An old man in Gaza held a placard that reads: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” 
The old man’s message provides the proper context for the timelines on the latest episode in the savage punishment of Gaza. They are useful, but any effort to establish a “beginning” cannot help but be misleading. The crimes trace back to 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled in terror or were expelled to Gaza by conquering Israeli forces, who continued to truck them over the border for years after the official cease-fire. The persecution of Gazans took new forms when Israel conquered the Strip in 1967. From recent Israeli scholarship we learn that the goal of the government was to drive the refugees into the Sinai, and if feasible the rest of the population too.
Expulsions from Gaza were carried out under the direct orders of General Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the Southern Command. Expulsions from the West Bank were far more extreme, and Israel resorted to devious means to prevent the return of those expelled, in direct violation of Security Council orders. The reasons were made clear in internal discussion immediately after the war. Golda Meir, later Prime Minister, informed her Labor colleagues that Israel should keep the Gaza Strip while “getting rid of its Arabs.” Defense Minister Dayan and others agreed. Prime Minister Eshkol explained that those expelled cannot be allowed to return because “We cannot increase the Arab population in Israel” — referring to the newly occupied territories, already tacitly considered part of Israel. In accord with this conception, all of Israel’s maps were changed, expunging the Green Line (the internationally recognized borders), though publication was delayed to permit UN Ambassador Abba Eban to attain what he called “favorable impasse” at the General Assembly, by concealing Israel’s intentions. 
The goals may remain alive, and might be a factor contributing to Egypt’s reluctance to open the border to free passage of people and goods barred by the US-backed Israeli siege.
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