The first two cases of the coronavirus have now been confirmed in the Gaza Strip, with those individuals reportedly entering Gaza through Egypt, having traveled from Pakistan.
– Netanyahu’s corona smokescreen and Gaza’s ‘God-help-us’ moment
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 70Haaretz
This is an incredibly frightening development, with potentially devastating consequences for those living in the enclave. If COVID-19 spreads in Gaza, and particularly if it spreads across the territory, the ramifications are absolutely immense for both Gazans – but also for Israel as an occupying power.
This is a long-overdue time of reckoning for Israel. It must finally step up and accept responsibility for its imprisonment of two million human beings for almost 13 years. Israel has acted with almost complete disregard for Gazans’ basic human rights without expecting considerable repercussions, for the people of Gaza, but also for itself. The situation in Gaza is grave and has been for a long time, but with COVID-19 there is the potential for it to become far worse.
This is what Israel needs to do now.
Firstly, if ever there was a time for Israel to change how it relates to, and engages with, Palestinians and in particular those living in the Gaza Strip, it is this present and unprecedented moment.
Israel argues that it disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but today Israel continues to maintain a land, sea and also air blockade of the enclave that began in 2007. This blockade needs to be lifted – now, not only because it is inhumane, and illegal under international law, but also because in these uncertain circumstances, Gazans must be given a fighting chance of survival – and the freedom to both move and help themselves in a worst-case scenario. This will be particularly necessary if Israel does not, or cannot, step in to offer assistance.
If Israel continues to blockade Gaza, then Israel is responsible for the resulting devastation within it; Israel’s leaders could potentially be prosecuted pursuant to international criminal law.