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4 things Israel doesn't want you to know about the Gaza blockade

IDF statements about the siege of Gaza obscure much more than they reveal

According to the “IDFSpokesperson” account on Twitter, “Gaza is under a maritime security blockade according to international law.” The two-boat flotilla known as “Freedom Waves to Gaza,” which the army stopped yesterday from reaching the coastal territory, is, according to the same Twitter feed a “provocatilla.”

Setting aside the issue of whether or not the blockade is legal–and I don’t believe that is–here’s what the IDF fails to mention when it starts issuing statements about the blockade:

1) In August of 2008 and October of the same year, boats manned by activists reached Gaza, breaking the blockade that Israel is now so intent on enforcing.

2) Israel itself selectively breaks the blockade when it needs or wants to. Take, for example, the recent decision to import palm fronds from Gaza for Sukkot.

3) Even though both the Israeli government and the mainstream media claims that the blockade began in 2007, the closure of Gaza was a gradual process that started in 1991. While what we see today is, thus far, the most severe manifestation of this process, Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip have been subject to collective punishment for two decades.

Pegging the hermetic sealing of the Strip to 2007 offers Israeli officials and those who do hasbara an easy opening to talk about Hamas and Gilad Schalit. But Gilad Schalit is home now. And the blockade has only made Hamas stronger.

Hamas taxes goods coming in through the tunnels from Egypt. While those products aren’t enough and the tunnel economy does not sustain Gaza, what is entering is enough for Hamas to maintain the image of resistance in the face of the Israeli blockade. For example: according to a recent article from the Alternative Information Center, Hamas is using building materials smuggled into Gaza for a new housing project. This won’t be enough and Gaza will remain in a housing crisis. However, such symbolic initiatives can boost the popularity of Hamas.

4) And as for that boogeyman, Hamas? Israel helped create it, encouraging the growth of Islamist groups to counter Fatah. While the Wall Street Journal refers to Israel’s relationships with Islamists as “a catalog of unintended…consequences” in the linked article, I suspect Israel had a divide and conquer strategy. What can’t be argued is that the chilly relations between Hamas and Fatah–and that competing parties rule the Occupied Palestinian Territories–serve Israeli interests.

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    1. RichardNYC

      “This won’t be enough and Gaza will remain in a housing crisis. However, such symbolic initiatives can boost the popularity of Hamas.”
      –>So, the blockade doesn’t make weaken Hamas, but when housing materials get in, Hamas becomes more powerful? So lifting the blockade and letting more housing materials in would weaken Hamas? Or it wouldn’t, because this wouldn’t be a “symbolic” victory? Ignoring the contradiction, this is a tired argument. Hamas isn’t lacking for $, it needs soldiers and popular support. The blockade has weakened morale in the Gaza Strip.
      PS: If the blockade were lifted and Hamas stays in control of Gaza, it could still impose whatever taxes it wants.
      MYA, this is old material, and not nearly polemical enough for your audience. You cannot expect to move ahead in your “acti-journalism” career if you only talk about “collective punishment” for “two decades”! Its 63 years silly! And its also a good idea to mention that before then the lilly-white Aryan Zionist colonial settler apartheid country music fan republican neocon Imperialists invaded the sovereign Palestine due to their desire to escape fake persecution that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world anymore and has been replaced 100% by Islamophobia. You need to be interrogating your narratives better than you are in the piece. I am expecting/hoping to see better narrative interrogation in the next piece.

      Reply to Comment
    2. sinjim

      Contrary to what pro-occupation and pro-war crime commenters think, Mya, “your audience” thinks you’re doing a great job. Thank you for exposing the hypocrisy of Israel’s racist policies. Keep up the good work!

      Reply to Comment
    3. mya guarnieri

      hi sinjim, thanks so much for the compliment. it is greatly appreciated!

