More than 10 years ago Israel tightened its grip on Gaza, enforcing a blockade on goods coming in and out of the tiny coastal enclave that left much of the two million-strong population there unemployed, impoverished and hopeless.
Since then, Israel has launched three separate major military assaults that have destroyed Gaza’s infrastructure, killed many thousands and left tens of thousands more homeless and traumatised.
Gaza is effectively an open-air prison, an extremely overcrowded one, with only a few hours of electricity a day and its ground water polluted by seawater and sewage.
Last week Israeli military officials for the first time echoed what human rights groups and the United Nations have been saying for some time: that Gaza’s economy and infrastructure stand on the brink of collapse.
After a decade of this horrifying experiment in human endurance, the Israeli army finally appears to be concerned about whether Gaza can continue coping much longer.
In recent days it has begun handing out forms, with more than a dozen questions, to the small number of Palestinians allowed briefly out of Gaza – mainly business people trading with Israel, those needing emergency medical treatment and family members accompanying them.
One question asks bluntly whether they are happy, another whom they blame for their economic troubles. A statistician might wonder whether the answers can be trusted, given that the sample group is so heavily dependent on Israel’s good…