Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Israel's blockade of Gaza is counterproductive

Before Israel's dirty disproportionate war on Gaza killed 1300 Palestinians, Israel imposed an economic blockade for a year and a half, refusing to allow fuel, medicines and other essential goods into Gaza. No fuel means no electricity. Food supplies were also affected.

It was in the context of the economic blockade that a minority of Palestinians upped their rocket attacks on Israel - it was an act of desperation.

In November aid agency Oxfam called on world leaders to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Israel wished to destablise the elected Hamas government of Gaza. Israel accuses Hamas of launching rocket attacks on Israel.

Yet Israeli actions are only managing to entrench and strengthen the power of Hamas in Gaza. While the following article from the UK Telegraph attempts to play the facile Fatah good; Hamas bad game that appears to fascinate the Western media, it makes some interesting observations.

"In the two weeks since Israel withdrew its soldiers and tanks from the crowded strip of land, inhabited by 1.4 million people, Hamas is deploying a mixture of money, manpower and physical force to restore its kind of order....Hamas has also established almost complete control of private food distribution, using the scores of tunnels along the border with Egypt which have re-opened since the war, and which are now the only source of fresh produce in the markets."

"Thanks in part to an Israeli embargo on anyone moving cash from outside into Gaza, Hamas also has a near monopoly on the currency used in day-to-day transactions. The official banking system is desperately short of paper currency. But Hamas smuggles money through the tunnels from Egypt, distributing it to loyalists and to some of the thousands of supporters who lost their homes or relatives in the Israeli onslaught.

Late last week Ahmed al-Kurdi, the Hamas social affairs minister, personally delivered boxes of cheques totalling $2 million (£1.4 million) to a Hamas tent in the Jebaliya refugee camp. As his aides checked people's identity cards and logged their details on computers, Mr Kurdi handed out 6,000 pre-printed cheques, for different sums, to be cashed at money exchange shops also run by Hamas. With the banks forced to restrict the cash they can give out, the Hamas outlets are thriving - increasing the group's influence even further.

"There is a severe scarcity of cash you can carry in your hand in Gaza," said Mike Bailey, a spokesman for Oxfam. "If Hamas is dispensing cash it will probably make political overtures at the same time and the example of what that means for political power is there for all to see.". Like many aid workers, he is puzzled by the Israeli logic in going to war to crush Hamas, then apparently permitting Hamas to shore up its power by supplying all of Gaza's cash. "It makes the reason for all that destruction by the Israelis all the more perplexing," he said.

So much like the sanctions imposed by the US on Iraq during the 1990s, the economic blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel is not only responsible for great human misery and death, politically it is having the opposite effect to what was supposedly intended. Of course it could be just another facite of Israel's brutal policy of collective punishment - its answer to the decision of the Palestinian people to elect a Hamas government.

Whatever one may think of Hamas, I think it deserves more respect as the democratically elected government of Gaza. If the people of Gaza have functioning political institutions there will be less need to resort to rocket attacks. The Palestinians are not solely to blame - the world bears some responsibility for appeasing Israel and ignoring the rights of the Palestinian people under international law.

Palestinians have faced an illegal military occupation for over 30 years.

When Tony Blair suggests talking to Hamas - this only demonstrates how out of step Israel, the US and the rest of the wing nuts really are.

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At 6:53 am, Blogger bernie said...

I suppose you would also call the US occupation of Germany and Japan after WWII illegal?

Gaza and the West Bank were territories lost by Egypt and Jordan after their war with Israel. There is no illegal occupation by a winning army.

At 11:16 pm, Blogger Joe Hendren said...


That is simply not correct. Both Gaza and the West bank were included in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1920, neither territory was ever officially part of Egypt or Jordan. While Jordan claimed the West Bank after the 1948 war this claim was not recognised internationally (apart from the UK).

The Geneva and Hague Conventions that govern the conduct of an occupier were extended in 1949 with the adoption of the 4th Geneva convention.

The illegality of Israel's occupation is based on Security Council Resolution 242 which was adopted unanimously in 1967.

Note the second sentence of this resolution.
"Emphasizing the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security,"

The imposition of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land is another clear breach of the 4th Geneva convention.

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. ... The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."


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