Limited Israeli Easing of Gaza Blockade Greeted with Dismay

Despite the breathless flurry of approving statements provoked by the English-language pledge issued by the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu that the blockade of Gaza would be ‘eased,’ in fact , Haaretz reports, the Hebrew text of the communique does not indicate that the cabinet made any such decision, and there has been no change at the border checkpoint.

Even if Israel were actually doing what the English text indicated, the Palestinians, the United Nations and aid NGOs do not see the measure as going nearly far enough. PLO spokesman Saeb Erekat dismissed the announced easing as an effort

‘”to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade . . . In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians, continues unabated. Israel has a so-called ‘white list’ of only 114 items. Palestinian basic needs require at least 8,000 items that continue to be prohibited. These include essential materials for rebuilding and for waste-water treatment.” ‘

For one thing, how many items are let in is less important than the volume of each. The Irish Times quotes Robert Serry, the head of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). During the first week in June, imports declined by a quarter, even though Israel expanded the list of allowed imports by 11 food and health items. OCHA says that the amount of staples and aid going into Gaza is only about 17% of the goods routinely allowed in before the blockade began. So an ‘easing’ would not even restore the status quo ante of pre-2007.

Although in public and in English Israeli spokesmen stress that the purpose of the blockade is to keep arms out of the hands of Hamas, the fundamentalist party-militia that dominates Gaza, in fact an internal document ferreted out by McClatchy demonstrates that the blockade has all along mainly aimed at punishing innocent civilians. If you think about it, the idea that Hamas can form a conventional challenge to Israel, using e.g. tanks, is ridiculous.

Professor Ian Lustick argues that Israel should just take that truce Hamas is always offering, just as Egypt and Jordan have done with their versions of Hamas– and stop trying to pretend that Israel isn’t in the Middle East or that it can change the Middle East all around at will.

The Irish Times quotes Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, to the effect that “What is needed is a complete lifting of the blockade. Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs construction material, which must be allowed to come in without restrictions.” He called lifting the bans on chocolates and potato chips “frivolous.”

Christopher Gunness, spokesman of the UN Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees, said: “We look at deeds not words. There is a massive amount of rebuilding to do in Gaza. Four thousand homes were destroyed, another 17,000 damaged during the [ 2008-09] war. The agency needs to repair its schools and build 100 new schools for 39,000 children.

Aljazeera English reports on the reaction of Gaza’s government. It also points out that there would be no chocolate in the Palestinian Gaza Strip if it weren’t for smuggling through tunnels. And even children’s toys had been banned, officially making the Israelis the Grinches of the Middle East.

Letting children have toys is hardly a big step toward ending the siege. If the Israelis really do, as they pledged in English, allow cement and steel in, that would at least allow the 8% of Palestinians whose homes were destroyed by the Israeli military in winter 2008-2009 to rebuild. But the main problem is with any sort of blockade of goods other than guns and explosives. The blockade kills employment and investment, guaranteeing malnutrition in children. In famines, people do not starve because there is no food. They starve because they cannot afford to buy food suddenly become expensive. Likewise, the 10% of Palestinian children in Gaza who have experienced stunted growth are just in families where the breadwinner has been unemployed for a long time and in which relief aid doesn’t quite go far enough. “Easing” the blockade will have no effect on employment, which is very low, perhaps 40%, and therefore will not address the most pressing problem.

An Italian humanitarian familiar with Gaza makes the same point at Russia Today:

11 Responses

  1. One of the standard hasbara lines about Arafat was that he said one thing in English and quite another in Arabic. This was probably true, but a bit hypocritical coming from the Israelis!

    But this piece shows what a nonsense the whole ‘easing the blockade’ farce is. The blockade needs to be dropped, not ‘eased’. This is a transparant PR stunt aimed at taking a bit of the heat off Israel and hoping that the siege will drop out of the international headlines. And thanks for the important reminder that this siege was never about ‘preventing Hamas from re-arming’. That (spurious) justificaiton was only used after the siege was imposed, and probably only in English. It was clear from the start that the Israelis considered this a form of collective punishment, ‘putting them on a diet’ to use the horrible phrase which had the Knesset split their sides in laughter.

  2. The root problem has been stated already by two eloquent speakers, Helen Thomas who told the European and Russian colonialists to “Get out of Palestine,” and Stephen Colbert who told the Israeli dissembler/ambassador to US that the Palestinian refugees in Gaza “should just go home.” Which of course means to the lands stolen from them by the European and now Russian colonialists who, themselves, should leave.

  3. quote:
    He called lifting the bans on chocolates and potato chips “frivolous.”
    Reminds one of “let them eat cake”

  4. In the Bizzaro world of the Palestinian occupation, a statement by Israel, whether true or not, usually not, that Israel is lifting some oppression or otherwise not murdering civilians is greeted with worldwide (read US media) acclaim, whereas an act of violence by a single Palestinian is renounced as “absence of partners for peace.”

    Perhaps some aid organization could airdrop a few tens of thousands of disposable cameras and let the Palestinians document the occupation.

  5. “The blockade kills employment and investment, guaranteeing malnutrition in children. In famines, people do not starve because there is no food. They starve because they cannot afford to buy food suddenly become expensive. Likewise, the 10% of Palestinian children in Gaza who have experienced stunted growth are just in families where the breadwinner has been unemployed for a long time and in which relief aid doesn’t quite go far enough.”

