Gaza blockade Gaza flotilla Gaza Strip Israel Palestinian Authority Palestinians

The Israeli blockade is actually strengthening Hamas

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.

27 thoughts on “The Israeli blockade is actually strengthening Hamas

  1. Dan,

    I spoke to a predominantly Jewish audience, both Irish and American, at Trinity College in Dublin in November 2007. Someone asked me about the blockade–which wasn’t my topic–and I replied that I didn’t support it as collective punishment rarely worked as intended and usually backfired.

    That was certainly the experience of bombing cities by the British and the Axis powers in WWII. The straightforward bombing of military targets made much more sense. To paraphrase Clemenceau, “it may not be a crime, but it is certainly a blunder.”

  2. I am a little confused….if the blockade is strengthening HAMAS, why are they trying to have it lifted?

  3. Tom-
    I realize this is not really the place for discussing the strategic bombing campaign in World War II, but much recent research has shown that the claim that “bombing the cities was ineffective” is not really true. This was based on the badly flawed US Strategic Bombing Survey and also a British survey carried out by Prof Solly Zuckerman after the war.

    While it can be argued that there were more worthwhile targets that could have been hit, particularly the synthetic fuel plants, bombing the cities played a MAJOR role in demoralizing the population and showing them that the war could not be won and that the Nazi leadership was indifferent to their fate (Hitler refused to visit the bombed-out cities….Goebbels took on this role) and was leading them to disaster. The bombing also demoralized the soldiers at the front when they heard about home the folks back home were suffering. Bombing the cities also bady disrupted arms production, which was just getting going much more efficiently by building large plants when the bombing campaign greatly intensified, forcing arms production to be dispersed among small, inefficient plants scattered all over the country and subject to transportation breakdowns.
    See Adam Tooze’s book “The Wages of Destruction” and Richard Overy’s “Why the Allies Won”.

  4. Lara’s piece here is typical of the counter-intuitive arguments the “peace camp” has used for years in order to try to hoodwink the Israeli population into supporting their delusional policies. We were told that Arafat’s FATAH terrorists would protect Israel so there was no need for IDF troops to be in Judea/Samaria. Later, I recall Yediot Aharonot said that giving up the Golan Heights to Syria would “force Syria to become a democracy”. Lately, someone in Ha’aretz said that Syria was “dying to make peace with Israel because the ruling Alawites are considered heretical Muslims by Muslim extremists”, as if selling out to Israel will make them more popular (Iran’s Mullah’s have ruled that the Alawites are actually kosher Shi’ites, whether or not that is actually the case). Sharon claimed that giving up Gush Katif would “weaken” HAMAS….really, I kid you not. Barak claimed that the Lebanese Army would keep HIZBULLAH away from the Lebanese border and that HIZBULLAH would disband itself since it no longer had to “liberate” Lebanese territory from Israeli control. Shimon Peres claimed in one of the books ghostwritten in his name that “ideology was dead and irrelevant in today’s world because young people only want money and internet” (which he probably observed in his grandchilren, but they are not necessarily typical of the rest of humanity), not realizing that top Islamic terrorists, like the 3 who attacked in the US in the last year were all educated and well-to-do if not wealthy….and they use the internet, NOT to watch porno movies, but to spread their radical ideology.
    So now Lara tells us the ending the blockade will “weaken HAMAS”. Fortunately, most Israeli have finally waken up to the deceptions of the peace camp and that is why they have almost completely evaporated from the Knesset.

  5. I find the term “end the blockade” to be as vague as the “right of return”.

    The question is the form, what does it mean?

    With the right of return, there are some approaches that are important for Israel to implement as they are the fulfillment of “equal due process under the law”. Specifically, ANY individual that has a pending claim for perfected or even partial land or residence title, should get their day in court (59 years after the 1951 law prohibiting entry to Israel to make legal claims, and the law of transfer of “abandoned” property to the state). Similarly, it is irrational to deny citizenship to ANYONE that was born with the geographic jurisdiction of Israel (whatever that is now).

    Beyond that, the extent of right of return is vague. Does it apply to one generation of direct descendants of those with valid legal claims? Two generations? Does it apply to anyone of Palestinian descent residing anywhere to reside and be citizens of anywhere in prior Palestinian administrative jurisdiction?

    The difference between those is stark. Its not enough for activists to just say, “I support the right of return”. Which one?

    Similarly, the “end the blockade” theme is unclear.

    Does it mean, “increase the flow of traffic over the land borders, and open the range of materials”. Or, does it mean that Gaza should have an open airport and seaport, but without sovereignty (and therefore accountability for foreign policy), and also without subscription to the law of the sea and other international law governing port and airport security and other protocols.

