Thursday, June 3, 2010

Is it time to end the Siege ?

A poster displayed near Grafton street in Dublin today.

Is it time that Israel put an end to its blockade of Gaza ? From their point of view they must now ask themselves if it is causing more damage in terms of international opinion than it is worth. I have come to the somewhat controversial conclusion that it is not morally wrong, nor is it collective punishment to economically restrain an enemy. The objective of the blockade is as TheSystemWorks pointed out in Bock the Robber , to prevent a humanitarian crisis while preventing economic development. This brings me back to the main point I always make about the Mid East. If the siege ended, do people really think that Israel acting in a softer way will bring Hamas controlled Gaza to the negotiating table. Do people really think that if Israel just backed down then Israel would be more secure and peace would follow. All reasonable people I'm sure would agree that an end to the blockade would be no good for the people of Gaza if it resulted in another war three months down the line when Hamas has rearmed.

Having said all that the people of Gaza, while not starving, are completely humiliated by the blockade. The Israelis allow rice and grain into Gaza but not livestock and seed which is designed to prevent economic growth. Construction materials are banned. The Israelis say it is because they are used to build tunnels to smuggle weapons. This may be but the result is that the rubble from the January 09 war has remained. Nothing has been rebuilt. It must be one unbelievably depressing place to live where all one can do is exist in the tiny enclave which is one of the most highly densely populated places on earth. As a long term solution the siege is not a viable as I do not believe it will break Hamas and the prolonged suffering of the citizens of Gaza will only make the conflict more intractable in the long run. Therefore I think the siege must end.

The Gaza Strip, with 1.5 million people is one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

However (I'm a great man for my howevers) as I said before there is no point ending the siege if it just leads to another war. This is why I hope the siege is brought to an end in the context of a wider agreement. There has to be an aspect of such an agreement that effectively monitors the rebuilding of the strip and make sure that an increase in trade does not lead to an increase in military strength. The Israeli have always been reluctant to rely on outsiders for their security. It part of the ethos of Zionism, Jews protecting Jews and all that. But it will have to be done as a preservation of the status quo in Gaza is not sustainable. Perhaps they should begin by allowing the MV Rachel Corrie into Gaza.

16 comments:

Gary said...

Ted,
As I have said, I am no expert on the Middle East but all this discussion about the blockade leads me to ask just exactly what the purpose of it is. You have mentioned that it is to prevent economic growth, my question is "to what end?" Why is it in Israel's interest to keep Gaza economically depressed? Why couldn't the blockade be used specifically to keep out weapons and known "terrorists"?
It seems to my weak mind that keeping the people economically depressed would not weaken Hamas but would run the risk of actually making them even more deep rooted and the people even more anti-Israeli and more anxious for retribution. Am I way off base here?

Ted Leddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted Leddy said...

Gary

You are not way off. You are spot on. The blockade is proving counter productive. It is strengthening Hamas. A Quarantine, as you suggested in an earlier posting, that prevents certain material from entering Gaza would I believe be more effective and less controversial. The Israelis seem to think that if Gaza cannot develope economically that they will reject Hamas. That policy has failed. Then again the Israelis will argue that the citizens of Gaza voted Hamas into power after the Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2006.

I think the Israelis must eventually realise that Hamas are there to say. The key as I see it is in Hamas themselves moderating their position. Some say that is impossible. Perhaps, but if you look at their track record they are actually quite disciplined and practical. They have also come close to recognising Israel on a few occasions so who knows ? Stranger things have happened. They certainly have in my country where former deadly enemies have buried the hatchet.

thesystemworks said...

One disadvantage of the economic blockade is also that Hamas can get a big cut from the smuggling trade.

However, it is interesting to note that conditions in Gaza, Judea and Samaria have always been better for the Arabs living there compared to their counterparts in 'free' Arab countries like Egypt. In fact, in areas like life expectancy, access to education, healthcare and income, Arabs in the disputed territories fare better than several Arab nations nearby, like Syria. Even in Gaza today, conditions would be no worse for the average person as they are on the streets of Cairo.

Gary said...

Ted,
Yes. I am sure Israel would make that exact argument about Hamas being voted in after they withdrew. It makes a good sound bite but I am not sure I buy into the theory. I have a feeling that the true mood of the people there was one of relief, not gratitude -and the residual hard feelings and suspicion would be the dominate motivators, justified or not. Those are feelings that organizations like Hamas are masters at manipulating.

