NYC Hospitals Lose Power Once; in Gaza, it is a Constant Crisis

Hurricane Sandy knocked out electricity to New York University’s Langone Hospital, which had to evacuate its patients. Bellevue Hospital also had to be cleared and the patients sent elsewhere.

This story is a horrible one, and one’s heart goes out to the patients, already ill, who lost electricity under these frightening circumstances and had to be moved.

But imagine if hospitals going dark were not a result of a calamity of nature, but of deliberate government policy.

That is the situation of patients in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. The Strip’s major power generator was damaged by an Israeli bombing raid in 2005 and it has never been properly repaired, so that it creaks along not able to provide enough juice for the 1.7 million Palestinians trapped there by the Israeli blockade. Egypt provides some fuel, but last spring it cracked down on smuggling, which would have interfered with its formal contracts, plunging Gaza into a power emergency that threatened the hospitals’ ability to function.

About a third of Gaza’s electricity is supplied by Israel, as part of its treaty obligations under the Oslo accords and because it is still considered the Occupying authority in the Strip. Israeli governments have sometimes tried to wriggle out of this obligation, but even the Israeli courts found those plans cruel and illegal. As recently as September, Israeli Minister of the Environment Gilad Erdan again proposed cutting electricity supply from Israel to Gaza.

Gaza hospitals are all too often on the brink of going dark. They have back-up generators, but often there are shortages of gasoline, as well. Israel’s blockade of the civilian economy of Gaza is preventing the kind of infrastructural improvements needed to give the hospitals guaranteed power.

Why can Americans sympathize with the patients at the Langone Hospital in New York, but are actively complicit in the energy shortages afflicting Gaza hospitals? Are not the patients in both equally human beings? Aren’t there premature babies in both and patients on a lifeline, who would be endangered by a loss of electricity? If the US Congress is willing to vote disaster relief for New Yorkers, shouldn’t it at least object to the Israeli blockade on Gaza?

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13 Responses

  1. Simple answer: The US Government and Congress are professional corrupt, thieves.

    Half of Congress are corrupt millionaires and the other half are becoming corrupt millionaires. Millionaires should be prohibited from government offices.

    The political debates are not debating what should be debated and on and on.


  2. It certainly is a warped world, when people trapped in a prison, guarded and cut off from normal relationships with the rest of the world by our “closest friend and ally”, are considered dangerous terrorists to be bombed at any time.
    When we consider those killed in the USA on “9/11”, a tiny proportion of the population while in “Cast Lead” 1400 Gazans died by IDF intervention out of 1.6 million crowded into that Strip, the fuss made by Mercans about their own safety concerns should really pale into insignificance.

  3. Thank you for bringing attention to this subject. How can I help? I would love to be able to pressure my government. I have sent letters and my thoughts on the Israeli crimes against Palestine. “Hypocrisy knows no bounds”
    I stand with humanity, I don’t with the nuclear armed, illegal state in the middle east who hasn’t signed the non nuclear proliferation treaty.
    When will this madness end?

    • I agree with Pabelmont. Juan, you have been a consistent voice for bringing attention to the plight of Gazans. Consider that Peter Beinart (a once-neocon) has finally come around to seeing reality. The following is from his recent book: “As painful as it is for Jews to admit that race hatred can take root among a people that has suffered so profoundly from it, the ground truth is this: occupying another people requires racism, and breeds it. It is very difficult to work day after day at a checkpoint, making miserable people bake in the sun, or to blow up a family’s house as they watch, or to cut off water to a village in the Jordan Valley because Palestinians are barred from living in most of that section of the West Bank, and still see the people you are dominating as fully human.” link to

  4. “Why can Americans sympathize with the patients at the Langone Hospital in New York, but are actively complicit in the energy shortages afflicting Gaza hospitals?”

    That’s a bit of an overstatement. Americans, other than those who read your blog and similar ones, a rarity, simply don’t know what is going on in Gaza. Those less of a rarity who listen to NPR get hasbara. So how do you get the word out? I personally don’t have an answer to this question.

  5. Thank you Dr. Cole. I am an American of Lebanese descent and spend three months each year living in Gaza and teaching at the university and doing research for Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. In the refugee camps shortages of electricity can cause outages up to 18 hours daily. This past year has been remarkably cruel and severe.


    Diane Shammas, PhD
    International and Intercultural Education
    Urban Higher Education
    Lecturer, American Studies and Ethnicity
    Diversity Education

  6. Well There are many countries which are supporters of Israel and that seem to have a less attacked right to mourn their local disgraces. The hurricane Sandy was devastating in many aspects for residents the East coast and I believe that some columnists should take a break and find other subjects to parade their capacity of analysis. It is completely understandably for human beings of all sorts to have more empathy for what happens close to you than to what happens far away in the globe. It is simiilar as If I were unable to complain that I am hungry while standing in a supermarket with no money while there is people that is hungry in the desert. Disgraces are that, disgraces, and no one should expect a cosmopolitan or balanced reaction to it.

  7. The discontinuation of electricity was a weapon used by the Nazi SS against the occupants of the Warsaw Ghetto. It constitutes mass punishment that is prohibited under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

    In response to Operation Cast Lead, the world community raised 4.4 billion dollars to rebuild Gaza despite the fact Prime Minister Abbas only claimed that 2.6 billion dollars was necessary. One billion was donated by the Saudi government and the U.S. contributed $900 million. The Israelis have tried to confound this generosity by denying the Gazans access to needed materials via its naval blockade.

    After Operation Cast Lead, an IDF soldier was interviewed and told a radio host that he was well aware that the destruction wreaked on Gaza would be met by massive international aid.

    The blockade is to ensure the Gazans feel the continued “punishment” of Operation Cast Lead. The Israeli expense was not insubstantial in that the military operation cost billion dollars not including damages inflicted by missiles fired into Israel from Gaza.

  8. Gee — let’s weigh this: Bombs falling on Israel vs cutting electricity. Neither is a good situation, but perhaps if the bombing stopped, the cutting of the electricity would stop too. Glass houses and all that? Would it be better if Israel started indiscriminately shooting bombs at Gaza as is being done to them — but leaving the electricity on? What would a reasonable person expect the Israelis to do when being bombed day after day?

    • International law does not say that even getting bombed day after day gives a country the right to steal another people’s land for profit. It says the opposite. If your country occupies my country and starts bulldozing my people’s farms to build colonies for immigrants you brought in for precisely that purpose, I will damn well bomb you until hell freezes over. You should feel the same way about me. International law understands that war can never end as long as occupation is profitable.

  9. Jan..perhaps if the palestinians were treated as fellow human beings with certain basic rights..all this mess could have been avoided.It is a wonder to me how a lot of people seem to have their heads in the can anyone be so blind to the facts on the ground and brush things aside…shame

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