Times of London

Times of London misleadingly suggests Israeli blockade causes Gaza health crisis

Times of London was the only major UK news outlet to report on the most recent example of Hamas exploiting Israeli humanitarian initiatives aimed at helping Palestinians in Gaza. Here are the opening paragraphs from the April 21st report by Gregg Carlstrom, “Gaza Cancer patient hid explosives”.

Two sisters from Gaza have been arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle explosives into Israel using vials marked “medical materials”. One of the women was a cancer patient who was crossing to Israel for treatment.

Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, accused the militant group Hamas of using the women as smugglers. “[They] are continuing their efforts to exploit the humanitarian channel to carry out attacks in Israel,” Kamil Abu Rokon, the military officer in charge of the Erez Crossing, said.

In the third paragraph, Carlstrom attempts to contextualise the story by providing some background on the state of healthcare in Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a military blockade of Gaza since Hamas took power there in 2007 and the siege has crippled Gaza’s healthcare system. About 2,500 Palestinians and their relatives cross into Israel each month to seek treatment for serious conditions.

However, the suggestion that Israel’s blockade has “crippled Gaza’s healthcare system” is extremely misleading.  Last year, our colleague Tamar Sternthal prompted a New York Times correction to an article that resulted in an editor’s note acknowledging – contrary to the implicit suggestion in the original text – that there are in fact no restrictions on the import of medicine to Gaza.

Sternthal added the following:

As [the NGO] Gisha, hardly a source sympathetic to Israeli policies on Gaza, notes: “Currently, Israel allows the entrance of all civilian goods into the Gaza Strip, with the exception of a list of materials defined as ‘dual-use,’ which, according to Israel, can be used for military purposes.” Gisha’s separate page on dual-use items notes that x-ray machines are in the list of such restricted items, but does not include any other medical equipment.

One of the most significant problems disrupting Gaza’s healthcare system, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross and recent reports at the The Washington Post and CNN, is fuel disruptions stemming from a power struggle between Hamas and the PA over the collection of taxes.  (Fuel is required to run electricity plants, and Hamas claims it can’t afford to buy a sufficient amount of fuel due to taxes imposed by the PA.) A spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health told CNN on April 17th that, “if the issue will not be solved, then we will have to cancel between 200-250 surgeries a day”.  

Carlstrom failed to so much as mention the fuel crisis.  Nor, did he note that Israel provides Gaza with 30% of its electricity needs and, despite the fact that the state often isn’t paid for the electricity it provides, announced that their contribution was to increase to address the power needs of Gaza’s new sewage treatment facility.

Moreover, the broader, ongoing problem of Hamas stealing humanitarian aid – medical or otherwise – and using it for military purposes has been widely reported. 

Once again, we see how the media’s default narrative, regardless of the particulars, is to hold Israel responsible for every conceivable social and political ill within Palestinian society, while downplaying or ignoring the role its leaders play in perpetuating their suffering.

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  1. The only reason that there is any medical help in Gaza is because Israel built it for the Islamofascists. Under Egypt there was not a single hospital or university in all of Gaza.