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In the name of security, Israel is creating a generation of frustrated youths and a legacy of insecurity

February 13, 2015 at 10:54 am

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Gaza Strip and West Bank were defined as two territories of a single unit, between which Palestinians should be permitted to move freely and trade goods without restrictions. This never worked out. Israel began applying restrictions, especially limiting the travel between the two areas. Restrictions on the Gaza Strip were slowly tightened until 2007 when a full scale blockade was enforced following Hamas’ rise to power. A land, sea and air blockade still remains- it has been tightened, occasionally loosened and then tightened- but it has been relentless in its decimation of Gaza’s ability to develop.

As a result, a traumatized and desperately frustrated youth are preparing for a lifetime of struggle- a struggle to get an education, then to find a job, to make ends meet- to live. Overcrowding means around 81 percent of Gaza’s public schools have had to operate on double shifts. After education, the incredibly young population (about 65% of Gaza’s 1.6 million people are under 25) struggle to find jobs – the unemployment rate among those aged 15-19 was about 72%, while unemployment affects 66% of those aged 20-24, according to figures from 2011.

For children over six, the summer offensive (dubbed Operation Protective Edge) was their third war. After 51 days, Gaza was left in pieces. Houses built on the rubble of the last war collapsed like dominos under the weight of Israel’s bombardment. Shelters- often UNRWA schools – were also targeted, as were hospitals and ambulances.

For the youth of Gaza, there appears to be no way out of this situation. It is unlikely to end – the recent offensive began against the backdrop of more failed negotiations. Education doesn’t offer a path away from the conflict – Israeli forces killed 421 students and injured another 1,128 during Operation Protective Edge. Those that returned to school after the summer break returned to buildings pot marked with bullets and a register with many of their school mates missing. Escape isn’t an option – borders crossings are controlled by either the Israeli or Egyptian authorities- both heavily restrict the movement of Palestinians through the crossing. Israel controls Gaza’s coastal waters and airspace.

The justification for all of the above is Israel’s security concerns. Security justifies the blockade. It justifies the various devastating operations. However, security is the very thing that will pay the price. Salafist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip have pledged allegiance to ISIL, although Al-Baghdadi is believed to have rejected them as a result of the fractures between the various groups. Following the Charlie Hebdo shootings, protestors, some bearing the trademark black flag of ISIL, demonstrated outside the French Cultural Centre in Gaza (presumably with permission from Hamas which was possibly given as a way of demonstrating they are the better of alternatives). The centre was subject to two attacks in October and December 2014, while explosions occurred near the residences of Fatah officials and during a ceremony marking Yasser Arafat’s death on the same night in November. Responsibility of these attacks were claimed in statements bearing IS’ name.

Hamas deputy leader Mousa Abu Marzouk told Al-Monitor during a news conference Dec. 8: “IS militants are not present in the Gaza Strip. Some youth are adopting ideas under the pressure of the current circumstances, but if the situation changed, they would too.”

In the name of security, Israel will continue to decimate homes, schools, prevent Gaza from having an economy and Gazans to leave when they are too tired to stay. Weapons will be the only thing that speaks a language the world seems to understand and groups like ISIL, with their determined fight against the West, will understandably grow all the more attractive.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.