If the essential purpose of the blockade were indeed to "thwart Hamas from arming itself," wouldn't restrictions on imports into Gaza suffice? (And
even then the import restrictions wouldn't have to be as draconian as they were when imposed, or even as tight as they are now, after some loosening.) What
I'd like to see an enterprising MSM reporter ask is: How do Israel's severe restrictions on Gazan exports keep arms from getting to Hamas?
Kirkpatrick and Rudoren, later in their piece, do elaborate a bit on Israel's motivation for imposing the blockade. But not enough. After raising the
prospect that Egypt may open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, they write that "Israel enforces its embargo on the other sides of Gaza, fearing that it would
face an influx of refugees or end up with responsibility for the impoverished enclave."
Fearing "an influx of refugees" doesn't explain why Israel won't let Gazans put whatever goods they want to export on a ship and send them across the
Mediterranean to Europe or Africa. Nor, really, does this fear explain the other side of the export restrictions--not letting Gaza export much of anything
to Israel or the West Bank. Making sure that exports were confined to goods, and didn't include people, would be readily doable. Israelis
know a thing or two about how to set up an effective checkpoint.
The closest Kirkpatrick and Rudoren get to a plausible reason for the export restrictions is in positing an Israeli fear of winding up "with responsibility
for the impoverished enclave." But even here they're not putting nearly a fine enough point on it. Here's the fine-point version:
Recall that a very plausible motivation for Ariel Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was to address "the demographic problem"--the fact that the number of
Palestinians in the occupied territory, plus the number in Israel proper, was beginning to approach the number of Israeli Jews. That meant that if Israel's
aggressive settlement program eventually led to Israel's absorption of the occupied territories, Israel wouldn't remain a Jewish state unless it were an
apartheid state--i.e., unless it continued to deny Palestinian inhabitants of the occupied territories the right to vote. But once you remove Gaza from the
equation, and define it as outside of the occupied territory, the math changes (though Gazans contend their territory is still, for practical purposes,
occupied, since Israel controls the ports and airspace and the Israeli border and enters Gaza at will to kill Gazans). In this scenario--the divide and
conquer scenario--the last thing Israel wants to do now is permit the sort of organic economic ties between Gaza and the West Bank that would make it
easier to think of their Palestinian inhabitants as a single people.
There's one other possible motivation for Israel's severe restrictions on commerce involving Gaza: collective punishment. Maybe Israeli leaders want to keep all of Gaza impoverished as
payback for the sins of Hamas. Maybe they even think that this impoverishment will lead Gazans to reject Hamas. If so, I have bad news: If Gazans reject
Hamas, it will be in favor of Islamic Jihad or even more radical elements, in keeping with the general principle that imposing unjust suffering on people