      Reply to Comment
    4. RichardNYC

      I’m sorry your fans aren’t able to respond to the substance of my argument. However, I can see why they would be flabbergasted into silence by the idea that exceptions Israel makes to the blockade are considered “hypocrisy” by those who wish to see the blockade put to an end. That would be the ultimately hypocrisy, wouldn’t it? If Israel actual gave you what you wanted, on humanitarian grounds? What would the line be at that point? “Israel admits blockade was always wrong by ending it”? “Israel is a hypocrite for not stopping freedom flotilla VII”? Does it bother you that you’re too scared to address the substance of what I’m saying? I don’t think an intelligent person who reads this thread is going to buy the idea that you’re not responding because my argument is unreasonable. I would hope you aspire to influence more than the SINJIMs of the world. Or do you?

      Reply to Comment
    5. RichardNYC

      Let’s start with this:
      “Hamas taxes goods coming in through the tunnels from Egypt. While those products aren’t enough and the tunnel economy does not sustain Gaza, what is entering is enough for Hamas to maintain the image of resistance in the face of the Israeli blockade.”
      Question 1: How can you argue that the blockade is making Hamas stronger, due to the taxing of the tunnels, when presumably Hamas could tax trucked-in goods as well? And more of them?
      Question 2: If what’s coming in through the tunnels is enough to keep Hamas afloat, and maintain popularity through an image of resistance, wouldn’t allowing more goods to be trucked in solidify that image considerably? If Gaza can maintain prosperous trade with Israel, wouldn’t the viability/popularity of Hamas’s resistance only increase?

      Reply to Comment
    6. mya guarnieri

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your comments.

      You’re asking me to answer questions that are totally hypothetical and I’m not comfortable doing that.

      Second, slice it any which way you like, the fact of the matter is that the Israeli blockade–that is, the one it links to 2007– is not weakening Hamas.

      If you want to have a serious discussion about the blockade, let’s talk about the current form it as the most severe form of closure that began in 1991 and had nothing to do with Hamas. It was and remains about the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Hamas is just an excuse for Israel’s hermetic closure of the Strip. And it’s proving to be a poor one as the blockade has not accomplished any of Israel’s stated goals. (It wasn’t the blockade that freed Shalit. It was negotiations).


      Reply to Comment
    7. RichardNYC

      There’s no way to debate policy unless you’re willing to address hypothetical questions. Otherwise, there’s no way to understand how the merits/shortcomings of the status quo compare to any alternative policy. There isn’t really a difference between your reluctance here and simply saying you’re not willing to talk policy at all.
      Let’s start again, with this:
      “…and had nothing to do with Hamas. It was and remains about the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.”
      Question 1: What do you think Israel’s policy regarding Gaza would be now had Hamas not seized control? Would it treat Gaza the way it treat Area A in the West Bank, or more harshly?
      Question 2: “collective punishment” is a means, not an end. It wouldn’t make much sense to say “The Iraq war has always been about war”, unless you attached some further motive to this explanation, like “oil” or “defense contractors” or “Bush personal vendetta.” So, what do you think motivates Israel’s policy towards Gaza? Security? Paranoia? Misunderstanding? Pure malice? Feel free to pick one or name your own.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Sinjim

      Let’s make it real simple for the logic-challenged. Israel’s stated aim in its siege on Gaza is to weaken Hamas because, so the theory goes, Palestinians will blame it for Israel’s actions. Mya is saying that this has failed. Hamas hasn’t been terribly hurt. In fact its position has been strengthened — as a direct result of this Israeli war crime.
      Nothing in this article claims that lifting the siege will automatically weaken Hamas. There’s no evidence of that. Besides, Hamas is a legitimate Palestinian party and movement that has a base constituency. It’s popularity may ebb and flow, but it isn’t going away in the foreseeable future.
      There is no doubt that Israel has dug itself into a nice little poopoo-filled hole as far as its Gaza policy is concerned, but I don’t think Mya was brainstorming ideas to help it save face.

      Reply to Comment
    9. RichardNYC

      SINJIM seems to be defending Hamas’ politics so I’m not going to take his/her post seriously as a response to mine. Still waiting for yours!

