The Real Issue: The Embargo

Beinart doesn't blame Israeli commandos for what happened yesterday. He instead points his finger at the Israeli embargo of Gaza:

Israel does not deserve all the blame for Gaza’s impoverishment. Gaza’s other neighbor, Egypt, imposes an embargo of its own, though less effectively. And Hamas has been known to confiscate goods meant for Gaza’s poor. But none of that excuses Israel’s role in keeping Gaza destitute.

Far from a well-crafted policy, the Gaza embargo has become something you might find in a University of Chicago seminar about the perversions inherent in interfering with free trade. As Haaretz detailed in a remarkable investigative report last summer, the embargo is not merely arbitrary (Gazans can import cinnamon, but not chocolate), it is corrupt. When Israeli farmers have surplus supply, they seek loopholes for the goods they wish to sell. Israeli officials allow Gazans to import Israeli products, but not the materials necessary to make those products themselves, since that would threaten Israel’s hold on the Gazan market. As the Israeli human-rights group Gisha has noted, Gazans can buy Israeli-made tomato paste, but cannot buy the empty cans necessary to preserve and market their own, which would compete with Israeli suppliers.

If all this were actually turning the people of Gaza against Hamas, perhapsperhapsit might have a cold-blooded justification. But if there is anything that the U.S. has learned from its half-century long embargo of Cuba, it is that policies of collective punishment don’t turn people against their regimes. To the contrary, they usually offer those regimes an excuse for their inability to govern.