    And from our President down to those making tea, who cares. I just got home from seeing the movie “The Most Dangerous Man in America” about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (a terrific movie), and one of the saddest points is that, in the end, the vast documentation of political deception and lying that braced the public support for the Vietnam War had little impact on the public – Nixon got reelected by a landslide (and Ellsberg, a true hero, was reduced to a non-entity). I’m afraid that similar revelations about the Iraq War, the Afghanistan fox hunt, the eagerness to throw some military violence at Iran, and our baseless fondness for Israel, would get the same yawn as the Pentagon Papers. We are who we are.

  6. i was pleasantly surprised to read the Ian Lustick article. I read a pretty long article he had about the chanign of the Iron Wall policy and i thought that it was a new an fantasic angle to look at the conflict. He mentions in there as well about how Israel wants to further isolate itself from the Middle East, as he did in this article.

    You can read it from this link: link to

    I do my best to not be a cynic, and i can show you that regarding this post. Certainly, the “easing” of the blockade is not enough, but it’s a good sign that Israel is feeling the pressure and international community is making some progress. My girlfriend told me to take whatever victories you can, so why shouldn’t we be happy about this?

  7. Meanwhile on the Persian side:

    28خرداد: مصر مانع عبور کشتيهای ايرانی از طريق کانال سوئز که عازم غزه ميباشند نخواهد شد

    به نوشته مطبوعات اسرائيلی به نقل از نشريان اينترنتی عرب زبان اسرائيل از مصر خواسته است تا جلوی عبور کشتيهای ايرانی که جهت “کمک های انسانی” از طريق کانال سوئز عازم غزه هستند را بگيرد. اما مصر به دليل مقررات بين المللی ترافيک از آبهای کانال سوئز به اين تقاضای اسرائيل جواب منفی داده است
    28th of Khordad, June 18
    Eygpt will not stop Iranian ships heading towards Gaza at Swez Canal.

    According to Israeli press citing Isralei-Arab internet sites, Israel has requested from Eygpt to prevent Iranian ships, carrying ” humanitarian assistance” from passing through Swez Canal. But Eygpt, based on laws of internatioanl traffic has given a negative response to this request.

  8. A tit for tat or something more than that?

    Much abbreviated English translation:

    Movement of 11 US warships and a nuclear Israeli submarine, towards Persian Gulf.

    According to observers this is the most extensive naval configuration they have seen yet. Mr. Abdolah Alsanawy editor of Alaraby Alnasery? expresed strong reservations about any military action on Iran, same point was also raised by Akvan Muslmin, and Mr.Badavi president of Alvafad party.

    حرکت یازده ناو آمریکایی و یک زیر دریایی اتمی اسرائیلی به طرف خلیج فارس

    سایت حکومتی عصر ايران : 12 ناو جنگی آمریکایی و اسرائیلی برای رسیدن به خلیج فارس از کانال سوئز عبور کردند.به گزارش عصر ایران ، روزنامه القدس العربی چاپ لندن به نقل از منابع آگاه نوشت: 11 فروند شناور جنگی (ناو) آمریکا و یک یک زیردریایی اسرائیلی مجهز به موشک های هسته ای صبح دیروز جمعه کانال سوئز را به مقصد خلیج فارس ترک کرده اند.

    عبور این ناوها، با حضور چشمگیر نظامیان مصری و برقراری وضعیت ویژه در کانال سوئز همراه بود.

    پیش از این خبرهایی درباره حرکت زیردریایی اسرائیلی دولفین به طرف خلیج فارس منتشر شده بود.

    شاهدان عینی و منابع آگاه گفته اند که ناوگان آمریکایی شامل چند ناو هواپیمابر و ناوهای حامل خودروها و تجهیزات زرهی از دریای مدیترانه و کانال سوئز به طرف دریای سرخ عبور کردند. مقصد این ناوگان نیز خلیج فارس اعلام شده است. منابع رسمی عبور شناور اسرائیلی را در میان ناوهای آمریکایی تایید نکرده اند.

    شاهدان عینی و منابع آگاه گفته اند که این ناوگان آمریکایی، در طول چند سال گذشته ، “بزرگترین” بوده است.در همین حال عبدالله السناوی سردبیر نشریه العربی الناصری گفت که مصری ها این بار دست بسته نخواهند ماند تا ببینند که دولت مصر آنها را در رسوایی دیگری یعنی هماهنگی با اسرائیل و آمریکا و باز کردن کانال سوئز برای تجاوز به ایران اسلامی دخالت می دهد.

    رهبر اخوان المسلمین مصر نیز ضمن هشدار درباره حمله نظامی به ایران گفت: پذیرش چنین موضوعی از سوی جهان عرب و جهان اسلام غیرقابل قبول است و اگردولت ها در برابر اراده واشنگتن و تل آویو تسلیم شدند، ملت ها نباید ساکت باشند.

    بدوی رئیس حزب الوفد نیز با محکومیت بروز هر گونه حمله نظامی علیه ایران گفت که ملت های کشورهای عربی و اسلامی مخالفت این حمله نظامی هستند .وی همچنین ابراز نگرانی کرد که دولت های عربی و اسلامی در این باره به مانند همیشه تحت سیطره آمریکا قرار بگیرند.

    در همین حال منابع آگاه در مصر اعلام کردند که این کشور درخواست اسرائیل برای جلوگیری از عبور کشتی های کمک رسان ایران از کانال سوئز را رد کرده است. این کشتی های ایرانی قرار است کمک هایی را برای مردم غزه به این منطقه منتقل کنند

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