But What Could
IOA Exclusive - FEATURED COMMENTARY
By Stephen R. Shalom
June 5, 2010, Israeli Occupation Archive
The New York Times front-paged a story on the conflicting video images of the assault on the
Normally, neutrality in the face of contradictory and incomplete information is an admirable trait. But consider the circumstances. One side, the Israeli attackers, surely have video of the entire encounter, but have shown only selected snippets, carefully avoiding the period immediately before the troops landed on board the Mavi Marmara. The other side, those trying to break the blockade, had their cellphones and cameras confiscated ('captured' is how the IDF put it), one of their websites hacked, and limited coverage of events. Despite this asymmetry that ought to make us extremely skeptical of the Israeli version, the clips do seem to show that the Israeli forces fired before they landed - and you can bet the IDF won't be releasing their complete video for analysis. And as more and more passenger testimony becomes available, and as autopsy results show the victims shot between the eyes at point blank range, the Israeli version is more and more dubious.
But the Times is right that the competing videos don't provide context - but the context is not just what happened in the few minutes before or after, or even including the probable Israeli attempts to sabotage the ships before they left port. Rather, what's relevant is the larger political context of the nature of the blockade and of
Israeli apologists like to claim that no one is starving because of the blockade. This is true of most prisons, but in any event the suffering caused by the blockade is horrendous.
There is widespread malnutrition. The agricultural sector is suffocating under the blockade. The number of refugees living in abject poverty in
'At the heart of the crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education.'
Israel coyly whines that if only the activists had delivered their humanitarian supplies to the Israeli port of Ashdod, Israeli would have been happy to pass on all the acceptable items to
for three years Israeli authorities had determined that basic humanitarian supplies were unacceptable. So, for example, on June 1, the World Health Organization renewed its call 'to allow for the unimpeded access into the Gaza Strip of life- saving medical supplies, including equipment and medicines, as well as more effective movement of people in and out of the territory for medical training and the repair of devices needed to deliver appropriate healthcare.' The necessary equipment was available - but blocked by Israeli officials from being permitted to enter
But what else could
This view of the situation, however, is the same erroneous view put forward by the Israeli government and its apologists during Operation Cast
At that time,
The blockade - enforced by Israel and Egypt - was widely denounced by human rights groups (e.g., Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Israeli organizations Gisha and B'Tselem) UN officials (e.g. Secretary General Ban Ki- moon, General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto, the Under- Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, Special Rapporteurs John Dugard and Richard Falk), and in two presidential statements of the European Union as collective punishment - because its purpose was to change Hamas's behavior by punishing the one and a half million civilians of Gaza, the majority of them children. Israeli officials openly boasted that this was their intent, and the fact that exports are prohibited and such things as coriander and notebooks are banned from importation proves that restricting the flow of weapons was not the motivation for the blockade.
International, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights groups as well as the Goldstone Report documented that the economic destruction was intentional. 'â€˜Hamas's civilian infrastructure is a very, very sensitive target,' pointed out Matti Steinberg, a former top adviser to
On January 8, 2009, the UN Security Council adopted - with 14 affirmative votes and only the
Israel and Egypt, however, maintained the blockade, which was now doubly illegal: first because it constituted collective punishment and second because it violated Resolution 1860.
Following the ceasefire, Hamas again expressed its willingness to establish a truce so long as the blockade was lifted. Similar offers were repeated frequently, for example, in September 2009, but
So the simplest answer to Brian Lehrer's question of what
But beyond a ceasefire,
So, no, the obstacle to a settlement is not Hamas. The first obstacle is
And the Labor party veteran who serves as President, Shimon Peres, too takes positions - like insisting on Israel's right to build new settlements anywhere in Jerusalem - that are guaranteed to thwart any chance of peace.
The second obstacle to peace is the
And by opposing an international inquiry into the attack on the aid flotilla - as opposed to letting the perpetrator investigate itself - Obama has granted impunity for murder.
The blockade must be lifted immediately and the occupation ended. And that will require ending the
Stephen R. Shalom teaches political science at
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs