militias that mercilessly attacked Jews and Jewish communities before and after the founding of Israel in 1948.
Shortly after 1949, a far larger number of Jews were expelled or otherwise forced to leave their home countries in the Arab world. I don’t see Jews firing rockets at Arabs in retaliation, nor do they ever deliberately target civilians. Jews know they cannot safely return to their homes and confiscated properties in Arab countries. And all Israeli military operations have the sole purpose of self-defense.
Although the Israel-haters won’t admit it, it is widely understood in the region that if Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza stopped their attacks against Israel, there would be calm. But, if Israel stopped its defensive actions, Israel would be devastated by Arab attacks.
But even for those who think that Gazans should fire rockets into Israel, is it true that they must be fired from within school yards, crowded residential neighborhoods and hospital rooftops?
The best way to debunk that is to look at aerial maps of Gaza that are readily available to anyone with a computer by using Google Maps. What this shows is that any terrorist would find it easy to fire rockets from the many empty spaces in Gaza, such as sports fields and agricultural areas.
It is no accident that Hamas has located one of its main military command bunkers in the basement of Gaza’s main hospital or that it has been known to use children as human shields by assembling them next to rocket launching pads.
And for those who unjustly accuse Israel of war crimes, consider that locating military assets in civilian areas—-a common practice by Gaza’s leaders—-is certainly a war crime.
If Gaza is indeed an open air prison, it is one built and maintained by Gazans’ own hate-filled leaders. Human rights groups that provide cover for these violent leaders and their war against Israel are doing Gazans no favor.
If they were truly concerned about human rights, they would demand that Gaza’s leaders talk to Israelis rather than try to kill them.