      Reply to Comment
    10. RichardNYC

      PS: You can probably see where I’m going with the second question. Critics of the Gaza blockade seem very reluctant to ascribe a motive to it, because that would force them to have a substantive debate about that motive they might lose; this is why they say its “about” “collective punishment” as if Israeli government policy is purely sadistic. This allows the person to express contempt for Israel without actually saying anything. I’m trying to get past this and have that substantive debate.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Sinjim

      Once again with these hypothetical questions that do nothing but deflect from Israeli racist policies. Before Hamas “seized control” of Gaza, it was the duly elected government of the PA. It was already “in control” of both Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel had imposed severe restrictions on all occupied Palestinians as a result of this. There is nothing to suggest that this would’ve been eased had Fatah and Hamas not fought in Gaza, resulting in the former being expelled from it.
      As for Israeli motivations, to a certain extent these policies are self-sustaining. If anyone bothered to read the links Mya provided, they would see that originally the closure of Gaza was a means to control the population during the First Intifada, i.e. restrict their freedom of movement. It was also about making the territory a source of cheap labor for the Israeli economy, which is why there’s a ban on commercial exports — something that no one can argue has any security implications whatsoever.
      Gaza has always been poorer than the West Bank, and it has always received the harsher brunt of Israel’s occupation policies. Rather than focus on how Israel couldn’t possibly be doing this out of “pure malice” or whatever, how about we all recognize that this is the definition of unconscionable behavior and must end, no matter the motivations?

      Reply to Comment
    12. sinjim

      And now cue the accusations of defending/supporting Hamas simply for providing the perspective of a significant segment of the Palestinian people. Right-wing Zionists are so predictable.

      Reply to Comment
    13. RichardNYC

      “Once again with these hypothetical questions that do nothing but deflect from Israeli racist policies.”
      –>If you’d like me to respond (not sure), please refrain from substituting slogans for arguments in response to my questions, which are obviously relevant.
      –>Here’s another chance to engage me: what do YOU think motivates Israel’s Gaza policy? Since this is an extremely relevant question, I’m going to take evasiveness as a sign of bad faith.

      Reply to Comment
    14. RichardNYC

      You called Hamas “legitimate” – do you sympathize with their goals, or not?

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    15. Sinjim

      Just because something is legitimate doesn’t mean that I support it. Likud is a legitimate party, Fatah is a legitimate party, Yisrael Beitenu is a legitimate party, the PFLP is a legitimate party. I can go on, but I suspect even those with half a brain get the point. In order to take my statement regarding the legitimacy of this or that party as defense or support, one would have to make leap of logic that is not only unjustifiable but also dishonest and malicious.
      As for Israel’s motivations, I already answered that in the second paragraph of my comment starting with “As for Israel’s motivations…” But Israel’s motivations aren’t nearly as important as its racist actions. Even if Israel’s motivations are as pure as the driven snow, it doesn’t make its actions any less the war crimes that they are.

      Reply to Comment
    16. RichardNYC

      “Hamas is a legitimate Palestinian party and movement that has a base constituency. It’s popularity may ebb and flow, but it isn’t going away in the foreseeable future.”
      –>Thanks for clarifying! So you mean that you don’t think the blockade can eliminate Hamas. I agree. What about a military offensive? Do you think that would work? Seems to have worked against Fatah.
      “Even if Israel’s motivations are as pure as the driven snow, it doesn’t make its actions any less the war crimes that they are.”
      –>Well that’s not the case, unless you disagree that proportionality and the right of self-defense are relevant to the laws of war. Do you?

      Reply to Comment
    17. RichardNYC

      BTW, I’m not right wing 🙂
      My arguments stem from the basic idea that Israelis, in Israel, are human beings with the right to life.

      Reply to Comment
    18. RichardNYC

      WHERE R U? 🙁

      Reply to Comment
    19. aristeides

      Maybe Mya is a Jew and observing Shabbos.

      Reply to Comment
    20. directrob

      “My arguments stem from the basic idea that Israelis, in Israel, are human beings with the right to life.”
      Yes Richard you are right, but might I suggest to you that the Palestinians are also human beings with universal human rights. By blocking Gaza those rights are witheld.

