Why must Gaza wait in the dark?

Gaza students study by candle light.

Sam Bahour

When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an impression on me: “I dream of what life would be like with 24-hour electricity.” This was the answer of a single, mid-career, western educated, professional woman who lives in the more affluent part of Gaza City. Her response suggests the depth of despair among Palestinians throughout Gaza.

Day-to-day life in Gaza between Israeli attacks is unworthy news for Western mainstream media. As a result, few people are aware that electricity in Gaza is a luxury, with blackouts lasting 16-18 hours–every day. This bitter reality has warped people’s lives for years now, as they must plan their daily activities around the 4-6 hours when they anticipate electricity, even if that means waking up to put laundry in the washing machine in the middle of the night.

Contrary to common belief, the severe undersupply of electricity in Gaza is not new, and not a result of the latest military aggression. Gaza has not had uninterrupted electricity since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. In an attempt to compensate for the Israeli disruption of Gaza’s power supply, the Palestinians established their first power generation plant in 2004. Ever since, Israel has regularly limited the supply of electricity and industrial fuel needed to operate this only power plant in Gaza. Israel’s ability to deny families in Gaza the energy they need is nothing less than collective punishment of Palestinians–punishment whereby an entire community is made to pay for the acts of a few.

Separating Gaza’s electricity supply from the political conflict is a step long overdue. Access to electricity–a basic necessity that much of the world, including Israeli citizens can take for granted–should not be conditional upon outcomes of future negotiations. Continued darkness in Gaza serves no one.

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