The Top other thing Netanyahu Needs to Apologize For: The Gaza Blockade

The one diplomatic success of President Obama’s mainly pro forma visit to Israel and Jordan was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pro forma apology to Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan for killing 8 Turkish nationals and 1 American citizen of Turkish heritage aboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship trying to succor the Palestinians of Gaza in 2010.

The Guardian reports that

“The prime minister made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional, and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life. In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors, Netanyahu apologised to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.”

Erdogan appears to have grudgingly accepted the apology (Israel will pay roughly $6 million to the victims’ families), and the two leaders agreed that normal diplomatic relations would be restored, though Erdogan later said it would be a gradual process.

The Obama administration is touting the apology and the step toward return of correct Israeli-Turkish relations as a win. Turkey is a member of NATO and has been excluding Israel from some NATO meetings (Israel is not a NATO member but is often included in its counsels; Turkey as a member can block it).

What is astonishing in all this is that no one is talking about the reason for which the Mavi Marmara was heading to Gaza and for which the Israeli commandos boarded it and shot it up.

It is that Israel has imposed an illegal blockade on the civilian population of Gaza. The blockade forbids the export of most of what the Palestinians there produce, depriving them of export markets. There are only 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of them thrown into desperate poverty by Israeli policy, so they aren’t much of an internal market. The Israelis have a cover story that they are strangling Gaza out of security concerns, but how could exporting goods from Gaza pose a threat to Israeli security? One Israeli official admitted the truth years ago; the Israelis have put the Palestinians ‘on a diet,’ and most creepily actually tried to figure what was the least amount of food they could let in without producing widespread starvation. This policy can only be called fascist and it recalls the worst kind of medical experiments on human beings and social engineering of the mass political movements of the 1930s.

Palestinian children forage for food in trash

Since Turkey (rightly and courageously) rejects the Israeli blockade on Gaza civilians, its actual diplomatic relations with Israel are likely to continue to be roiled. The Israelis maintain that blockades are a recognized tool of war in international law, but in fact Gaza is not an independent country with which Israel is at war! Gaza is Occupied by Israel, and the 1949 Geneva convention on the treatment of civilians in occupied territories strictly forbids such punitive measures. Gaza has no functioning seaport or airport because the Israelis disallow the former and bombed the latter into smithereens.

I wrote last fall:

“The food blockade had real effects. About ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

A recent report [pdf] by Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians found that, in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.

I mean, don’t those figures make you want to do something for those mothers and children? Wouldn’t they melt anyone’s heart?

Although, under international pressure, the Israeli government eased its blockade slightly in 2010, and foodstuffs are no longer interdicted, it still limits imports into Gaza, and its wide-ranging ban on exports has thrown Palestinians into unemployment at Depression levels, imperiling their ability to afford food even when it is available.

A UN Report out last month predicts that if Israel does not change its policies toward Gaza, the strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, when the population will likely be 2.1 million (think Houston). The deterioration of the water, and the sharp downward mobility of the Palestinians, are only some of the problems the territory will face.”

Israel must end this unconscionable blockade of Palestinian civilians (half of whom are children) immediately. If Obama thinks Israeli-Turkish relations can be healthy without that step, he has another think coming.

41 Responses

  1. “What is astonishing in all this is that no one is talking about the reason for which the Mavi Marmara was heading to Gaza and for which the Israeli commandos boarded it and shot it up.”

    My take on why even Erdogan did not bring up the Gaza blockade, Professor Cole, is that all three–Erdogan, Netanyahu, and Obama–realize that the most important and dangerous development is occurring in Syria. They all recognize that it is important not to allow anything–not even the Gaza blockade–to interfere with cooperation in containing the Syrian crisis, i.e., not letting it engulf the region in war and attempting as much as possible to prevent the Jihadists from eventually gaining control. Either or both of those possibilities becoming reality would be disastrous for the region.

    • So, Bill, are you saying that heads of state can deal with only one crisis at a time? Then why do we elect such incompetents?

      • No, Allison, I am not saying that heads of state can deal with only one crisis at a time. What I am suggesting is that Erdogan, as well as Netanyahu and Obama, consider the Syrian crisis of more immediate concern, and they (even Erdogan) are not going to let Gaza complicate their approach to dealing with Syria and its danger to the region. Do you have a better explanation for why Erdogan did not bring up the Gaza blockade to Netanyahu?

