Once more a professional journal has veered off the track into Middle East politics. In the December 2009 edition of IEEE Spectrum, a monthly publication of the world’s largest professional technology association, freelance reporter Sharon Weinberger’s cover story focuses on challenges facing Gaza’s sole power plant. Unfortunately, the article is short on technology content and long on skewed characterization of realities in Gaza. (The IEEE is the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an organization of more than 350,000 engineers and scientists around the world.)
The most recent war, which began on 27 December 2008, brought yet another catastrophe to Gaza. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a three-week military offensive retaliating against Hamas for a series of rocket attacks that fell on civilian areas in southern Israel. (Emphasis added)
In a similar obfuscation, according to Weinberger, construction of the Gaza power plant was set back “when the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, began in 2000.” But that “uprising,” a terrorist onslaught against Israeli civilians, including waves of suicide bombings, did not simply begin. It was launched by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat, as PA Communications Minister Imad Faluji explained in 2001 when he said: “This intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton… ” The repeated minimizing or omission of the role of Palestinians themselves as instigators of the violence that plagues Palestinian lives — and thwarts normal advances in infrastructure development — echoes the politically loaded message of the powerless-in-Gaza theme.
Today one of the biggest problems is getting enough fuel. It’s one of the many problems you encounter running a power plant in a war zone.
But, indefensibly, the account neglects the primary role of Palestinian violence in disrupting fuel deliveries. There is no mention at all that crossing points between Israel and Gaza, such as Nahal Oz where fuel is transferred to a terminal inside Gaza, have frequently been rocketed and attacked by Palestinians, sometimes with lethal consequences. On April 9, 2008, for instance, two Israeli truck drivers were killed by terrorists at Nahal Oz. A week later, on April 16, 2008, three IDF soldiers were killed in a confrontation with armed Palestinian gunmen approaching the Gaza security fence south of the Nahal Oz fuel terminal. Three other soldiers were wounded. In many other incidents, mortar and rocket fire on Nahal Oz have interrupted deliveries.
Notably, in the same period, the IDF’s commander of Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, Col. Nir Press, is quoted in an April 13, 2008 Jerusalem Post story saying he strongly disputed the claims of Rafiq Maliha who was alleging another fuel crisis. Press said Israel was continuously supplying fuel to Gaza, but for propaganda purposes it was not being distributed to gas stations and civilian use from the depot.
Weinberger omits all this.
While the fuel supply from Israel into Gaza has indeed been reduced, due to the Hamas rocket attacks, the diversion of this fuel from domestic power generators to other uses is wholly a Hamas decision – apparently taken due to media and propaganda considerations.
CLA (Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration) commander Col.Nir Press spoke candidly of Hamas’s “well-oiled media and propaganda machine which has succeeded in creating humanitarian ‘crises’ out of thin air.” He gave as an example Israel’s decision to suspend fuel supplies in early 2008 after a Palestinian attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot. Before restricting the supply, Israel filled all gas tanks in Gaza to their maximum. Yet, “taking advantage of this as a PR opportunity,” Hamas refused to draw on the fuel and “sent hundreds of people to gas stations in Gaza to stand with buckets in a long line.”
Tony Blair, former British prime minister and current Quartet peace envoy, explained that “most people don’t understand – that we’re trying to urge Israel to get fuel into Gaza, and then the extremists come and kill the people bringing the fuel in. It’s a crazy situation.” Thus, time and time again, the aid that Israel has allowed to enter Gaza fails to reach the intended recipients: Palestinian civilians in need.
In fact, it is Israel’s intentions and policies that are cast as questionable. The author writes:
Israel continues to insist that the weekly fuel ration is enough. That fuel enables the plant to produce about 65 MW, according to Israel’s estimates; Inbar insists that this is “the needed amount for the humanitarian needs of the civil population.” Assuming the situation remains stable, Israel will provide “enough power supply for the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza.” Israeli spokesman Inbar did not say how Israel determines the amount required for these needs.” (emphasis added)
19. It should be emphasized that, in the course of the hearings on the petition, the State reiterated its obligation to monitor the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and in this framework, we were made aware by various affidavits on behalf of the Respondents that this obligation is carried out with total responsibility and seriousness, and that the defense establishment assesses the situation on a weekly basis, which is based, inter alia, on contacts with Palestinian electricity and health officials, as well as contacts with international organizations. In this context, it should be noted that from the hearing on this matter before us, as in other cases in which an immediate response was needed for issues related to humanitarian needs, it was clarified that the parties could reach understandings and arrangements in this area of activity. Indeed, the solution in the form of contacts between the persons in charge on behalf of the defense establishment and the officials who maintain contact with them and point out to them the vital basic needs is the best way to find rapid solutions for concrete problems that arise from time to time. This is evidenced also by the fact that prior to our hearing on the matter, the State announced at its initiative the renewal of the supply of regular diesel fuel, which is necessary, inter alia, for the movement of ambulances and the operation of hospital generators, in the same amounts that were supplied prior to the reduction of the supply, as well as the renewal of the supply of industrial diesel fuel. These facts indicate that the State, indeed, monitors the situation in the Gaza Strip, and allows supply of fuel and electricity in the amount needed for the vital humanitarian needs in the area.
Missing from the article too is any comment on the striking situation in which Israel is simply expected to provide — as it does — more than 60% of Gaza’s electricity, even though the government of Hamas seeks to destroy Israel, denigrates the Jewish people in odious anti-Semitic terms, teaches its children the same bigotry and has been doing all in its power to make ever-wider swathes of territory around Gaza uninhabitable by Israelis.