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    21. Crawl

      “whether or not the blockade is legal–and I don’t believe that is” – Mya, I never knew you were also a lawyer with a degree in International Law! lovely!

      Reply to Comment
    22. RichardNYC

      And whose fault is that? Hamas, because it wages war on Israel? Or Israel, because, two generations ago Gazans’ lived on land that’s now in Israel? Which standard does it make sense to adopt as a general rule? Just war for all irredentists, or respect for international borders?

      Reply to Comment
    23. directrob

      Since when can we not write what we believe? In this case it does give the reader more information about the writer and she has the ICRC at her side.
      To assign fault lets wait for the ICJ but in the mean time Israel maintains the trickle feed as collective punishment. ( http://www.aftenposten.no/spesial/wikileaksdokumenter/article3972840.ece ) so Israel can choose to stop the trickle feed.

      Reply to Comment
    24. RichardNYC

      Since, according to international law, Gaza is not part of Israel, would you prefer that Israel eliminate any remaining semblances of occupation, end the sea blockade, and completely close its border with Gaza? Would Gaza be better off? Do countries have a right not to trade with their neighbors?
      PS: nothing the ICJ will ever say about this will be binding. The whole “international law” chess game is actually quite meaningless, and if Israel wanted to play it, it could do what I’ve proposed above. But I don’t think anyone wants that – so maybe borrowing ideas from international law and turning them into slogans isn’t right way to solve the issue!

      Reply to Comment
    25. Hostage

      @RichardNYC RE: your nonsensical statement “PS: nothing the ICJ will ever say about this will be binding. The whole “international law” chess game is actually quite meaningless, and if Israel wanted to play it, it could do what I’ve proposed above.”

      You must be living in a cave. The ICTY, ICTR, and ICC have been prosecuting individuals for violations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, since 1993.

      The findings of fact in the 2004 Wall case with regard to violations of Article 49(6) of the Geneva Convention are binding on all of the state parties to that Convention and Article 36(2)a. of the Statute of the Court.

      In its ruling, the Court noted that the other interested state parties had argued that, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is under an obligation to search for and bring before its courts persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches of international humanitarian law flowing from the planning, construction and use of the wall. FYI, the Court advised that Israel could not cite security or necessity to preclude the wrongfulness of its actions.

      The advisory opinion and fact finding reports of the UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies constitute prima facie evidence that can be used by Palestine to request investigations and prosecutions of the responsible individuals in the ICC. Israel’s occupation and failure to prosecute actually triggers the Court’s jurisdiction.

      Reply to Comment
    26. RichardNYC

      “The advisory opinion…”
      exactly. But this is a tired point, and missed the thrust of my argument, which is that if Israel wanted to, it could cut Gaza off completely and be with its rights. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? Because the “international law” argument for doing that is sound, my friend. This suggests that following all of shit to the letter, and arguing endlessly with non-lawyer hacks about what “international law” says is not the solution to anything. GET IT?

      Reply to Comment
    27. zvi

      As I understand it, the blockade is being imposed purely for security reasons – any other reason would be clearly illegal under international law. And this ruling has been upheld in international courts….

      But that does not necessarily make this a wise or even an effective policy. I personally think that Israel was foolish not to engage with Hamas after they won the elections. After all, it was Israel who had insisted that the Palestinian Authority (PA) hold an election (despite warnings from Fatah). The results were clearly a ‘protest vote’ aimed at the PA, not necessarily an indication of deep support for Hamas.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Ben Israel

      Here is a low-life politician for you, Avi Dichter, he wants to reconquer Gaza and root out HAMAS in a long-term occupation:


      Know, we all know he supported Israel’s flight from Gaza and the expulsion of the Jews from there. He told us “Sharon knows what he is doing, do you think he would endanger the security of the people of Israel?” and “The Arabs won’t DARE fire rockets out of Gaza, they know the IDF will take care of them”.
      The man is either an imbecile or a liar…I tend to believe the second…he knew what would happen but he didn’t care what happened to the people of the country as long as his political career was advanced.
      The only way I would support such a move is on condition that Gush Katif be rebuilt, but since that wouldn’t happen under current circumstances, I STRONGLY oppose sending Jewish boys to endanger their lives merely to shift control of Gaza from the HAMAS-Islamic Jihad terrorists to the FATAH-Aq Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade terrorists who are loyal to Abbas. There are other ways to stop the rocket fire.