    • And I guess the Forever Excuse for every outrage and atrocity will always be “the need to concentrate on the next-upcoming-manufactured-or-real-crisis,” so no one will ever have to break cover and simply do something right and decent and honest, because, obviously, after all, we must always allow the devious, the murderous, the money-grubbing, the apologists to just keep on doing what they do to “stabilize the world” in ways that we ordinary laboring fools cannot be trusted to know that they are always on the job about, keeping the rest of us from the great Gotterdammerung. After all, as with US torture and war crimes, “we are only looking FORWARD!” to what? the next set of war crimes? the eventual triumph of the Security State?

      “Watch the pea, it’s under this shell, or is it this one? C’mon, folks, lay down your money – ten’ll get you 20…”

      Interesting, too, in the Mediterranean context, that the Germans, having failed a couple of times to prove that by right of conquest, they deserve to run the Whole World, are now using a different set of weapons to try to run at least what was once considered their Reich…

      …plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose… Isn’t it, hey?

      • So, Mr. McPhee, is that your take on why Erdogan did not bring up the Gaza Blockade in his conversation with Netanyahu? Are you suggesting that Erdogan, to quote your phrase above, did not want to “break cover and simply do something right and decent and honest, because, obviously, after all, we must always allow the devious, the murderous, the money-grubbing, the apologists to just keep on doing what they do to “stabilize the world” in ways that we ordinary laboring fools cannot be trusted to know that they are always on the job about.” Is that really what you think of Erdogan? You don’t think he was putting Turkish interests front and center?

        • So, Mr. Bill, you are so smart and deep and invested in the machinations of the Game, that the best you can do in bloglands like this is lift quotes from others and imply impeachment of their contributions, from your assumed position of Deep Wisdom and Long Experience?

          That quote you lifted is not “what I think of Erdogan:” It’s much more what I think of what you let the rest of us believe is you, and people in the apparent same line of work — someone who has toiled in the bowels of the great Security Apparatus, who was e.g. in Chile when Interesting Things that the CIA “was not involved in” were happening, who claims to understand and support and apologize for what ordinary non-Great-Gamers are sickened by, when the “covert” covers come off and the rest of us get to see the thefts of land and other resources, the mass graves, the “supports” for “freedom fighters” that sure look like “terrorists” and Death Squads, the backing of kleptocratic dictators, the undermining and overthrow of elected governments. All in the name, of course,, of “putting (fill in the blank ‘national’) interests first.” Every one of those Game stratagems cause present pain and future dislocation and instability.

          You’ve stated pretty clearly that ordinary people, most of the folks who participate here, ‘have no idea of the Realities.’ I believe that, implicitly — and make no apologies for being sickened at the thought that the sneaks and jackals and people who craft BS for Obama and others to parrot to cover REEAAALLL motives and motions are the ones who rule us, and get there only because they are drawn to power and self-interest and see how to manipulate or terrorize the rest of us as we work to raise families, support healthy institutions, and generate the wealth that the parasites and cancers that play the Game get to enjoy.

        • Stay on topic, Mr. McPhee. The topic was the conversation among Erdogan, Netanyahu, and Obama, and that the Gaza blockade was not discussed. The topic was not me, or your fantasies about the “security apparatus,” or Chile, or any of the other issues you raised extraneous to the topic. You really should rein in your emotions, Mr. McPhee, and try to maintain focus.

    • The UN, hardly a pro-Israeli body, concluded that boarding the ship attempting to break the blockade was perfectly within their rights. No one mentions the arms, weapons, night-vision goggles that were found on board the ship either.

  2. I don’t believe that the ‘tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional’. I believe that they were in fact very intentional. As an aside, if they were ‘unintentional’, I would like to see other people, such as Bill Maher apologize too. He basically said that ‘they had it coming to them’ on his TV show. I have refused to watch his show since then. I think the entire American congress and senate should apologize too.

      • “About as “unintentional” as the U.S.S. Liberty incident.”

        I agree, Mark, except to call it an “incident” is to diminish the egregious act that it was. The Israeli assault on the USS Liberty was a direct, deliberate attack on a US naval vessel flying the American flag and with full US markings on the ship. Israeli planes overflew it and could not mistake it for anything but a US navel vessel. It was not an “incident.” It was an unprovoked, deliberate attack on a US intelligence-gathering ship in international waters. That the Israelis were allowed to get away with it by simply paying compensation was shameful.

        • Better check your sources. Who had reason to plan an assault on a US vessel. Israel? Not on your life.

  3. Dear Professor Cole

    As I watched President Obama climb the steps of his aircraft to leave Palestine, I thought of the resemblance with a well known Biblical figure who achieved a sort of immortality for himself with his gesture.

    Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the blood of an innocent and handed him over to the Jews for retribution.

