The humanitarian crisis currently underway in the Gaza Strip is not a side effect of the war, but the direct intended result of the policy implemented by Israel. The people behind this policy see inflicting a humanitarian crisis on more than two million people as a legitimate way to put pressure on Hamas.
Energy Minister Israel Katz, who signed an order to stop the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip on the very first day of the crisis, 7 October 2023, clarified: “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water tap will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home. Humanitarianism for humanitarianism And no one can preach morality to us.”
This mindset was clearly reflected in the reactions to the War Cabinet’s November 17 decision to allow the entry of two diesel fuel tanker trucks – containing about sixty thousand liters – so aid agencies could do the bare minimum and water and sewage systems could run. The decision drew a slew of angry statements. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote to the Prime Minister that the decision was unfathomable and “spits in the face of the IDF soldiers, the hostages and their families, and the bereaved families.” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said, “As long as the hostages are not even visited by the Red Cross, there is no sense in giving ‘humanitarian gifts’ to the enemy,” while Yisrael Beitenu Chair, Avigdor Lieberman, said, “Proclamations about not a drop of fuel entering Gaza have effectively turned into tens of thousands of liters entering unilaterally without any humanitarian gestures towards kidnapped Israelis.”
Decision-makers were quick to respond that the move did not spell a change of policy and that humanitarian pressure on Gaza residents would continue. Minister Benny Gantz, a member of the War Cabinet, explained: “[I]t is not a question of changing strategy, but of providing a specific response that serves the continued fighting of the IDF.” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also clarified that “this is a minimal emergency amount of fuel to operate water and sewage pumps without which we can expect an immediate outbreak of epidemics. You must understand that disease outbreaks will harm both residents of the Gaza Strip and IDF soldiers inside it. I stress: This is not a policy change, but a limited, localized response to prevent epidemic outbreaks.”
On 19 November 2023, retired Major General Giora Eiland, who previously served as head of the Operations Division and head of the National Security Council, published an op-ed in Yedioth Aharonot entitled “Let’s not be intimidated by the world.” Eiland holds no official position currently and is not among the policymakers responsible for the strategy pursued in the Gaza Strip at present, but his statements are an accurate reflection of it.
In his piece, Eiland claims Hamas is entirely indistinguishable from residents of the Gaza Strip and that Israel was fighting “the State of Gaza” – all citizens included – which is why it must not “give the other side any capability that extends its life.” Of course, everyone in Gaza will be hurt, but, says Eiland, “Who are the ‘poor’ women of Gaza? They are all the mothers, sisters or wives of Hamas murderers. On the one hand, they are part of the infrastructure that supports the organization, and on the other hand, if they go through a humanitarian disaster; then presumably, some Hamas fighters and more junior commanders will begin to understand that the war is futile and that it is better to prevent irreversible harm to their families.” Eiland acknowledges such a policy could cause a humanitarian disaster and severe epidemics but believes that “However difficult, this must not deter us. After all, severe epidemics in the southern Gaza Strip will bring victory closer and reduce casualties among IDF soldiers.” Eiland concludes: “This is not cruelty for cruelty’s sake, since we do not support suffering on the other side as an end, but as a means… We must not, simply must not, adopt the American narrative that gives us ‘permission’ to fight only Hamas fighters instead of doing the right thing – fighting against the opposing system in its entirety, because it is precisely the civilian collapse that will bring the end of the war closer.” [Continue reading…]