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Israel/Palestine, Middle East

Israel, Hamas, and the Gaza Strip

This past week has been quite eventful: the Korean War threatens to erupt again, the Gulf of Mexico is full of oil, and Europe seems to be falling apart. What has dominated the interational news has been the Flotilla raid conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli-Arab conflict usual results in the occasional 2 minute news story and then forgotten about until the next incident. However, this time this story is quite different from the usual “Palestinian militant kill Israeli citizens, Israel hit back several thousand times harder, everone loses” story. No, this time, while there were injured Israelis, those killed were neither Israelis nor Palestinians, but outsiders.

Now the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants have been under a military blockade ever since Hamas took over control of the territory from Fatah and Israel’s assault into the territory in 2007. Israel states that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas and like-minded groups from acquiring materials for the construction of rockets, which are a choice weapon for many of these militant groups. It is therefore obvious what Israel’s justification is for placing a blockade on the Strip.

One thing we must note is that every action, there are both positive and negative consequences. One of the most noticable consequences as a result of the Gaza blockade is the creation and ever growing Humanitarian Crisis in the territory. With an area of 360 km2 (139 sq mi) and a population of 1.5 million people, it is one of the most densely populated territories in the World.

The Humanitarian Crisis has resulted in a cry for help and has urged various individuals and groups to find methods to breached the blockade to deliver aid and supplies to the Gaza Strip. One of the most recent attempts to breach the blockade was by a flotilla of six ships originating from Turkey and Greece. On May 31, Israeli troops boarded all six vessels. While the five smaller of the six vessels put up passive or minimal resistance and surrendered almost immediately, there were those on the largest vessel that violently resisted the boarding of their vessel by IDF troops and immediately attacked the boarders. According to the Israeli military, the troops fired live rounds into the crowd as a mesure to defend themselves and their comrades from the actions of those attacking the IDF troops.

While the deaths were regretable, it was forseen that such a result could and/or would happen. While one could state that the intentions of the members of the flotilla were honourable for attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, the method in which they chose to deliver the aid was foolish and it was because of their actions and planning that led to the deaths of nine of their fellow members. What should have been done was the following:

  1. Contact the United Nations and Humanitarian groups that are acceptable to both Israel and Hamas, and through them, arrange with them a schedule and the point of delivery in Gaza
  2. Contact the Israeli Government and say “Hey look, we have aid and supplies that are much needed by the civilians in Gaza and we are determined to get the aid and supplies to Gazans. However, we will allow your custom officials to inspect our cargo before we leave port and we will land at Ashdod. In return,when we dock at Ashdod, we wish for ALL the cargo to be delivered and received by the United Nations and Humanitarian Groups (that is those accepted by both sides) to the people of Gaza
  3. After arrangements are made and everyone is hunkiedorie, then proceed with the delivery.

It was the failure to recognize that Israel will always take a hardline when it sees a potential threat to its national security that resulted in the death of nine activists. Trying to breach the Gaza blocked was an unwise desision and an future attempts would certainly fail to reach its destination or result in unnecessary casulties.

At the centre of this entire incident is the Gazan Humanitarian Crisis.But Who is at fault for the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza? It would be too simple minded to point the finger just at Israel. While Israel is responsible as the blockading power to allow aid to enter the region and has often blocked certain types of aid from reaching Gaza, it has allowed a limited amount of aid to enter the territory, albeit being only a fraction of the aid allowed into Gaza before the blockade. In a situation like this there are two or more parties that are at fault. What must be stated is that Hamas is also to blame for this crisis. Had Hamas (1) recognized Israel and its right to exist, and/or (2) stopped or prevented the rocket attacks on Israeli citizens, there would be no need for the blockade on Gaza. What further fustrates the situation is the fact that Hamas refuses to accept any humanitarian aid that comes through Israel. Essentially, Hamas is not fulfilling the necessary role of a responsibly governing entity by holding their residents as hostages by refusing to allow Israeli-approved aid into the region.

The only way to convince Israel to lift the blockade is to recognize Israel and/or renounce violence against Israelis (which their Palestinian rivals, Fatah had done a number of years ago. This is why Israel tolerates Fatah and accepts them as the governing party of the Palestinian National Authority). Otherwise, the Humanitarian Crisis will only continue to fester.

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