  4. I notice that Obama didn’t demand or get an apology for the cold-blooded execution of US citizen Furkan Dogan on the Mavi Mamara. Tell you where his priorities lie.

    • He’s a tool of the Turks?

      He thinks Turkish-Israeli relations require more help that American-Israeli relations?

      I really don’t see where you’re going with this.

    • NPR radio’s “apology” story said “nine people were killed by Israeli commandos” and was careful to omit that one was a citizen of the USA.

      I remembered the event so listened for the omission.
      No big deal. Just another small example of bias.

      I don’t claim I heard every bit of their reporting on the story so I could have missed something.

    • O did not mention Dogan because,like Rachel Corrie and the 33 crew members of the USS Liberty,his killing by IDF pirates is OK under US policy that allows Israel (but not anyone else)to kill Americans.

      Quid pro quo in Bibi’s apology?

      After a respectable interval Obama frees Pollard

  5. Clearly the Syrian conflict has displaced the plight of the Palestinians as Erdogan’s primary concern.

    The United States and Israel will need Turkey’s full support and coordination if they are to put the squeeze on Assad in their respective border regions, particularly if any “safe zones” are to be established.

    On Israel’s side the chemical weapons pretext is sufficient rationalization for them.

  6. This post is over the top, blaming Israel for all problems in the Gaza strip. In fact Hamas is in control there, attacking Israel and defying any attempt by Israel and other countries and the UN to reach a reasonable solution. The Gaza area is in effect a renegade state, which apparently thinks it has a right to take over Israel itself – or what exactly might be its reasonable objectives? The solution cannot be to let Hamas run wild – if Israel is not permitted to defend itself, how is Hamas to be brought under control?

    • And how is Gaza supposed to take over Israel?? I’d like to hear this. With what, please elaborate. How many times has Gaza taken over Israel and how many times has Israel/the IDF overrun Gaza?

    • Skep, might I venture that in your personal bestiary, Gaza = West Bank = any area where non-Jewish non-staunch Israelis or their colonists live = renegade state?

      How about a little grammatical exercise? Let’s just exchange some words: “Israel is in effect a renegade state, which apparently thinks it has a right to take over Gaza, and the West Bank, and South Jordan, and the Jordan River, and all the oil and gas reserves in the Western Mediterranean, and Sinai.” And of course if one dares engage in an observation on stuff like body counts on all sides, And who vows “50 for one” in that counting, and who has the most weapons and who ensures the national position by being always ready to use one or many of those maybe (ssssshh!) 400 nuclear weapons and of course has figured out how to be The Mouse That Roared and dictate the policies and behaviors of good ol’ Uncle Sucker as they call us US-ans who send them how many billions a year in what kind of aid as they snicker about what a bunch of “freiers” we are? What might be Yahoo’s reasonable objectives?

      No, don’t “let Hamas run wild–” any time a leader of Hamas or the PLO starts to look moderate and starts to maybe moves the needle of “dead” in that fraud the rest of us pin our hopes on, “the peace process,” guess who gets KILLED? and by WHOM? Who is going to control LIKUD and the others who make up the current parliamentary gaggle? If the Palestinians are not permitted to defend themselves, or even get enough calories and nutrients to survive, what’s the chances that they will do anything other than what people in Warsaw and many of the now increasingly visible hundreds of other ghettos in WW II Europe did?

      And why does the wishful Greater Israel seem to look ever so very much more like the old land of P.W. Botha’s Boer-Afrikaners? Which may eventually become a land of milk and honey, but not until long ages hence, when the last bits of memory of the current abuses have died out.

    • How exactly would Hamas ‘take over Israel itself’? Their chances, if they had such a plan, would be zero – which everybody knows. On the other hand, Israel has in fact already illegally ‘taken over’ almost all of the land which was to be a Palestinian state, and effectively imprisoned the Gazans in their tiny strip of land. What on earth are you talking about!

    • President Clinton in 1998 visited Gaza to inaugurate the Gaza International Airport (later blown to smithereens)and later, after Muhammad Al-Durra was killed by the IDF in Gaza, called his father to convey condolemnces.

      President Obama’s failure to travel to Gaza was disappointing.

      • Al-dura was killed by his fellow Palestinians. Investigation proved IDF not responsible.

  7. Obama began his first term with a demand that Israel halt settlement construction to enable talks. Last week, he reversed course and said Palestinians should negotiate, in spite of the ongoing land theft. With preconditions, there is no point in negotiations, he said. The reality is that there is no point in negotiating with people who are taking your land and blockading a part of your land. But Obama has decided to aid the Israelis in their PR campaign to portray the Palestinians as the obstructionists. This peace/colonization process has been going on for 30 years, aided by monstrous misinformation.
    And, right on cue, Obama blamed the misery in Gaza on Hamas.

