The estimable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now has provided ten reasons for Israel to reassess its blockade of the Gaza Strip. One rationale for the blockade is Israel’s desire to weaken and undermine Hamas. The opposite has occurred, according to Friedman. Oops. This is a classic, tragic example of the law of unintended consequences. Here are a few of her points:
5) The blockade is actually strengthening Hamas.
As a result of the blockade, Gaza’s civilians are suffering and its independent merchant class has been wiped out, while Hamas’ hold over Gaza has been strengthened through the control of the smuggling tunnels. Outside of UN aid and the limited aid that Israel permits to pass through its crossing points, nearly all regular goods for Gaza must pass through Hamas-controlled tunnels, which today are the backbone of Gaza’s pseudo-economy. Today Hamas is even taxing the goods that come through these routes, meaning that the blockade has indirectly become a source of income for the Hamas government.
(6) The blockade has helped wipe out moderate opposition to Hamas within Gaza.
As a result of the blockade, Gaza’s moderate middle class – the people who in the past traded with Israel and had regular relations with Israelis – has been wiped out politically and economically. While one rationale for the blockade was that it would cause the people to rise up against Hamas and in favor of the kind of more moderate leadership that exists in the West Bank, instead today the only real opposition to Hamas comes from foreign-inspired and foreign-funded Islamists who oppose Hamas for being too moderate.
(7) The blockade undermines the domestic legitimacy of Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.
Some argue that lifting the blockade would deal a blow to the Fatah-run PA and its leaders, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. This argument is facile.
Abbas and Fayyad continue to call for an end to the blockade. For the sake of their own credibility as well as for their claim to lead all the Palestinian people (not just the West Bank) Abbas and Fayyad cannot sit by quietly and acquiesce to a situation in which more than a million Palestinians suffer. Similarly, they know that the Gaza blockade is actually strengthening Hamas’ hold on Gaza, while diminishing the influence of those Gazans who would traditionally have represented their own power base.