Is It Time to Reevaluate the Gaza Blockade?

Debating Israel's tough policy

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Israel's blockade on the Palestinian territory of Gaza has come under new international scrutiny after nine activists, possibly including an American citizen, were killed by Israeli soldiers attempting to keep an aid flotilla from reaching Gaza. The incident has already drawn the involvement of the United Nations and possibly NATO, with some observers suggesting it could have serious consequences for the Middle East peace process. But should it change Israel's blockade policy? Or does it underscore the need to keep certain materials and people out?

  • 3 Reasons Israel Wants Blockade  The New York Times' Ethan Bronner explains, "Israel’s security; the need to prevent any benefit to Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza; and the four-year-old captivity of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas, Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit."
  • U.S. Pushing to End Blockade  Ethan Bronner reports, "The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday. The officials say that Israel’s deadly attack on a flotilla trying to break the siege and the resulting international condemnation create a new opportunity to push for increased engagement with the Palestinian Authority and a less harsh policy toward Gaza."
  • Life Behind the Gaza Blockade  The Washington Post's Janine Zacharia describes, "Gazans lament where they can't go more than what they can't buy. They also decry the lack of employment -- with no building supplies and few trade possibilities, joblessness is rampant. Once an exporter of fruits and other goods, Gaza has been turned into a mini-welfare state with a broken economy where food and daily goods are plentiful, but where 80 percent of the population depends on charity. Hospitals, schools, electricity systems and sewage treatment facilities are all in deep disrepair. Yet if you walk down Gaza City's main thoroughfare -- Salah al-Din Street -- grocery stores are stocked wall-to-wall with everything from fresh Israeli yogurts and hummus to Cocoa Puffs smuggled in from Egypt. Pharmacies look as well-supplied as a typical Rite Aid in the United States."
  • Embargo Remains 'Vital'  The Shalem Center's Daniel Gordis argues, "Like every other country, Israel has as its foremost obligation the protection of its citizens. Given that, why should it have allowed the flotilla to enter without inspecting its goods?" He adds, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. ... Israel has readily agreed to send into Gaza all the food and humanitarian supplies on the boats after they had been inspected for weapons."
  • Blockade Has Failed  The New York Times' Nick Kristof sighs, "The blockade has failed to topple Hamas, failed to recover the captured soldier Gilad Shalit, and failed to keep rockets out of Gaza. When you visit Gaza, you see that the siege has accomplished nothing — except to devastate the lives of 1.5 million ordinary Gazans. Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization, has compiled a list of goods that Israel typically blocks from Gaza: notebooks, blank paper, writing utensils, coriander, chocolate, fishing rods, and countless more. That’s not security; that’s a travesty."
  • What About Israeli Security?  Vice President Joe Biden told Charlie Rose, "I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest." Biden said of past eases of the blockade, "as we put pressure, and the world put pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering, the ordinary Palestinians there, what happened? Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse, sell it."
  • Israel Should Disengage From Gaza  Ha'aretz's Aluf Benn writes, ""The attempt to control Gaza from outside, via its residents’ diet and shopping lists, casts a heavy moral stain on Israel and increases its international isolation. ... How could a disengagement be done? Israel would inform the international community that it is abandoning all responsibility for Gaza residents and their welfare. The Israel-Gaza border would be completely sealed, and Gaza would have to obtain supplies and medical services via the Egyptian border, or by sea."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.