  8. Killing innocent civilians, starving a population while stealing their land and chopping down olive tree orchards in Gaza, destroying their homes with no concern for the lives or well being of those affected by their terrorist acts. Using their influence to start needless wars with Iraq and now with Iran, again with not one moment’s regret or conscience of the human misery caused by such actions to Arabs or Americans.

    Put these pieces of the puzzle together. without mentioning the name of the perpetrator, and the civilized world would react harshly to such atrocities. Mention that these acts of barbarism are carried out by Israel and you hear platitudes like…”Oh well Israel has the right to protect itself” while ignoring their crimes against humanity.

  9. Obama accepts the Likud claim that there was something benign about the original “unilateral” withdrawal from Gaza as if it had been a gesture toward Palestinian statehood (kicked out the settlers, took out the occupying troops). From that point of view I imagine the blockade seems reasonable (i.e., “We tried to give them freedom but they just couldn’t handle it”). I don’t think anybody Obama listens to is saying what the withdrawal really was–occupation from the outside, making Gaza a prison camp without any guards. We on the pro-human side should perhaps be saying this a little more loudly, because it’s part of why we think the attack on the Mavi Marmara was such a bad thing (to the people Obama does listen to, it’s just more “Israel has a right to defend herself”).

    To my mind it is just huge that Netanyahu could have used the word “apologize” at all. Bill, above, may be right on the importance of Syria in the calculations of all these persons.

    • If the Egyptians opened Rafah and the Palestinians thereafter managed to get weapons in that they used on Israel, the Israelis would bomb the Egyptian guards at Rafah. They are holding Egypt hostage to their policy by behind-the-scenes threats. On the other hand, if the Egyptians opened Rafah and 1.7 million Palestinians streamed as refugees into the Sinai Peninsula so that Israel could permanently grab a Gaza without people and the Palestinians became Egypt’s problem, nothing would please the Likud better. Egypt is stuck.

  10. “This policy can only be called fascist and it recalls the worst kind of medical experiments on human beings and social engineering of the mass political movements of the 1930s.”

    surely you are forgetting AIPAC and Co. own the copyright on such discussions!

  11. Tha other condition Turkey had insisted upon was the lifting of the siege on Gaza. Not only has that NOT happenend, but Angry Arab reports today that Israeli officials have said it may be tightened. So much for the word of the “jewish democratic state”, and the wonderful impartiality of POTUS Obama, who also asked Abbas not to go to the ICC with a case against Israel for any reason.

  12. Will Netanyahu now apologize for lying to the rest of us? It’s a simple proposition. Zionism cannot tell the truth just as Apartheid and Jim Crow couldn’t. Some ‘truths’ are unacceptable if the Zionists wish to be considered part of the West. They want the West’s weapons but not its ethics. When you have decided that you are chosen by God there are no human limits to behavior. That is the danger here. Just as with other extremists of ‘the book’.

  13. Th embargo of Gaza is the key issue that prevents peace in that region. Jimmy Carter recognized this. It violates international law and is intended to inflict hardship upon Gazans for electing Hamas as their government leadership.

    The embargo is what has caused rockets to be fired into Israel from Gaza. The rockets caused Israel to embark on Operation Cast Lead. The embargo was also a point of negotiations in the Gilad Shalit affair. One of the reasons that Hamas agreed to a truce with Israel to cease rocket fire in Novemeber of 2012 was due to the promise that the embargo would be lifted to some degree with a gradual lessening of that blockade and fishermen could operate offshore to a greater extent.

    After Operation Cast Lead, the world community donated $4.4 billion to rebuild Gaza; $1 billion of that total was from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and $900 million was from the U.S. government. Those needed construction materials have been largely been barred from entering Gaza due to the Israeli blockade.

    One IDF soldier who fought in Gaza was interviewed after the operation and said that he was aware that huge amounts of international aid would be directed into Gaza and he was also aware that Hamas militants were well-hidden in miles of tunnels underneath Gaza beyond the reach of the Israel Defense Forces but that the IDF troops did not want to return afterwards for a new conflict. The naval blockade and embargo enforced by Israel effectively is to prevent Gazans from being rewarded from being attacked in Operation Cast Lead.

  14. I think that this site is the best english language source of information on the middle East. I also appreciate the global warming information.

    Thanks very much Prof. Cole.

    • Also check out the websites for the folllowing Jewish groups in Israel concerned about human rights abuses:

      (1)Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions;

      (2)Yesh Din;

      (3)Machsom Watch;


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