Palestinians Need a State: Loosening Blockade is not Enough

One problem with the focus the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla is that it may make it appear that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is the central issue. Then any Israeli loosening of the blockade would seem to be an advance.

In fact, the blockade is not the problem but is rather a symptom of the underlying issue, which is Palestinian statelessness. Gazans have no state. What the Israelis deign to call the ‘Hamas regime’ is no such thing because it lacks sovereignty, over its borders, air, sea, imports and exports. (The idea that Israel is ‘at war’ with its own occupied territory is laughable.) The Israeli ‘withdrawal’ of 2005 simply removed a few thousand colonists and withdrew troops, usually, to the borders. But it did not allow the creation of a sovereign state. Gazans are excluded from a third of their own farmland by Israeli restrictions on where people can live. That so many Gazans are unemployed, that their industries have collapsed, that they are food insecure, and that malnutrition is causing stunting in 10% of children– all these outrages derive from their lack of a sovereign state to look out for their interests.

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a report this weekend detailing the harm to Gazan children and civilians of the blockade. Most do not even have clean water to drink.

Aljazeera English also reports on the impact of the blockade on Gaza’s children:

Nevertheless, the problems inflicted on Gazans by the Israeli blockade will not be resolved by a loosening of the blockade. They will only be resolved by the bestowal of citizenship on Gazans, either by a Palestinian state (which does not exist and would have to be created) or by Israel (which does not want the Gazans as citizens but may end up being stuck with them).

What I cannot understand is how Israel, the US, and the European Union expect this thing to end. In the West Bank there are three political processes. First, there are the proximity talks between Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and the Israelis (talks about the conditions for talks). Second, there are municipal elections this summer in the West Bank. Third, the ‘Fayyad Plan’ calls for the Palestine Authority to have some 20,000 trained security forces in the West Bank by summer 2011, at which point Salim Fayyad, the appointed prime minister of the Palestine Authority and his government could well declare an independent state.

But in Gaza there is no political process and no prospect of one. The fundamentalist party, Hamas, won the January 2006 parliamentary elections in the Palestine Authority. But the Israelis and the US immediately rejected its victory and kidnapped parliamentarians and disrupted the government and then supported a coup in the West Bank by Fatah, the secular nationalist party of president Abbas. An attempt to extend the coup to the Gaza Strip failed, so Hamas remained in power there. The Israelis have attempted to overthrow and dislodge Hamas, including through the blockade on ordinary civilians and through the 2008-09 Gaza War, but so far have failed.

Unless a way can be found to hold legitimate elections in Gaza, it will remain isolated, even from other Palestinians in the West Bank, both politically and economically, so that the lives of its inhabitants will continue to be hell. The Israeli far right, now in power politically, will use the isolation of Gaza to argue that there is no single Palestinian representative with whom they can negotiate, and that they therefore do not need to negotiate, and can go blockading Gazans and stealing the land of West Bank Palestinians.

To repeat: the Israeli blockade of Gaza is a war crime and it is harming the health and well-being of the Gazans. But it is not in and of itself the problem, such that easing the blockade solves anything fundamental. Incorporation of Gazans into a sovereign state such that they have citizenship and can exercise popular sovereignty is the key to any real advance.

It seems to me therefore less than earth-shaking that the White House is backing an internal Israeli inquiry into its fatal raid in international waters against an aid flotilla that aimed at helping the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The commission will have some distinguished Europeans on it as observers, but the performance of the Israeli authorities with regard to investigating their own during the 2008-2009 Gaza War and Tel Aviv’s demonization of Judge Richard Goldstone and the Goldstone Report do not encourage confidence. Moreover, even if the commission found that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu erred in sending commandos to board the Mavi Marmara aid ship, it is hard to see how the ordinary people of Gaza would benefit from such a finding.

In any case, Washington and Tel Aviv no longer have infinite time to resolve the issue. The blockade of civilians is backfiring on the Israelis by provoking more and more aid ships.

Even little Bahrain is sending aid to Gaza. And, Iran is planning an aid flotilla (I expect real trouble over that one). And Turkey is planning another, this time possibly with the Turkish prime minister aboard (major international conflict looming, possibly even hostilities).

