by the stormy present
Wed Jun 2nd, 2010 at 01:47:36 AM EST
Sure, let's talk about the raid on the ships and whether it's a declaration of war. But let's also not lose sight of the reason those ships were going to Gaza. The debate shouldn't just be about the boats, but about the blockade.
The International Crisis Group gets it:
the incident is an indictment of a much broader policy toward Gaza for which Israel does not bear sole responsibility.
For years, many in the international community have been complicit in a policy that aimed at isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas. This policy is morally appalling and politically self-defeating. It has harmed the people of Gaza without loosening Hamas's control. Yet it has persisted regardless of evident failure.
"The flotilla assault is but a symptom of an approach that has been implicitly endorsed by many", says Robert Malley, Director of Crisis Group's Middle East Program. "It is yet another stark illustration of the belated need for a comprehensive change in policy toward Gaza."
It would take a long time to list the "many in the international community" who have endorsed, supported or tolerated the blockade of Gaza -- a list that includes Egypt (which has kept its own border with Gaza closed to legitimate traffic for most of the last four years), the United States, most if not all of Europe....
If you plunked me down in a meeting of the entire world and asked me to point to those responsible, I'd feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz: "And you were there, and you were there, and you were there...."
Here's a reminder from Cairo-based former ICG analyst (and my friend) Issandr El Amrani:
For the last 24 hours, Israel has putting forward the argument that the blockade stops rockets from reaching Gaza. This is a ridiculous and patently untrue argument. As countless NGOs and the UN have shown, Israel is engaging in a policy of deliberately withholding construction materials and basic necessities in what one senior official under the previous Israeli government described as a policy of "putting the Palestinians on a diet" back in 2006:
Israel's policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,' he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.
This is a policy of collective punishment, it is what the flotilla was fighting against, and what must end.
Issandr also points to this (somewhat surprising, IMHO) statement from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague:
This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza, in line with UNSCR 1860. The closure is unacceptable and counter-productive. There can be no better response from the international community to this tragedy than to achieve urgently a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.
I call on the Government of Israel to open the crossings to allow unfettered access for aid to Gaza, and address the serious concerns about the deterioration in the humanitarian and economic situation and about the effect on a generation of young Palestinians ."
But to go back to the ICG's argument:
The policy toward Gaza is in need of thorough re-examination. The US, EU and Quartet as a whole have been calling for relaxing the siege on Gaza. That is welcome, but opening the humanitarian tap is not an appropriate answer to a policy whose fundamental premise is morally callous and politically counter-productive. Instead, Gaza should be open to normal commercial traffic with adequate international end-use monitoring.
Our governments have supported the blockade. Demand that they stop.