    One ambiguity of Turkey’s and now Ireland’s positions, in seeking the precedent of unmanaged sea borders, is that that becomes the international definition of “law of the sea”, basically a precedent of unmanaged borders.

    Its as gross a confusion as treating the non-proliferation treaty as just paper, with no consistent international insistence on adherence.

  6. YBD,

    There may have been some demoralization on the part of German soldiers and civilians, but this was probably caused as much by the realization that Hitler and the Nazis were bent on involving the country in an endless series of wars in order to implement there plans of conquest.

    In the case of ethnic conflict, such as in Northern Ireland or Israel-Palestine, the use of terrorism only strengthened the desire on the part of the population to resist and made the terrorists anathema in the eyes of the population being targeted. Such was the case with both republican and loyalist terror in NI, and with Palestinian terrorism in Israel. When one considers that Palestinians consider the blockade to be a form of terrorism the same dynamic is at play. Over time the population under siege or attack may be willing to consider compromise approaches, but certainly not surrender. Thus to be effective a siege strategy would have to be offered with a compromise, which this government seems to have no intention of offering.

  7. “bombing the cities played a MAJOR role in demoralizing the population”
    Too bad that this didn’t result in anything.
    A US officer at the time accurately nailed it: The ‘baby-killing plan of the get-rich-quick psychological boys’. Bomb them and they will just give up at one point. Well, they didn’t. Germany didn’t surrender until almost its entire territory had been occupied and its military destroyed. There was no collapse in military morale, nor in civilian obedience, until allied tanks started rolling through German cities. No surge in surrenders, no uprisings, no strikes, no loss in worker productivity, nothing. Germans might have been in despair about the terrible hardships, but as long as it didn’t show in the war effort, why the hell should the Nazis have given a damn?

    The American bombing of Japan, including the nuclear attacks, was at least as horrible as the attacks on German civilians. But, with all the necessary caveats, it at least had something to show for the slaughter, namely the Japanese surrender. Bomber Command’s attack on ‘civilian morale’ – ain’t that just the nicest and most clinical term – didn’t. And no, the effect on German production doesn’t offset this, because this was merely a side-effect, which was actually minimized by the concentration on civilian housing. If anything, it shows how useless the British strategy really was by revealing the potentially war-deciding possibilities of attacks against crucial industries. (I could now go into great contrafactual detail about the idiotic underuse of what was likely the best aircraft of World War 2 – the Mosquito – but I won’t.)

    Why discuss this here and now? Because the ‘Weissglas diet’ is, different methods and different times aside, another ‘get-rich-quick’ plan. Baby killing included. Just impoverish the Palestinians and bam! suddenly they will surrender/oust Hamas. This kind of terrorism – and terrorism it is – really doesn’t have all that good of a track record.
    There is no indication of any kind that Hamas’ grip on Gaza has loosened at all because of the blockade. Quite the contrary.

  8. YBD:

    Hamas isn’t so much trying to get rid of the blockade as exploiting it to tarnish Israel’s image. Castro has criticized the American boycott of Cuba since its inception but he is quite happy for it to stay in place and provide him a readymade excuse for all the failings of the Communist economy in Cuba. The boycott is the “gift that keeps on giving.” Israel’s blockade of Gaza is the same. Perhaps the settlers who thrive when Israel is under a state of siege find the blockade and the accompanying damage to be useful. I don’t think that most other Israelis do.

  9. Want to quickly respond to your post below on Beinart’s piece. I think both of you guys have your hearts in the right place. But both of you will be frustrated by the “liberal Zionist” movement you would like to build.

    That is because the “Zionist” in “liberal Zionist” IS a demand for a Jewish-supremacist state on land that is home to Palestinians. And no one who believes in equal rights, in indigenous rights, and in liberalism will ever sign on to that idea (even in its “nicest”, most “liberal” form). It is fundamentally discriminatory, and inconsistent with the principles of liberal democracy.

    A “Jewish state” is no more desirable in principle than a “White state” or an “Islamic state”. Racial or religious privilege are not liberal concepts, or modern concepts for that matter. American liberals, including Jewish liberals, reject them in every other context. Asking them to make an exception for Israel is a doomed and irrational argument.

    (Daniel Luban also speaks to this compellingly in his piece in Tablet, although I don’t think he quite spells out my more fundamental points above.)

    But, there is a wonderful multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious anti-apartheid movement that is working for liberal democratic change and itself represents a great hope for a better future. It would be happy to count you as a member.

  10. Robin-
    What are you “progressives” doing to end the massive American aid and support given to the Islamic supremacist states Pakistan and Bangladesh which were set up specifically for Muslims and which resulted in the killing or uprooting of millions of Hindus and Sikhs?

