In a recent visit to Turkey, the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the current blockade on Gaza and referred to the territory as a “prison camp”. The Israeli embassy in London accordingly responded to Mr. Cameron’s remarks by asserting that the Palestinians living in Gaza are actually prisoners of Hamas, rather than prisoners of the Israeli blockade. Furthermore, the Israeli spokesperson claimed that Hamas, due to its election in 2006, is responsible for the situation in Gaza.
While the media is focusing on the visit and remarks by David Cameron, the responding statements by the Israeli embassy are, in my view, more interesting. Both statements are clear examples of political spin, but spin that has gone so far as to place the blame for Israeli actions upon Hamas.
The logic is impossible to follow, but according to the Israeli envoy to the UK, this is what we are supposed to understand about the blockade. They want us to believe that Hamas really doesn’t care much about the well-being of the Palestinians who elected it into power. And that Hamas is enforcing a strict blockade on the territory that they control. Clearly, they would never want any form of international trade, freedom of movement, secure access to power, or building materials. Instead, Hamas focuses solely on building rockets and killing Israelis, at the expense of any effort that might aid Gaza.
However, the officials who work at the Israeli Embassy are not idiots. They most likely understand that the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and the ensuing conditions of poverty, are not the responsibility of Hamas. But they still try to put out this kind of spin, wriggling their way out of any sort of blame or consequences and using Hamas as a scapegoat. Unfortunately, many in the United States accept this spin without question.
Following international pressure and diplomatic discussions with Egyptian, US and Quartet representatives, Israel’s security cabinet announced Sunday that it would change its blockade policy for the Gaza Strip. At present only 114 items are allowed into the Strip, but according to the announced easing of the Gaza blockade a new “black list” of unpermitted goods will replace the current highly restrictive policy. The PM Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed that all goods, other than “weapons and materials Hamas uses”, will be allowed into the Palestinian territory while adding that a finalized list of items not allowed will be released as soon as possible.
While the exact definition of a “material Hamas uses” is not clear, the announcement certainly paves the way for humanitarian aid and some construction materials to soon enter the Gaza Strip. Heavy limitations, however, remain on the construction materials allowed, as they must be for Palestinian Authority-approved projects and kept under international supervision. Netanyahu described these new allowances as “eliminating Hamas’ main propoganda claim and allow[ing] [Israel]…to face [their] real concerns in the realm of security.” (more…)
Israel has rejected UN demands for an external probe of the Gaza raid, and instead has announced that it is to administer an internal investigation. Israel, trying to somewhat appease the international community, has added “two foreign observers” to the commission. The observers include Irish Nobel Prize laureate David Trimble, and Canada’s former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces Ken Watkin. David Trimble, one of the “foreign observers,” recently joined a Friends of Israel group. If Israel is to include outsiders in the internal probe, it should at least let them be chosen by an external party. The “observers” should also have an active participating role; simply observing the commission and not offering their input seems futile. The structure of the commission is inhibiting in other ways as well. The commission must use summaries of the events, as soldiers cannot be directly questioned. It can ask for more information if not satisfied, though there is no guarantee they will receive more information (BBC).
The purposes of the commission are to: examine the “security circumstances” of the naval blockade on Gaza and whether this conforms to international law, decide if the actions of May 31st, conform to the principles of international law, and consider the actions of those who organized and took part in the flotilla “and their identities” (BBC). The last requirement, not surprisingly, shifts the focus away from Israel and tries to make them the victims. This culture of victimization and no sense of accountability will no doubt result in another travesty of justice. (more…)
Several days after Israeli commandos raided an aid ship headed for Gaza, heads of state around the world are focusing their attention towards investigating the events of May 31 and working towards ending the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been very vocal in condemning Israeli actions after the death of several Turkish citizens, has made a statement calling for the formation of an international investigation. According to Erdogan, the acceptance of such an investigation would be the only way to better Israeli-Turkish relations. He went on to say that if Israel refused an international investigation that, “it means that they are hiding some facts.” In addition, Prime Minister Erdogan has been reported to be considering a trip to Gaza aboard a Turkish Naval vessel. While this has caused some in Israel to threaten violence at another attempt to breach the blockade, the official tone is much more moderate and IDF leaders have made statements essentially telling their colleagues to calm down. (more…)
Activists are returning to their respective countries and funerals are underway for the nine slain activists in Turkey, one of whom was a 19-year-old dual U.S. citizen. However, the atmosphere of the international community continues to exhibit volatility.
