To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson in the light of yesterday’s dramatic destruction of the Gaza border fence with Egypt: a siege is just another word for nothin’ left to lose. In other words, the Gazans came to the end of their rope and decided that since they couldn’t break out towards Israel that Egypt was the next most likely alternative. They in effect told the world: “if you won’t help us we’re not going to die here a slow death; we’re going to take our fate in our hands.” Kol hakavod lahem. Now, the rest of the world should bow its head in shame. It did nothing while 1.5 million Gazans suffered for the sole reason that a few hundred of them are firing rockets at Israel. This collective punishment, outlawed under international law, is what passes for sensible policy in Israeli circles.
The NY Times story claims that Israel is satisfied with what happened because it will supposedly mean that Egypt will take this problem off their hands:
A senior Israeli official…said the development might solve a problem.
“This may be a blessing in disguise,” he said…“If it continues like this, it will ease tremendously the pressure on Israel on the humanitarian level. The humanitarian organizations will get off our backs. There won’t be any shortages. So that is a good thing. We don’t care if people buy food in Egypt…
“Second — there’s a notion that Barak believes in — and I think Sharon did too — of getting out of Gaza, and throwing away the keys…”
Another Israeli official said of the border: “…Some people in the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and prime minister’s office are very happy with this. They are saying, ‘At last, the disengagement is beginning to work.’ ”
Beginning to work? How so? Do they really believe that the Qassams will stop merely because Gazans can now buy bread in Egypt? If Israel really believes this and isn’t merely making lemonade from overripe lemons, they’re more foolish than I thought. Those enormous holes in the border fence also poked enormous holes in the vaunted international siege of Gaza of which Israel was the prime instigator.
This Hamas statement too seems a calculated attempt to throw Israeli settlement policy (“creating facts on the ground” as Sharon used to call it) back in Israel’s face:
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, refused in an interview to take direct responsibility for ordering the Egyptian border opened, but said: “We are creating facts. We have to try to change the situation, and now we await the results.”
With the crossings to Israel closed and minimal goods coming in, Mr. Zahar said: “Rafah is our only lung. If Rafah remains shut, it means our acceptance to be strangled, our acceptance to die. We warned the Egyptians yesterday that people are hungry and dying.” Sometimes, he acknowledged, it was necessary to create a crisis to settle another one.
In other words, if you refuse to accept the reality imposed on you, then create a new one by sheer pluck. That’s what happened yesterday.
And for anyone parachuting into this blog from the moon who has never read me before: none of the above should be read to imply approval of the attacks against Sderot, which I abhor. I’d just as soon see the Islamic Jihad and Hamas rocketeers in the dock at the Hague along with Barak and all those who planned this stupid siege.
paul malfara says
Thank you for your article, which expresses the opinions of many of us who would like to see a peaceful resolution to the Israeli / Palestinian catastrophe.
You quote the senior Israeli official saying the development might solve a problem. Unfortunately, the New York times tries to deflect his real meaning by not explaining it clearly. The problem, in the eyes of senior Israeli officials in the Defense and Foreign Ministries, is BAD PRESS. They don’t think about the moral implications of their actions in turning Gaza into a mammoth prison camp, they care much less about the million and a half lives they are oppressing; they worry only that certain sectors of the international community will start to see the truth of what is happening there and consequently bring pressure to bear against Israel. Let it be so.
As far as “disengagement is starting to work”, I agree with your take on that. I cannot see how anyone can describe what Israel has done in Gaza as “disengagement”. What a huge distortion of the actual facts on the ground. And I doubly agree with your abhorrence of the Qassam attacks on Sderot. Definitely international war crimes. That said, the response should be classified as the same. Collective punishment. State terrorism attacks against civilians.
Hmmm. The Palestinian aid money has been flowing through Israel and by forcing Palestinians as part of the Israeli national economy has benefited Israel much. It would be interesting to know how much of the aid money given to Palestinians has ended in form of purchases from Israeli companies to the “democratic” Jewish state. If UN or EU buy medicine for Palestinians from an Israeli company the company pays without doubt the domestic taxes of that to the state. So a considerable amount of the aid money goes de facto to Israel. It would be interesting to know are there studies available viewing the situation from this aspect.
Cutting the links between Gaza and Israel doesn’t necessarily hurt the Palestinians because the links have been minor during the last years, but Israelis loose income and a huge potential labour reserve. The people of Gaza will in any case be better off with the Egyptians. And Gaza has the gas reserves waiting for use.
Jonathan Edelstein’s comments over at Just World News are relevant and should be read.
Joel Beinin wrote a letter from Cairo today (January 24) which I received via Jewish Voice for Peace. Beinin, a historian, lays out the whole picture with context in a way that illuminates much for me. I reproduced it on my blog in its entirety because I don’t see it on the JVP site yet.
I am checking Arabist.net and Hossam Al-Hamalawy’s blog http://arabist.net/arabawy/ for details. I haven’t figured out where to go for Arabic journalism in English on this topic. I used to rely on Arabist.net but they are mostly just posting links and don’t seem all that up to speed on the Gaza breakthrough just yet.
Really, isn’t the Egypt-Gaza wall a new Berlin Wall?
We have people hemmed in, prevented from buying and getting food, medicines, cement, and everything else that will allow a person to live with dignity. To be a human being.
Instead, due to the blockade, the Palestinians live in a prison. In a ghetto. In a cage. Like animals.
This so very much reminds me of communism, and the Wall across which people could look to the other side….but would be prevented from crossing, lest they be shot, blown up or killed by a dog.