The international community has to stop dithering and intervene to end this Israeli lawlessness in Gaza, and provide a path for Gazans to citizenship in some sovereign state. The consequences of not doing so are now potentially explosive.

22 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Ghada Karmi discusses the options for a Palestinian State in her book “Married to Another Man”

    Simply providing a “State” that has no control over its frontiers and Utilities is rather useless. The Two Sate solution should be understood in an Irish context as Home Rule which was a placebo to keep Irish Nationalism quiet.

    The point about frontiers is important because of the coastline of Gaza. Coastal states have what is described in The Law of the Sea as an exclusive Economic Zone strecthing 200 Nautical Miles out to Sea. The Gazan one would need to be divided with the Egyptians according to customary practice.

    Israel has been trumpeting a find of major offshore gas fields in the last couple of weeks. It will be instructive to see whether these gas fields are located in what would be a Gazan Exclusive Economic Zone.

    The need to police this zone then leads to the need for a Palestinian Navy to enforce the controls, thus undermining the case for a dimiltarised Palestinian state.

    It would be intolerable if the efforts to drive the population of Gaza into Sinai were to deprive a Palestinian state of the revenue and power generation opportunities associated with these gas fields. Sixty years after the Nakba, allowing the Israeli state to steal the mineral rights of the descendants of the refugees of 1948 and 67 would be heinous.

    The revenue from the gas would compensate for the prospective flight of venture capital from a future One State.

    I agree with Ghada Karmi’s recommendation of a One State solution, but that of course is contingent on removal of the Israeli Nuclear Weapons and the formation of a Palestinian Core Body of Competence that can provide a civil service and business class that can run the country on a par with their Jewish neighbours.

  2. The Zionista self-justification commission overlooking the murderous attack upon the Gaza Aid Flotilla in international waters also includes nobelist David Trimble of Northern Ireland. You can be assured this enquiry can be no better than Wigery’s whitewash efforts looking at Bloody Sunday. Judge Wigery set an historical nadir for corruption of the judicial process; the name should live forevermore as did Boycott’s, but as a perjoritive denoting slavish subservience to ideology. The findings of this farcical commission are corrupted from the beginning; any finding other than factually supported finding of criminal endeavour by IDF forces, not worth the paper used.

  3. There is one huge problem over making the West Bank and/or Gaza a “state”.

    What happens next?

    I’ll tell you: somebody in Gaza will launch a rocket. Israel will “declare war against the Palestinian state” under the usual spurious reasons – the same reasons Bush and Obama used to launch drone attacks in Pakistan – and will bomb the hell out of the so-called Palestinian “state”, leaving it worse off than it is now.

    Until the bottom line issue of rabid Zionists running Israel (and to a similar degree, rabid Islamists running Gaza) is resolved by creating a single state under a new internationally designed Constitution protecting the civil and religious rights of both Jews and Palestinians which sidelines the hardliners on both sides, nothing is going to be solved by creating a “rump state” out of the West Bank and Gaza. It’s just going to be a recipe for war and an excuse for Israel to make its ethnic cleansing more aggressive, because they need no longer be an “occupying power”. Everything they do to the Palestinians then can be claimed, even as they do now, to be a “military necessity”.

    A two state solution is a joke and a disaster waiting to happen. What needs to happen is that the UN revisits its 1947 decision to partition Palestine, recognizes that the decision was ILLEGAL (as its own commission set up to study that very point concluded), declare Israel an illegal state, return the entire area back under UN Mandate control, then redesign a bi-national state for Palestine which included Jews and Palestinians.

    Of course, this won’t happen because nobody believes it can be done. We can rip entire countries apart like Iraq and Afghanistan, kill a million people and displace millions more, rebuild governments on the fly – but we can’t resolve a lousy little situation involving a few million people in Palestine. What’s wrong with this picture?

  4. Sadly, when you talk of the “international community” taking action, history shows as, in the case of the international campaign against apartheid South Africa, that it is ordinary people of conscience who will lead the fight. So it will be in the case of Israeli illegal acts against the Palestinians. It is only when it becomes politically suicidal for Western governments to ignore locally based protests, boycotts and associated direct action campaigns that governments will act.

