Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stealing Gaza Piece by Piece

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Stealing Gaza Piece by Piece

Article excerpt

"I'd really like to know what these trucks and vans are taking out of Gaza!"

The speaker was a Palestinian taxi passenger, stopped on Salah ah Deen Street, the Gaza Strip's major north-south artery. Of course, it is not the least bit unusual for Palestinian traffic in Gaza to be halted by Israeli soldiers, for reasons ranging from the most dire to the most trivial. Hundreds of Palestinian cars and taxis can be stopped, sometimes for hours, while a car or bus passes on the "settler only" roads, and most of the time the Palestinians stuck in traffic never know why. This time, however, the middle-aged man in the taxi was perplexed.

"Every day, when I make this trip to work," he explained, "I see these big trucks with Israeli license plates. They come from Israel empty and then seem to head back toward Israel full. Curiosity's killing mewhat are they taking from us now?"

"For your information," the taxi driver replied, his voice heavy with sarcasm, "they are sweeping Gaza for us. Now Israel is stealing even the yellow sand!" He went on to explain that, years ago, he drove a truck for an Israeli company and made regular runs into Gaza. Based on his experiences then, he had no trouble believing now that Israel would appropriate even the Gaza sand.

Of course, according to the official reports, Sharon and his government had a successful February summit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.The international press is full of optimistic peace talk, things supposedly are calm, and preparations are underway for the evacuation of the Israeli settlements in Gaza. But throughout the Gaza Strip, Palestinian eyewitnesses report that there is no sign of settlers packing up, while convoys of Israeli trucks work day and night carrying raw materials from Gaza into Israel.

One of the most galling aspects of the occupation in Gaza has been the Israeli settlements' monopoly on Gaza's water. While Palestinians in the refugee camps suffer chronic shortages of potable water, the settlements have been built over or near Gaza's underground aquifer. The settlers thus enjoy green lawns and gardens year-round, while Palestinians are thirsty.

Now, adding potential insult to injury, are the current crop of rumors and speculation that Israel will allow natural gas production to resume from Gaza's offshore reserves. The main buyer will be Israel, which will pay Gaza not in cash but in.. water. Gaza's own water, that is. …

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