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Gaza suffers under blockade

When will Israel stop punishing the people of Gaza?

In exposing poverty and neglect in Gaza's el-Zohor slum, Associated Press reporter Fares Akram fails to address the root cause of these desperate conditions: displacement, blockade and military occupation ("Gaza slum growth illustrates economic plight, bleak future," June 22). Conditions in Gaza did indeed worsen after 2007 as a result of a land, air, and sea blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt. Though we cannot forgive Hamas for its role in escalating the conflict, it is disingenuous to place all responsibility on this group and underemphasize occupation as the source of conflict and poverty.

For example, we cannot talk about the food deprivation experienced by Asmahan Farwana and her family without acknowledging the blockade. Four months after the blockade was imposed, the Israeli Ministry of Health along with human rights group, Gisha, determined the minimum amount of calories necessary for Gazans to survive without malnutrition in the infamous "red lines" document. The UNRWA reports that food imports consistently fall below the "red lines" established.

Furthermore, food production in Gaza has plummeted, due to restrictions on the import of raw materials needed for farming. Israel claims that this blockade is necessary for its security, but how exactly does forcing Gazans into poverty conditions strengthen Israeli security?

To describe the situation in Gaza without being honest about the ways Israel's blockade has affected it is misleading. Worse, it covers up the fact that Israel is collectively punishing the people of Gaza and other Palestinian populations in the West Bank, Israel and the Diaspora for having the chutzpah to demand human rights, equality and self determination.

Mallika Govindan and Jonathan Rovner, Baltimore

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