Gaza Q & A

Questions and answers to the current crisis.

January 7, 2009


Q:  Who broke the ceasefire first?
A:   Israel.  Hamas observed the ceasefire until Israel carried out an unprovoked military attack on November 5th, killing six Palestinians ( Israel had also failed to meet its ceasefire commitment to allow essential supplies into Gaza, thus increasing the grinding poverty there, and then further tightened its siege on Gaza's civilian population after November 5th.(

Q:  Isn't Israel just trying to stop Hamas rocket fire?
A;  No.  Israel provoked Hamas by breaking the ceasefire on November 5th, as it has done with numerous ceasefires in the past.  Some Palestinians in Gaza, living under Israeli siege, in desperate poverty and deprived of basic human rights, have responded to Israeli abuses by launching homemade rockets into Israel. If the rockets were the provocation, why is Israel killing and jailing Palestinians in the West Bank, where no rockets have been fired?

Israel, with US support, has been attempting to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government since Palestinian elections in January, 2006 (for details After the elections Israel imposed a siege on Gaza, closing borders and cutting off basic supplies, and continued launching attacks on Gazans. As a result, poverty, unemployment and hunger in the already impoverished Gaza Strip have skyrocketed (see statistics below). And since the January 2006 elections, Israeli has killed approximately 1900 Palestinians in Gaza, and 250 in the West Bank. 72 Israelis were killed by Palestinians during the same period. (for casualty figures until November 30, 2008:

Q:  Isn't Israel only striking military targets?
A:   No.  Israel has killed over 300 women and children, and the numbers are climbing. Entire families have been wiped out ( and UN schools shelled at least twice (

Most of the dead and injured have nothing to do with rocket attacks on Israel. Many civilians, civilian police officers and other non-military officials of the Hamas government are among the casualties. Targeting these people is a war crime.

Israel claims that Palestinians in Gaza hide behind civilians, firing rockets at Israel from civilian areas, and thus giving Israel no option but to attack inhabited Palestinian neighborhoods. But the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, is composed entirely of residential neighborhoods. Palestinians in Gaza have no other place from which they can respond to Israeli military attacks.


Moreover, simply because some Hamas fighters go home to live with their families at night does not make their homes legitimate military targets, as Israel argues.  By that logic, someone could justify bombing an apartment building in Tel Aviv just because Israeli soldiers live there. But that is a war crime and cannot be tolerated.

Q:  Isn't Israel just trying to defend itself against Palestinian violence?
A:  No.  If Israel wanted peace it would have observed the ceasefire, stopped blocking Palestinian economic development, and would have allowed Palestinians to live normal lives.  Instead, Israel has intentionally provoked Hamas into conflict by attacking inside Gaza and imposing a brutal siege on its 1.5 million inhabitants.  Then, when Palestinians resist Israel's human rights violations, Israel attacks again under the pretext of "self-defense."

Q:  But Israel just wants peace, doesn't it?
A:   Israeli policy has been the root of violence in the region for 60 years, starting no fewer than six major wars and numerous smaller conflicts in the region.  Israel has the most powerful military in the region, with which it continues to deny food, clean water, fuel and medical supplies to Gaza's 1.5 million people; steal land from Palestinians to build Israeli-only settlements; and kill large numbers of Palestinians, mostly civilians.  Since Jan. 2006 when Hamas won democratic elections, Israel has killed 1900 Gazans, and 2150 Palestinians overall. (for casualty figures until November 30, 2008:

Q: Didn't Israel end its occupation of Gaza in 2005, and didn't Palestinians respond by launching rockets into Israel and electing Hamas?
A: All human rights organizations agree that Israel's withdrawal of settlers from Gaza in 2005 did not end Israel's occupation of the Gaza Strip. Surrounding Gaza with its military, Israel maintained control of Gaza's borders, airspace, sea, electricity, fuel, and the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza. Thus Israel remains an occupying power under international law.
( and

Israel has systematically destroyed Gaza's economy rather than giving Gaza a chance to develop. Israel decimated Gaza's economy from 1967-1993, rendering Gazans dependent on wage labor in Israel for survival ( After a brief period of economic
growth in the late 90s, Israeli closures of Gaza plunged Gaza back into negative growth from 2001 onward. Following Israel's 2005 withdrawal from settlements in Gaza, the November, 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access brokered by Condoleezza Rice between Israel and the Palestinian Authority promoted Gaza's economic growth, but according to the United Nations, Israel never lived up to its commitments under the agreement. ( and Palestinians, frustrated by Israel's denial of their basic rights, growing poverty, and 13 years of failed negotiations, voted for change and elected Hamas in January 2006.