More accounts of the events are pouring in as the activists return. Following the attack, Israel had created an information blackout, barring the captured activists from speaking to media in Israel, but as they return home their stories are emerging. Bulent Yildrim, the head of the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), said: “I took off my shirt and waved it, as a white flag. We thought they would stop after seeing the white flag, but they continued killing people.” Norman Paech, a former German politician accounts: “The soldiers were all masked, carrying big guns and were extremely brutal.” Haneen Zoubi, an Arab-Israeli MP claims Israeli vessels fired on her ship a few minutes before soldiers descended from helicopters. You can also hear an account of the events from former ambassador and former CNI board member Edward Peck, here. (more…)
Just a few minutes ago an interview with former CNI board member and frequent host of our radio show “CNI Jerusalem Calling”, Ambassador Edward Peck, was released by ABC News, giving an insider’s account of what actually occurred between the flotilla and the Israeli navy. In the interview, Ambassador Peck recounts his experience and deportation. He mentions that he and the other people captured were kept in isolation and knew very little about what was going on. He also mentions that another US citizen, Paul Larudee, was injured and remains in an Israeli hospital.
In addition, more countries have stepped forward to condemn the Israeli actions. The EU and Russia issued a joint statement earlier today condemning Israel’s actions and use of force, even going so far as to call for an end to the blockade on Gaza. Shortly after, France joined them in calling for the release of the civilian activists being held.
Even Hamas and Fatah seem united in condemning the attacks and urging the international community to open the borders into Gaza. Today, the PA’s Interior Ministry announced that the Rafah crossing has been opened and restrictions lifted. And Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, released a statement arguing that this attack could help unify Palestinians, stating
“Israel’s crime today is an opportunity for Palestinian unity on the right national platform. It is also an opportunity for the Arab world to re-take the initiative today and to take a strong position against the Israeli bullying and to open the Rafah crossing and to end the siege once and for all.”
Could this attack provide the catalyst for re-opening negotiations between Hamas and the PA? And could it possibly push the international community to get more involved in helping the Gazans and permanently lifting the 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. (more…)
On January 20, the body of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior HAMAS figure and facilitator of arms smuggling between Iran and Gaza, was found dead in a hotel room in Dubai. Ha’aretz reported that there were burn markings from a stun gun under his ear, in his groin, and on his chest. And a bloody pillow was found, most likely used to suffocate him. There were no signs of forced entry into his hotel room and no evidence to suggest who did it. HAMAS blames Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, but other evidence suggests he could have been killed by another Arab intelligence organization.
The facts are that Mabhouh flew to Dubai from Damascus on January 19th, under a false name, and checked in at al-Bustan Rotana, also under a false name. He requested a room on the first floor, with no balconies and sealed windows. He was probably killed between 9:00 and 9:30 PM, after returning to his hotel from dinner. And Dubai’s police chief believes the killers used European passports.
Israel’s Mossad has a history of assassinating Palestinian political and military leaders. They are often successful, but rarely confess their guilt. A shocking and gripping example was the assassination of 8 members of Black September, the PLO terrorists who killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. That operation involved current Defense Minister Ehud Barak dressing as a woman to assassinate targets in Beirut.
But Israel has also had several devastating failures. After the Munich massacre, Mossad mistakenly killed Ahmed Bouchiki, an innocent Moroccan waiter, thinking he was part of Black September. Also, in 1997 a botched attempt to poison HAMAS senior figure, Khaled Meshaal, ended in a diplomatic row with Jordan’s King Hussein and the CIA intervening on behalf of Meshaal, to get an antidote.
In a recent talk at The Palestine Center in Washington entitled “Humanitarianism: Prolonging the Palestinian Political Plight?”, George Washington University Anthropology Professor Ilana Feldman addressed the dangers inherent in defining the tragic situation in Gaza purely in humanitarian terms.
This question is especially urgent in light of Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza. The blockade, in which the US and the EU as well as Egypt are complicit, keeps out all but a small fraction of basic subsistence items for 1.3 million Gazans and virtually all materials needed for the reconstruction of the housing and other infrastructure destroyed by Israel’s brutal December 2008 – January 2009 military assault. This, Feldman argued, is a situation in which humanitarianism can contribute to “a limited humanity,” where what is considered normal spirals further and further downwards.
Israel, she noted, continues to insist that it is helping with the situation, whereas it, in fact, contributes to its continued deterioration. Meanwhile, Israel and the Quartet (consisting of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN) ignore the legitimate political claims of the Palestinians.
Moreover, as the sanctions policy on Gaza, imposed after Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, continues to punish Gazans of all ages and political persuasions, it only serves to strengthen rather than weaken Hamas while it contributes to the further radicalization of elements of Gazan society. Ironically, even more stringent sanctions remain in force despite the evolution in Hamas’ position to the point that it has indicated a willingness to accept a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders.
The video of Dr. Feldman’s lecture is available here.