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    29. Piotr Berman

      Israel maintains blockade for the same reason that young Haredi spit at Christian clergy in Jerusalem: to lift Jewish spirits after hundreds years of pogroms and oppression (at least, this was the explanation of the spitting I read in JP).

      Richard NYC asked if Israel does exactly same shit in Area A. Actually, quite a lot of shit. And how about Area C which is arena of daily amusements that lift the Jewish spirit? From time to time someone will intone about “legitimate security concern”. Yea.

      Consider this example: at some point IDF lifted the prohibition of transporting humus to Gaza, except for humus with flavoring additives like mushroom or pine nuts. What is the frame of mind of people who issue and enforce such edicts?

      Concerning shit in Area C, some of it had a literal character, soldiers defecating in Palestinian homes, e.g. on bedsheets. Effective but labor intensive and somewhat undignified. Enter the Jewish technological genius: now you can douse an entire village with skunk water! Again, what is the frame of mind of the designers, the command etc.

      Of course, outhouses, water cisterns, chicken coops, even village streets are destroyed in Area C for security reasons. Yea.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Ben Israel

      If you think that is bad, you should see how the Palestinians act….celebrating gruesome suicide bombings and the such. For instance, there was the display HAMAS made at the University in Shechem regarding the Sbarro Pizza shop masssacre (the woman who planned it and organized it was released in the recent mass release of terrorists)…they took a room, put spread paper pizzas around the room and on the walls, sprayed ketchup or red paint around and took mannikans and dismembered them and spread the parts around the room with ketchup on them.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Ben Israel

      Piotr-I forgot to mention other horrors the Palestinians carry out such as the FATAH-PA and HAMAS honoring suicide bombers who targetted civilians and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian population centers which HAMAS is doing with their rockets. Both of these are war crimes so the PA is honoring war criminals.

      Reply to Comment
    32. zvi

      @directrob: of course the blockade is making life difficult for the people in Gaza. And that may well be the ‘intended’ purpose of the effort.

      But security needs are the ‘justification’ for it, not collective punishment. And as long as missiles continue to fly over the border, I do not think Israel will be loosening up. Once again, I am not saying that I agree with this policy, nor do I think that it is particularly effective. But good luck convincing anyone that they should do nothing while someone shoots missiles (or throws rocks) at them. And of course the same applies on the Palestinian side too – and Israel is most definitely shooting at them!

      Reply to Comment
    33. Piotr Berman

      Ben Israel:

      I will not debate who committed worse atrocities in the past. There is a lot to choose from.

      However, look like your argument looks as the justification of IDF policies:

      “in the light of past cases of indiscriminate bombings etc. it is OK to prohibit importation of mushrooms to Gaza and to destroy outhouses and cisterns in Area C”


      This is revenge. And while we could debate if the revenge is “justified” or “unjustified”, revenge driven actions do not support security objectives. As a matter of general principle, the fewer goals you want to satisfy the better you can satisfy them, because an action good for goal A can be detrimental for goal B.

      At least I appreciate that you did not provide gruesome details of pogroms from the beginning of the past century to justify spitting at Canadian-Armenians in Jerusalem. There is a distinction between “understanding the reasons” and “justification”. Israeli policies have reasons, but it does not make them justified or moral. And since many policies are quite nonsensical from security point of view, those that are “plausible” are quite suspect as well.

      Reply to Comment
    34. directrob

      As far as Israeli law is concerned you are right, but I do not think international law is that blind. Lets wait what the ICJ has to say.
      “One of the strongest arguments supporting the notion that the blockade is illegal is that – by banning most items except for the most essential for survival – it is in fact an economic sanction and a form of collective punishment, which is prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.

      Reply to Comment
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