Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, June 2010
Israel's Gaza Blockade:
Letting the Chips Fall Where They May
By Alan SabroskyRedress, Al-Jazeerah: CCUN, June 14, 2010
”Too many of us – myself once included – for too long have viewed Israelis as just a particularly nasty variant of a type often seen in the world, something like semi-Semitic Prussians or an apartheid-era South Africa of the Middle East. They are not. They are much worse, and much more dangerous to all of us…”
In a gesture that has received more than a little attention in the Western media, Israeli officials announced with some fanfare that they were easing the embargo of goods they allow into Palestine. Israel's supporters have been using the opportunity to declare that this demonstrates Israel is reasonable, and that US support of Israel is fully justified, even given the exceptionally tepid US response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla and America's sustained opposition to any international efforts to hold Israel accountable for its actions.
“Potato chips were once considered by the Israeli government as a staple of Hamas support, or a weapon that could threaten Israel, or both..."
This gesture becomes markedly less impressive once one examines the list of items once embargoed but now (at least for a while) allowed by Israel into Gaza. As a news website in India reported, "Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh, who coordinates the flow of goods into Gaza with Israel, said that soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, potato chips, cookies and candy were now permitted." Not much, to put it mildly, but to a suffering people in the ruins of their city, I imagine almost anything will be better than nothing. Besides, at least some of the aid supplies the Israelis have removed from the pirated Gaza flotilla vessels may end up in Gaza at some point, and that, too, will be something.
But the announced easing of the embargo, slight or even less than that, is significant in a way I am certain Israel did not intend, and which may even make a few of its supporters just a little anxious. This is because it provides an interesting insight into the real Israeli motivation behind the embargo, and thus of the blockade itself, and not the one it professes internationally and its cabal elsewhere echoes so vociferously.
Consider first of all Israel's defence of its blockade of Gaza as
something that is essential for its security, with the accompanying embargo
on products that it allows to enter Gaza officially being intended to
deprive Hamas of anything that might strengthen its position there, and
allow it to strike Israel anywhere with anything. This is the theme
reiterated by Israeli officials when they halt land convoys and intercept
sea-going ones, and applauded by its cheerleaders in the US Congress and the
mainstream media in the US and elsewhere.
“a key aspect of the core Israeli strategy underlying the blockade … is a blend of heavy-handed brutality and small-minded malevolence…”
So embargoing potato chips, like so many other items on Israel's list in support of its illegal blockade of Gaza, has absolutely nothing to do with Israeli security interests – can we agree on this point? But it symbolizes a key aspect of the core Israeli strategy underlying the blockade, which is a blend of heavy-handed brutality and small-minded malevolence, designed first to ruin what little the Palestinians there have, and then to make sustained misery their present fare and future diet until they succumb and either go away, accept their Israeli overlords, or die.
This strategy of the collective punishment of a people – which is a
breach of international law and a war crime, ladies and gentlemen of any
legislatures and media outlets who have not checked their ethics into their
respective Israeli embassies and consulates – is essentially designed to
hurt Palestinians and not to protect Israelis. The Israelis understand this,
as do their supporters overseas. The Palestinians in Gaza, and many in the
West Bank, certainly understand that – even Mahmoud Abbas may on those rare
moments when thought works its way through the murkiness surrounding it. And
so do those who try, often bravely but usually unsuccessfully, to bring some
humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
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