Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

May 27, 2010

The Gaza Blockade

Israel claims the borders of Gaza are closed in order to block out violent forces and ensure protection of Israeli citizens.  Why, then, does a Turkish-led convoy of international pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian supply intimidate Israel?

Israel has said it would block the 9 fleet ship, which is carrying over 20 million Euros worth of supplies, and 700 activists.  If allowed, the supplies would be the largest amount given to the Palestinian territories.

The convoy is spearheaded by the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) of Istanbul, and the fleet includes ships from Britain, Greece, Algeria, Kuwait, Malaysia and Ireland. The fact that the parties are international and non-political in their advocacy of human rights shows how paranoid Israel is through its decision to block the IHH.

The group wants to directly deliver the supplies to Gaza rather than leave them with Israeli authorities, however Israel won’t have that.  Israeli authorities have said they would board the ships and arrest any activists before they could reach Gaza. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry has said the IHH is “less interested in bringing help, than with advancing their radical agenda, which plays into the hands of Hamas.”  However, I fail to see the threat Israel detects, as the group is international and humanitarian and is carrying 20 million Euros worth of aid.  The fact that Israel is so worried by a simple humanitarian convoy says something about its sense of security.

Can it be argued that by imposing a blockade on Gaza, Israel is actually hurting their own security rather than helping it?  By denying the people of Gaza basic human rights for fear of violence, isn’t Israel actually creating violence?  Maybe Gazan people are turning to violence out of frustration, frustration stemming from their lack of basic rights.  Gazans lack the ability to interact with the outside world and to control their own ports or roads, which dampens economic activity and leads to poverty. Could this blockade, rather than improving Israeli security, be hurting them in the long run?

The blockade is imposed in order to curb the strength of Hamas, yet the opposite effect is occurring and  its strength is actually growing.  Hamas is able to generate capital through smuggling tunnels, money changing, and tax revenue, while its competitors are not.  This leads to Hamas’s ability to extract financial and political leverage.  Their omnipresence is felt everywhere as they tax most businesses and own prime property in Gaza.  The blockade has created for Hamas informal banking and  patronage-like systems.  It charges businesses taxes for the use of tunnels, which contributes to its revenue of 100 million dollars per month.  Informal money exchanges have grown as well, since Israel has limited the ability to transfer cash.  Through the blockade, Gaza has now become Hamas’s “financial middleman” and this “terrorist group” has been strengthened.

Perhaps instead of enabling a counter effect in which Hamas is strengthened through the suffering of the Gazan people, Israel should lift the blockage and give Gazan people freedom.  Perhaps if the blockade were to be lifted, and Gazans were able to have control of their own trade, movement, and lives, they would not feel frustrated enough to resort to violence, the vast financial network of Hamas would no longer burden the Gazan people, and Israel would no longer need to feel threatened.

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