London - “Every single minute of the day is violent for Gaza’s beleaguered population under Israel’s blockade, which is a prime example of slow, latent, and attritional violence,” Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief of Programmes and Communications Muhammad Shehada told a crowd on Tuesday at University College London (UCL).
Held by UCL’s Bartlett Development Planning Unit and chaired by Professor Michael Walls, the 6 June seminar aimed to examine state-sanctioned violence across three prominent cases, namely in Ethiopia, Gaza, and Ukraine. Shehada highlighted how Israeli restrictions on the occupied Gaza Strip “cage its people in a permanent state of non-life, where young Palestinians face unparalleled crises of unemployment and impoverishment”. Adding that “economic warfare and collective punishment are precisely Israel’s publicly stated goal of the blockade”, Shehada pointed to Israel’s former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s 2018 statement that said, “We allow them to keep their heads above water, but not beyond that.”
Shehada also highlighted Israel’s policy of stifling the Palestinian economy and development in Gaza specifically, citing former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s 2021 statement saying that, “We will not allow real and long-term development in the Gaza Strip.” Speaking about Israel’s arbitrary restrictions on Gaza’s imports and its virtual ban on the enclave’s exports, he called attention to how, in the early years of the siege, Israel drafted a plan to allow a limited number of food trucks into Gaza based on the bare minimum number of calories needed for survival. Even then, Shehada told seminar attendees, the actual number of trucks permitted was lower than initially proposed in the plan.
Attendees learned how the blockade is designed to cut Gaza off from the rest of the world and make it invisible to the outside population, as Shehada explained that Gazans’ freedom of movement is strictly limited to mostly medical humanitarian cases, and foreign nationals’ access to the Strip is fully banned with minor exceptions (e.g. some members of the international media, UN agencies, and European diplomats).
“So, you have a situation of perpetually slow and agonising deaths, exacerbated by periodic military assaults,” Shehada stated. “Each is followed by an excruciatingly slow reconstruction process. But Gaza receives attention only when violence is physical, spectacular, and destructive, despite the everyday life being just as tormenting.” Referring to earlier Euro-Med Monitor reports, Shehada underscored the psychological damage caused by Israel’s blockade to Gaza’s population, particularly Gazan children, of whom about 91% are estimated to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Other experts on Tuesday’s panel drew parallels between Gaza and the two other cases of Ethiopia and Ukraine. Research consultant Sarah Vaughan, for instance, warned that similar siege tactics may be imminent in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where the government in the country’s capital of Addis Ababa is already restricting access to the area.