Grilling Michael Oren

The most penetrating political interviews on television these days are on Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert's grilling of Michael Oren last night was a classic. Deftly using comedy, Colbert got Oren to essentially admit that the blockade of Gaza is not just about the legitimate issue of restricting weapons getting through to Hamas. It's about collectively punishing the people of Gaza for using a democratic election to back Hamas. It's about turning the 1.5 million people there into helpless dependents on Israeli industry and the impoverishment of any private sector in that beleaguered de facto refugee camp. What, after all, does restricting snack-food, soda and shaving cream have to do with Israel's security interests? Money quote from Bronner's latest:

“I can’t get cocoa powder, I can’t get malt, I can’t get shortening or syrup or wrapping material or boxes,” lamented Mohammed Telbani, the head of Al Awda, a cookie and ice cream factory in the central town of Deir el Balah. “I don’t like Hamas and I don’t like Fatah. All I want is to make food.”

Of course this crude policy of trying to reduce support for Hamas by persecuting the entire Gaza population has failed. Well, duh. And the obvious achievement of the flotilla has been to expose this fact more clearly. McClatchy has also unearthed Israeli government documents that prove that this is not only a matter of security so much as an act of "economic warfare":

"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government said. McClatchy obtained the government's written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year... The Israeli government took an additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn't be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but "could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control" of Gaza.

To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.