Was Gaza an Open-Air Prison?

Wedged between Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza has been described as an “open-air prison” and the “world’s largest concentration camp.” Those touting this view say that since 2005, when Israel withdrew its people and military forces from Gaza, Palestinians living there have been trapped with no opportunity to better their lives—they have been deprived of food, water, and healthcare and have not been allowed to enter Israel from Gaza. Israel has “locked Gaza down for 16 years,” and as a result, the economy is devastated, and its people fragmented.

Did Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 turn Gaza into an open-air prison? Let’s look at a few claims used to support this lie that Gaza is an open-air prison and then unpack what has really been happening there.

Lie #1 – Israel prohibits Palestinians from entering Israel from Gaza.

Before October 7, people left Gaza all the time. Some 165,000 Palestinians crossed the border into Israel every day to work at jobs that paid far more than what they could earn in Gaza. Sadly, many of these individuals who worked in Southern Israel were gaining intelligence on Israeli homes, military positions, and targets that aided in planning Hamas’ October 7 attack. The IDF has since discovered Israeli work permits alongside Hamas militia cards on terrorists and inside homes in Gaza.

Lie #2 – Israel built a fence on the border with Gaza to keep Palestinians trapped inside.

Israel constructed a fence on its border with Gaza as a security measure, not to trap people inside Gaza. This claim conveniently leaves other key details out: Gaza also shares a border with Egypt, whose government erected a wall on its border with Gaza. Both are not to keep Palestinians trapped inside Gaza but to monitor who enters their respective country so they can protect their own people against terrorist attacks.

Lie #3 – Israel restricts Gazans from food, water, and healthcare.

The only thing Israel prevents from entering Gaza is weapons. According to UN data, 70 food trucks on average entered Gaza every day before the war, and more than 35,000 have entered since (though Hamas terrorists have hijacked much of it). Since the Hamas attack, Israel has also continued to supply electricity, water, and medicine to Gaza, though Hamas steals that too. Any humanitarian aid or fuel crisis in Gaza is because of Hamas—not Israel.

Israel also treats Palestinians in its hospitals and clinics. Before the war, some Hamas leaders sent their entire families across the border for medical care, even though there are 36 hospitals in Gaza. (Those hospitals are merely a camouflage for Hamas’ underground tunnel system and weapons stash.)

If the Gazans are lacking in anything it is because their leaders stole the money intended for them. The top three leaders of Hamas are worth a combined $11 billion and live in luxury in Qatar.

Was Gaza Ever an Open-Air Prison?

When Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005, Gaza could have been a coastal paradise, with beautiful beaches and resorts. However, Hamas, under the support of the Iranian regime, used money to bolster its arsenal of weapons and build tunnels, keeping Gazan residents in a lower economic position. But even the “economic devastation” claim doesn’t line up. Before October 7, Gaza had large, furnished houses, wide avenues, public areas, a promenade, parks, and a vibrant city center that even its mayor called a “gem” of cultural riches.

Gaza could not have been a “gem” of a city and “like a concentration camp” and an “open-air prison” at the same time. The real issue is that pro-Palestinian activists continually shift the narrative to place blame on Israel for any issue in Gaza instead of on Hamas, where it belongs.

Learn more about the realities of Gaza in the Israel Answers podcast episode, "Israel's War with Hamas."

—by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network, and Out of Zion podcast

    By Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director
    Publish Date: 
    Tuesday, July 2, 2024