  5. As usual no punishment will fall on Israel there are rumours that there will be comission and two observators I can suspect that they gets order from US and this second goverment that they have to sign report and shut up if something doesn’t like them so leaf will be secured

  6. Hi Juan
    I can’t rememeber if it was listed in Informed Comment on an earlier post, but last week McClatchy obtained an Israeli document, due to a lawsuit by the Israeli human rights group Gisha, stating that the blockade isn’t about security, but about ‘economic warfare’.
    And went so far to say that this ‘economic warfare’ had a political goal:

    link to

  7. Egypt has opened its border crossing with Gaza in Rafah. Why can’t the people of Gaza get all the aid they need through that crossing?

  8. Dear Professor Cole

    I am astounded and offended that the comission of Inquiry includes a 93 year old Professor of Law and an 84 year old Retired Israeli General and that the chairman doesn’t even believe in the process.

    Even the Pope makes cardinals and bishops pack it in at 75.

    One of the Observers joined the Friends of Israel group two weeks ago according to Haaretz.

    The BBC’s tone of astonishment and cynicism is quite right.

    link to

    This is such a blatant insult to the intelligence of the Western World that it beggars belief. Tikkun Olam picks up the farcical nature of this display of contempt.

    link to

    • Why does the age of the participants offend you?

      John Paul Stevens is a US Supreme Court justice and he is 90 years old. Does that offend you too?

      • Referring to the mention above of the Lord Chief Justice of England Lord Widgery, I think the age of the justices must be taken into account.

        The Wikipedia entry describes his final few years as follows.

        His later years in office were marred by persistent ill health and mental decline. In Private Eye[6] it was observed that “he sits hunched and scowling, squinting into his books from a range of three inches, his wig awry. He keeps up a muttered commentary of bad-tempered and irrelevant questions – ‘What d’you say?’, ‘Speak up’, ‘Don’t shout’, ‘Whipper-snapper’, etc.”. He resisted attempts to get him to resign until the last moment in 1980. For at least 18 months previously he had not been in control of either his administrative work or his legal pronouncements, and it soon became apparent that he was suffering from dementia, and he died two days following his 70th birthday in 1981.

        Today’s Daily Telegraph picks up Israeli comment along the same lines as mine.

        Mr Netanyahu has angrily denounced such suggestions, insisting that the inquiry would be lawful and transparent. He gave warning that enemies, and even some allies, were involved in a campaign to destroy Israel.

        “Dark forces from the Middle Ages are raging against us,” he said. “We find ourselves in the midst of a difficult and continuous battle against the State of Israel.”

        But even some Israeli newspapers questioned the nature of an inquiry which will not be allowed to interview military officers involved in the raid and will instead focus on questions of international law. They also pointed out that the youngest member of the investigating committee is 75, while the oldest is 93.

        “This will be a particularly inexpensive committee,” columnist Nahum Barnea noted in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. “There is no need to hear witnesses, and no need to crosscheck testimonies. What is necessary is a good kettle, a few cups of tea and a good bell, to ensure that the committee does not fall into a coma.”

        Mr Justice Stevens seems to agree that 35 years service at age 90 is a good innings.

        link to

      • Late Update Haaretz 19 June

        Cruel and unnecessary (This Inquiry looks more and more like the plot of a Marx Brothers film)

        One of the members of the ministerial forum of seven was walking through the Knesset corridors on Monday, when he ran into someone. The latter told the minister that press photographers had just come from the home of Prof. Shabtai Rosenne, a member of the Turkel committee of inquiry into the Gaza flotilla episode, who is 93, wheelchair-ridden, has a permanent caregiver and was photographed in pajamas. The minister gave his interlocutor a stunned look.

        “You’re joking, right?” he asked.

        “No,” the man replied.

        “Is this a joke or not?” the minister persisted.

        “Absolutely not,” the interlocutor said.

        The minister repeated, “You have to tell me, seriously: Are you pulling my leg?”

        “No, it’s true,” the other person repeated, a bit embarrassed.

        The minister swallowed hard. “It doesn’t look good,” he mumbled to himself.

