Gaza Humanitarian Crisis
Israel Update – Week of October 15, 2023
The Gaza Strip is home to more than two million people. It is one of the most densely occupied places in the world. It is ruled by Hamas, a brutal authoritarian radical Islamic terrorist organization. There are two kinds of Gazans: those who support Hamas and those who are being held hostage by it.
Since October 7, 2023, Israel has been bombing Hamas assets in Gaza at the rate of hundreds of sorties a day. Hardest hit is the northern half of the Gaza Strip, particularly Gaza City. At the same time, Israel has ceased supplying the Gaza Strip with electricity and water, leaving it to support itself using its own meager resources. The fighting will only intensify when Israel begins its imminent ground incursion. The IDF has already warned Gazans living in the northern part of the strip to relocate to the south. More than 700,000 Gazans have heeded the IDF’s warning and have headed south. Aerial photography shows Hamas vehicles blocking roads to prevent their southward migration, their goal to use civilians as human shields.
Clearly, a humanitarian crisis is brewing in Gaza. The UN has attempted to send in a “humanitarian convoy” from the Rafah Border crossing, but Israel is insistent in the aid packages being searched to ensure that they do not contain weapons or ammunition that can be used by the Hamas. Yesterday, nearly forty trucks entered Israel, and these trucks were not searched. Until Israeli security concerns are addressed, the future of humanitarian aid into Gaza remains cloudy.
The import of humanitarian aid into Gaza is only one way to address the humanitarian crisis. Since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war in February, 2022, more than six million refugees have fled the Ukraine. Most of them resettled in Poland, Russia, Germany, and other neighboring countries. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, nearly seven million refugees have fled Syria. Most of them resettled in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and other neighboring countries. In the same vein, there is no reason that Gazan refugees be permanently resettled outside of Gaza. The question is where?
The common denominator between Ukrainian and Syrian refugees is that most of them were resettled in “neighboring countries.” Countries that neighbor Gaza include Israel, Egypt, and Jordan. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi last week suggested that Gazan refugees be temporarily resettled in the Negev Desert in Israel, at least until the end of hostilities. This suggestion was unsurprisingly ejected out of hand by Israel. There are several reasons behind Israel’s refusal. First, Israel, as a Jewish State, cannot accept a large number of Arabs without upsetting her already sensitive demographic fabric. Second, the security risk of settling Gazans in Israel is unacceptable – identifying Hamas supporters would be a nearly impossible task. As Hamas actively supports the destruction of Israel and the murder of Israelis, there is no room for error. Finally, Israel maintains that the Gazan problem is not hers to solve. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, speaking to reporters last week, stated, “An ultimate aim is to remove any responsibility Israel has over Gaza by creating a new ‘security regime’ in the Strip.”
The ”neighboring country” that is the most natural location for Gazan resettlement is Egypt. Gaza was settled by the Egyptians after the 1948 Israeli War of Independence and was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. That said, one might posit that the Egyptians seemed only too happy to cede control of the Gaza Strip to Israel. When Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians in a 1979 peace agreement, the Egyptians insisted that the Gaza Strip not be included in the package. Egypt remains adamant that they will not settle any Gazan refugees. Egypt has shut down the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, eliminating a potential humanitarian corridor. Last week, President El-Sisi said such an exodus of people from Gaza would jeopardize Palestinian aspirations of statehood: ‘The displacement of Palestinians from the [Gaza] strip to Egypt simply means that something similar will also happen with the displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan. And thus the idea of the Palestinian state that we are talking about – and the international community is talking about – remains unimplementable because the land exists, but the people do not exist, and therefore I warn of the danger of this matter.” He warned that settling Gazans in Egypt could “wreck peace” in the region. In other words, Egypt maintains that it is in the best interests of the Gazans that they not be resettled anywhere but in a future State of Palestine – even while such a state remains a pipedream.
Another ”neighboring country” that could serve as a destination for Gazan refugees is Jordan. Jordan already has a large Palestinian majority, making it a natural haven for Gazan refugees. Nevertheless, Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave a similar message saying, “No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt.” The King’s reasoning: “That is a red line, because I think that is the plan by certain of the usual suspects to try and create de facto issues on the ground.”
Why are Jordan and Egypt so adamant that Gazans not be settled in their respective countries?
A number of reasons come to mind, including economic considerations, security considerations, and in the case of the Jordanians, demographic considerations. Add to the brew the fact that Palestinians are generally scorned by the “Arab on the Street,'' and it can begin to be understood why throngs are not demonstrating in Tahrir Square demanding the settlement of Gazan refugees.
If the Gazan refugee problem cannot or will not be solved by “the usual suspects,” the circle must be widened. Hamas is not an Israeli problem. They are a brutal terrorist organization that the world must utterly eradicate, the same way that global coalitions helped eradicate ISIS and Al Qaeda. In the same way, the world must open its arms and accept people that are fleeing from this same Hamas. Obviously each and every refugee must be vetted to determine that he is not a Hamas operative or sympathizer but those who have been approved by security must be given a new home.
Scotland has already taken a first step. First Minister Humza Yousef, First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party, has stated that Scotland is willing to serve as a refuge for Gazan asylum-seekers. “The people of Gaza are a proud people. Many don't want to leave, and shouldn't have to. But for those displaced, who want to leave, there should be a worldwide refugee scheme. Scotland is willing to be a place of sanctuary and be the first country to take those refugees.”
The United Nations Foundation states that “The UN has been stepping up to deliver lifesaving aid to those in need by providing emergency food, water, shelter, and medical care to the most vulnerable, including women, children, and the elderly.” In the same way, the UN should “step up” to deliver aid to Gazan refugees. Resettlement could be funded by wealthy nations in the west and in the Persian Gulf and managed by a multinational conglomerate. Strategic and tactical thought by the global community is required to determine the optimal solution. If we are serious about solving the problems in Gaza, there is no better place to begin than with the Gazans, themselves.