But I am kind of preaching to the choir here. Ireland's experience would put you guys in a far better place to discern those feelings.

Bock the Robber said...

Do we find some agreement?

Do we agree the siege must end and the people of Gaza must be allowed some degree of dignity?

Ted Leddy said...

Gary

Relief not gratitude sounds reasonable to me, although I doubt many Israelis would agree. They seem to think that the people of Gaza voting for Hamas was an endorsement of the Hamas agenda, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

Regarding Northern Ireland, I strongly believe that it provides genuine hope to the Middle East. The conflict appeared for so long to be never ending. But it did end. And people who were once enemies have come to work together. In the Middle East, the Israelis and the Palestinians don't even have to learn to live together, like Catholic and Protestant have to do in Northern Ireland or black and white in South Africa. All they have to do is learn to live side by side in their separate jurisdictions. It should in fact be an easier conflict to solve.

Ted Leddy said...

Bock

It's good to have a legend of the blogosphere on Gubu World.

Yes we do agree. The siege must end. But only in my opinion if it is sustainable. It must come to an end in the context of a wider agreement which some how prevents Hamas from rearming or contains a viable long term ceasefire. Otherwise it will just lead to another war. Not good for anyone.

Ted Leddy said...

TSW

The argument you make about the conditions in Gaza being better than in Arab countries in not one I accept. It may be true but I am very aware that the English used to use it about us (Catholics down south are poorer than catholics up north).

I think you will find that most people would prefer to live in poverty under bad leadership from their own rather that in poverty under bad leadership from a foreign power.

Bock the Robber said...

A somewhat similar argument was made in support of the embargo on arms supplies to the Bosnians, if I recall correctly.

Ted Leddy said...

Bock

Perhaps

But that argument was being made by the Serbian leadership. A ruthless dictatoship hell bent on anhilating the Bosnians through any and all means. They committed unbelievable atrocities like in Srebrenica, where 8000 Muslims were executed in one day. If the Israelis were doing anything remotely as muderous as that then I too would be outside the Israeli embassy calling for an unconditional end to the siege.

Bock the Robber said...

That argument was made by the British, French and Americans who enforced the embargo.

Gary said...

"the Israelis and the Palestinians don't even have to learn to live together, like Catholic and Protestant have to do in Northern Ireland or black and white in South Africa"
I am sorry but I have trouble accepting that. People forced to live in close proximity, seeing and living with each other on a daily basis "up close and personal" have a tendency to begin seeing each other as people, as human beings, they build personal friendships and begin understanding each others cultures. Their economic interests become intertwined. People separated by walls and fences remain more self contained and it is easier to see people on the other side of the wall as "them" and different, people without a human face. Their economies are often in competition rather that mutually supportive. I think it will be harder, not easier in Gaza than in other places.

Ted Leddy said...

Bock

Of course, you were refering to an "arms embarbo". I suppose it made sense at the time because NATO didn't want to become embroiled in a civil war even though the consequences were tragic.

Anyway I stick by my argument that an unconditional end to the siege is pointless if it just leads to another war. I don't think the Balkan comparison is valid. The fate of Gaza's citizens is not nearly as precarious as those in Bosnia.

Ted Leddy said...

Gary

My apologies. I some how failed to notice your comment yesterday. You make an interesting point. If I understood it correctly you believe that in Northern Ireland or South Africa a solution was more likely because you could not deny the humanity of the other side. Perhaps, but I assure you that the peacemakers of the Middle East are lucky that they will never have to engage in the incredibly painstaking negotiations that were required in Ireland in order to set up power sharing institutions that satisfied both sides. For peace to be achieved in the holy land all that really has to be agreed on is final Borders. Hamas and the Likud party will never have to sit in the same parliament.

One thing I think we both can agree on is that if both sides could interact with each other a bit more and see that both have similar aspirations of peace and prosperity for themselves and their families. It would do no harm.

Gary said...

Ted,
You are right of course. I was referring to the interaction of the people in their daily lives and had not considered the problems of co-governance, which I can see would present some very real problems. I think I probably missed that important aspect because of my lack of any real first hand observation or experience.