Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gaza Under Siege

by A.R. Sow
The Palestinian/ Israeli debate is an issue that I feel like is too complex for me to truly understand. It is an issue where in my opinion both sides are simultaneously fundamentally wrong and fundamentally right.

Recently, Egypt has jumped once more into that breach by fortifying the system of underground tunnels that run beneath the border between Egypt and Gaza. Egypt is reportedly doing this because in addition to the goods, and humanitarian supplies that are smuggled through the pathways to Gaza, the tunnels are being used to smuggle arms to militants in the region. The video below explains it in more detail.

Now, I’m no expert but I feel like generally people can agree that the arms trade in the Middle East in general -- and in Gaza in particular, is a pretty bad thing. But ever since Israel instituted a blockade on Gaza in an act of self-defense, Palestinians have been limited in their ability to get the supplies and goods necessary to sustain themselves. However, as the video points out, Israel ships needed supplies into the area.

It has been a longstanding norm to frame the conflict in this region as a tension between Israel’s need to protect itself from the existential threat of Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian desire to reclaim what they deem to be Israeli occupied territories. It would be a colossal understatement to say this description is a gross oversimplification but hey it’s gonna have to do.

I submit that the tension in this particular instance is between Israel’s need to protect themselves from the existential threat of terrorism and the need for Gazans to, you know, survive the siege.

First off, let’s address this notion that the blockade is somehow categorically justified because Israel is shipping in supplies.

If I were to keep 30 puppies in a single room, without letting them leave for any reason. Feed them only what someone who hates puppies and also pays for the food decides according to their whim, and give only most of them shots. That wouldn’t really be cool right? It’s kind of like that. Substitute puppies with human beings, “someone who hates puppies” with a significant cross-section of Israelis, and “food/shots” with well, food and shots (humanitarian supplies) and hopefully you see my point.

Next up is Egypt. Jews for Justice for Palestinians has a really detailed analysis of this topic. The piece points out that if Hamas were allowed to join its ideological allies in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, they could gain political power that would threaten Hosni Mubarak. You should check out the whole thing but I think this paragraph summarizes some of the other motives behind Egypt’s decision to fortify themselves against Hamas nicely:

"But two other factors seem to have been decisive in convincing Cairo to bend to American and Israeli pressure and close the vice on Gaza’s Palestinians, along with those who support them. The first was a US threat to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid unless it cracked down on arms and other smuggling. The second is the need for US acquiescence in the widely expected hereditary succession of Mubarak’s ex-banker son, Gamal, to the presidency. So, far from protecting its sovereignty, the Egyptian government has sold it for continued foreign subsidy and despotic dynastic rule, sacrificing any pretence to its historic role of Arab leadership in the process.”

So the threat from Hamas towards Egypt has more to do with them as a political organization than it does with them as a terrorist organization.To steal a phrase from Henry Kissinger, The U.S./Egyptian interest in eliminating terrorism has become for the people of Gaza, little more than a “dictatorship of the virtuous".


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