Mark Hamil says
Why do left wing extremist and haters of Israel fall for Hamas propaganda? How is it a siege of Gaza if Egyptians have been controlling the Gaza-Egypt border since the Israeli withdrawal? Also how is it siege if Israel just recently delivered fuel in response to what we now know to be the staged Hamas black out? The Philadelphia is not even patrolled by Egypt and Egyptian security officials are routinely bribed to overlook smuggling tunnels where the rockets terrorizing Israel emanate from. Let us remind everyone that so called “Palestinians” or Hamastinians rather voted in Hamas due to their violent policies and not because of Fatah corruption as terrorist apologist have devised as a justification for siding with murderers of women and children. One must not look further as to how Hamas took Gaza by murdering their Arab brethren in the streets in gangs in front of the families of the unarmed victims. Let us also remind ourselves that Fatah was armed and trained to prevent this and they hardly fired a shot as Dahlan and other Fatah cronies fled to Egypt. and in case you also forgot the same thing with the wall being destroyed by terrorist occurred previously with the European observers ironically fleeing to the IDF for protection from the very people they were supposedly monitoring.
You seem to be educate it baffles me as to how you think by arming and supplying Hamas that this will somehow bring peace when Hamas has made it clear it wants to kill every Israeli and Jew down to the last woman and child? Is that peace to you?
Point by point rebuttal coming up.
Why do left wing extremist and haters of Israel fall for Hamas propaganda?
AM: Am neither. Read my blog.
How is it a siege of Gaza if Egyptians have been controlling the Gaza-Egypt border since the Israeli withdrawal?
AM: Israel is number one recipient of US aid money due to AIPAC and Jewish influence in USA. Egypt is second, as a reward for making peace with Israel and closing the border with Gaza.
Also how is it siege if Israel just recently delivered fuel in response to what we now know to be the staged Hamas black out?
AM: It is not a siege, it is economic boycott or economic pressure, A collective punishment if you will. I am sorry but where are you getting the “staged by Hamas black out’? Any links would be appreciated. All I heard was that Israel blew up the only electrical generator and shut out food, medicine and other essentials into Gaza.
Since Egypt had a shoot on any refugees crossing the “Berlin Wall” this meant that Gaza was totally dependent on Israel’s good will (or bad will) for everything, from wheat to cement, from aspirin to electricity to make hospitals run, for example.
Egyptian security officials are routinely bribed to overlook smuggling tunnels where the rockets terrorizing Israel emanate from
AM: Yes. that is a huge problem. The UN, USA, European Union should all put pressure on Egypt to shut down those tunnels.
(…)voted in Hamas due to their violent policies and not because of Fatah corruption
AM: That is your view; the journalists on the ground thought differently.
murderers of women and children. One must not look further as to how Hamas took Gaza by murdering their Arab brethren in the streets in gangs in front of the families of the unarmed victims.
AM: Hamas is a terrorist organization which uses suicide bombers and relatively low technology unguided rockets to deliberately target Israeli civilians. That is a war crime. Similarly, during the recent Lebanon (Hesbollah) war with Israel, the IAF levelled whole apartment buildings to kill one terrorist they believed could be hiding there, bombed hospitals, emergency vehicles, civilian infrastructure as collective punishment for the Lebanese. That is also a war crime.
Fatah was armed and trained to prevent this and they hardly fired a shot as Dahlan and other Fatah cronies fled to Egypt.
AM: Yes, that is why they lost the election in 2006.
it baffles me as to how you think by arming and supplying Hamas that this will somehow bring peace when Hamas has made it clear it wants to kill every Israeli and Jew down to the last woman and child?
AM: Hamas as is clear was supplied very well with rockets and weapons by using the smuggling tunnels while the border with Egypt was closed. Israel however uses economic pressure, to make the civilians suffer, to prevent food, medicines, electricity, etc etc to reach the Gaza Palestinians, to punish them for Hamas election victory. Let me repeat, Hamas is a terrorist organization, but in my opinion the IDF is only slightly better. Hamas wants to destroy Israel as a country, not kill every citizen off – small correction.
AM: Finally, peace to me will be when Israel, al Fatah and Hamas (and Hesbollah for that matter) start to negotiate in good faith, supervised by a truly neutral and wise 3rd party (cannot be the USA, land of AIPAC senators). All sides have to live with losing a little to gain peace.
That will not happen,
Israel wants to keep the land in the West Bank, and so the settlements are and will be expanding, while Palestinians will be herded and controlled like Warsaw residents in WW2, and Gazans will live in their ghetto like Warsaw Jews in same conflict. Hamas necessity to exist is based on fighting Israel, and so they need this conflict to survive politically. Hesbollah seems to me the saner party, as they can be negotiated with and perhaps the Bekaa Valley issue can be squared away and peace just may break on the Lebanon border.
Al Fatah is by now a broken and corrupt organization (it always was, but Arafat’s personality and guile, and Communist Bloc secret support kept it going for decades)., and so it slowly becomes a bit player in all of this. In my opinion, the Palestinians in West Bank look at Gaza and admire their independence from IDF occupation, while Gazans look at the West Bank residents and look with longing at an appearance of normality among Jewish settlers parading with Uzis and IDF soldiers beating up an odd Arab boy or woman.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t hate Israel nor do I hate my fellow Jews. If you are one, you should be ashamed of yrself. If you aren’t, don’t you dare accuse me of being something you know nothing about.
My comment rules clearly state commenters must support their allegations w. facts & supporting evidence. The only “proof” you have of this claim is the wingnut blogosphere & a foreign ministry claim that was also unsupported by any facts or evidence.
You’ve violated another comment rule. No commenter can deny the existence of either Palestine or Israel here. If you want to do that you’ve got the Haaretz Talkbacks, LGF & a thousand other right wing shmate sites to do so. Go there.
I won’t ban you since you haven’t read those rules. If you plan to comment again here read those rules carefully. If you flout them next time you’ll be banned.