Some Palestinians in Gaza, living under Israeli siege, in desperate poverty and deprived of basic human rights, have responded to Israeli's assault by launching homemade rockets into Israel.

Israeli occupation, attacks and denial of basic human rights have prevented Palestinians from ever having the opportunity to live normal lives.


Q:  Aren't the attacks on Gaza justifiable as self-defense?
A:  No.  Israel provoked the conflict.  Also, by carrying out indiscriminate bombing that targets civilians, Israel is practicing collective punishment and disproportionate force against the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza.  This is a war crime and a violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Q:  Doesn't Hamas reject peace with Israel?
A:   No.  Hamas has stated that it is willing to negotiate with Israel and abide by a two-state solution if Israel respects Palestinian rights.  By contrast, Israel has refused to recognize Palestinians' right to self-determination and has not abided by its obligations under peace agreements with the Palestinians.

Israel's siege of Gaza, and forced separation of Gaza from the West Bank continues Israel's policy since 1948, of fragmenting and isolating Palestinians in disconnected enclaves, and squeezing the maximum number of Palestinians onto the minimum amount of land. Palestinians in the West Bank are now confined by Israel's wall, settlements and 
checkpoints into four disconnected bantustans. Gaza is now completely cut off from the enclaves in the West Bank. Palestinian citizens of Israel are allowed almost no contact with their relatives in the West Bank and Gaza, and Israel denies Palestinian refugees living in the diaspora their internationally guaranteed right of return to their homes.

Q:  Why do Palestinians just want to destroy Israel?
A:   Palestinians do not want to destroy Israel.  They want peace with justice and have made major concessions to get it.  Israeli government officials, by contrast, have repeatedly stated that they are not willing to allow a viable Palestinian state to arise.  In February 2008, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai even warned that Israel would unleash a "Holocaust" on Gaza.

Q:  Isn't Israel allowing supplies into Gaza?
A:   Very little; just barely enough to stave of mass famine.  According to Oxfam only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza in November. This means that an average of 4.6 trucks per day entered the strip compared to an average of 123 in October this year and 564 in December 2005. (

A:   During the last week of November Israel allowed only 11 percent of 
the weekly minimum that Israel is legally obliged to allow in.

A:   The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company said that most of the Gaza Strip will be without electricity for between four and 12 hours a day. (

A:   The majority of commercial bakeries in Gaza - 30 out of 47 - have had to close because they have run out of cooking gas. (

Q:  The Israeli Foreign Minister said there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Is this true?
A:   No.  There is a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 
John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for the UN Refugee and

Works Agency, called the civilian population "terrorized," "traumatized" and "trapped," as they sought shelter from constant shelling in Gaza, calling daily life in Gaza "a horrible existence at all levels."



A. 80% of Gazans live below the poverty line and some 50% are unemployed (

A:  Hospitals lack the most basic medical supplies necessary to treat the sick and wounded.

( a result, 262 Gazans died from lack of medical care alone during the ceasefire.

Due to lack of sufficient nutrition, about 45 percent of children under  five have iron deficiency from lack of fruit and 18 per cent of children  have stunted growth.  (

A:   The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 105 essential drugs were at zero stock level at the central drug store before the attacks started. (


A:   Seventy percent of Gazans are estimated to be without tap water. Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) has reported that the water and sewage system is collapsing. (



Q: Are you surprised that Mayor Bloomberg has visited Israel and expressed unqualified support?

A: Unfortunately, we are not surprised by Mayor Bloomberg's visit to Israel and his statement of complete support for Israeli military actions.  But he does not represent the hundreds of thousands of Arab-Americans living in New York or the many other New Yorkers who are committed to human rights who have been demonstrating in the thousands during this past week against Israel's brutal attack of the Palestinian civilians living in Gaza.  That he can justify the killing of more than one hundred Palestinian women and children as an act of defense is outrageous.  Israeli attacks against the people of Gaza contravene international law and their use of US military equipment in this manner violates US law. One would think that the Mayor would be more careful than to defend such actions.





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