        Even though he belongs to the exclusive, all-knowing forum that authorized the committee’s composition, no one told the man about the physical condition of one of the three panel members, just as he had not been told all the details about the flotilla making its way to Gaza more than two weeks ago.

        Probably not even the prime minister knew about Rosenne. The justice minister, Yaakov Neeman, and committee chairman Turkel met with the world-renowned jurist in his home. Afterward, Neeman told Netanyahu that Rosenne is “lucid.”

        At one point that day the premier and his aides even considered replacing Prof. Rosenne or asking him to step down, but both ideas were vetoed. The first, because of the tremendous PR damage it would do to the Prime Minister’s Bureau, which would once again look like something out of a French farce; and the second, because it would be heartbreaking: The professor was photographed perusing a thick file entitled “The Gaza Flotilla.” There he was, already at work. To take that away from him, especially as he has nothing wrong, would be cruelty akin to abusing the helpless.

    • A murder suspect investigates itself and the Obama administration is OK with that??????? The hypocrisy will not be lost on anybody other than Americans and Israelis. And then of course we don;t understand why they hate us????

      By the way, this is what BBC reports on David Trimble: “David Trimble recently joined an international “Friends of Israel” group set up by Dore Gold, a close associate of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu”.

  9. The Israeli government has been monstrous but the government has the backing of President Obama and Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton and the Congress, so nothing will moderate Israel.

  10. I can’t express this precisely, but I can imagine the West Bank as an independent state or as a state or region in Israel, governed by the Palestinian Authority, but I can’t envision the same relationship between Israel and a Gaza, governed by Hamas. I think the problem for me is that Hamas never maintained the same separation in fact or in the imagination of the world between it’s political wing and its military wing that the Irish maintained between Sinn Féin and the IRA in Northern Ireland, for example. Difficult for me to see how Israel tolerates an independent Gaza or incorporates Gaza as a state as long as it is governed by Hamas.

  11. There is a bizarre symmetry in all this: The US has blockaded Cuba–“El Bloqueo” in Cuban parlance; “Embargo and Travel Ban” for those who prefer the the U.S. definition–for the past 48 years. In the most recent Security Council resolution directing the U.S. to end El Bloqueo, the vote was 189 to 4. Standing tall with the U.S. in opposition were two sovereign nations, which together are about the size of a pencil eraser: The Marshall Islands and Palau.

    But there is one big dog that stands with us on hammering the Cuban people. You guessed it–the sovereign state of Israel. Never mind that Israeli trade with Cuba is large, growing and significant. When it comes time to tell the UN to go stuff their chickenshit resolutions, Israel can be counted as a fearless ally. Pay no attention to the ships loaded with Israeli goods steaming into Havana harbor.

    So, we count on the thug regime in Israel to back up our stupid and counterproductive blockade of Cuba; the least we can do is to back their stupid, counterproductive–and murderous–blockade of Gaza.

  12. ” They will only be resolved by the bestowal of citizenship on Gazans, either by a Palestinian state (which does not exist and would have to be created) or by Israel (which does not want the Gazans as citizens but may end up being stuck with them).”

    This (the second of the two options) is the core of the matter. What is required is what nobody at the present time is willing to advocate – that Israel should annex Gaza (and the West Bank) and accept the moral responsibility for the wellbeing of the people living there (who are already entirely subject to its governance). In the first place this would be an undemocratic blatantly apartheit system, as envisaged by John Mearsheimer, but the inevitable endgame, as also envisaged by John Mearsheimer, would be a single democratic state from the river to the sea. If the Israeli Jews would recognize the inevitability of this they could, from their present position of brittle strength, negotiate a good deal for themselves. Israel/Palestine could still be a ‘Jewish state’. It would no longer be an exclusively Jewish state.

  13. Counterpoint to those calling for a single state solution. I think you would be creating another Lebanon. A state that will self destruct until a stateless client of the West or MidEast is put in power to police, a la Hezbollah. A two state solution is the only feasible way to go. The Arab league and the rest of the world will need to provide a tremendous amount of support to get a Palestinian state up on its own legs as there has never been non occupied Palestinian self sustaining infrastructure system. They will need help. And of course the Nilhist will need to go.

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