  11. Y Ben-David: That comparison is a stretch in many ways. Pakistan is a humongous and poverty-stricken country, and it still doesn’t receive close to the levels of aid that Israel does. Nor do they have very many non-Muslims to oppress, and in fact, the worst victims of recent state violence were likely all Muslims. Is there a system of apartheid against religious minorities there? I am not aware of one.

    But to the extent that the state institutionalizes religion, of course I don’t support it. You are right that it was created based on a similar model of ethnic/religious exclusion to the one that has proven so disastrous in Israel, and I think many people would question the wisdom of partition in retrospect. (Although I should stress that I am not very well-informed about the history and politics of the subcontinent.) Coexistence is the best model, and I support it everywhere.

  12. Here is an outstanding piece by Barry Rubin about Obama’s imbecilic policies towards HAMAS. After ecouraging economic aid to the Palestinian Authority in Judea/Samaria so that the people of Gaza see that HAMAS is leading them to a dead end, now Obama wants to help HAMAS by improving the economic situation of the Gazans. Is there some kind of plan behind Obama’s bizarre policies, other than to kowtow to Muslim extremists?

  13. No plan Y-Ben. The guy voted present more often then not in the Illinois senate. Where not exactly talking a leader, a decision maker. Where talking about aguy who feels compelled to bow to foreign desposts. BTW I do want to ask you this has an israeli. Do you get pissed off about guys like Fleshler and the j-street crew, Beinart, when they know, just know what exactly Israel should do. Why not move to Israel and try to make a knesset run. Or better yet grab a rifle and stand a watch. If you can’t do that than maybe you should shut up. Nobody forces anyone to join aipac or even stay jewish. Either your on Israel’s side or your on the arabs side.

  14. If you are on the side of expansion of settlements, and objection to a current Palestinian state, then you are on the side of the Iranians.

    The only way to be on Israel’s side currently, is to urge a two-state solution, and as promptly as possible.

    And, if you have any skills at all, you would put those skills to the purpose of actually making that happen.

    Delay (and settlement expansion) seems like it works in Israel’s favor, but it compels the single-state result.

    If you are no longer a Zionist (a civilist instead), then the single-state solution (one-person one-vote) may be practical.

    If you are a Zionist and actually value Israel’s viability as a Jewish national state, then the two-state solution is the only option (beyond a couple tenuous decades).

    Its pretty close to too far. Dabbling around, applying questionable 30’s and 40’s ideas to 2010, is fiddling while Rome burns.

  15. Missed my point Rich. What I was saying is that it has to infuriating for a guy to sit in Jerusalem, who knows, maybe a member of the knesset. And he reads what somebody like you writes. All the answers right. Everything is simple. If Israel just does this that and the other thing it will all be over. And thats just not the case.

  16. Nothing is simple. It doesn’t matter who speaks reason; intimate, distant relative, stranger, or opponent.

    Free people take the information at hand and think things through.

    Dismissing the voice of American Jews is a dangerous exercise, if you care for Israel.

  17. Some America Jews stand with Israel, some don’t. If it weren’t for Christian evangelicals the situation would be dire. But they are people of faith, unlike most Jews. The more you care about being Jewish the more you stand with Israel. The more your focus is on being a good liberal. And having your neightbors say ” hes the good one, not like the others” the less you do.

  18. Just tired of the hand wringing, the angst, the Israel is losing its soul stuff. Don’t you think that they know the issues very well there, and whats at stake. Do you think that their idiots. They know the Arabs, what can be done, what can’t be done.

  19. Actually, with the degree of separation of the Arab from the Israeli community, they DON’T know the Arabs very well.

    You, like the political leftists, can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

    Israel is Jewish nationally and democratic politically.

  20. Bill,
    If you go back to the previous thread you can find a comment by Peter H. accusing me of always defending Israel when (to use his words, not mine) “it commits some horrible human rights crime.” And you believe that I never have anything good to say about Israel. I guess some people see only what they want to see and are blind to everything else.

  21. Rich, thats what I’m talking about. This attitude that you know better than somebody who lives in Israel, ( whose ass is on the line, with his family) what the issues are, what’ involved, and what to do.
    And Tom, the jackals are hovering. Obama is backing away from Israel at warp speed. And he gets cover from guys like Dan Fleshler. It’s morally wrong for a Jew to help that process along. At least the Jews in the 1930’s in America had an excuse for opting out. What’s Dans?

  22. bbas to Obama: I’m against lifting the Gaza naval blockade
    The Palestinian president reportedly told Obama that lifting the naval blockade of Gaza would bolster Hamas, a move that shouldn’t be done at this stage.

    By Barak Ravid
    Tags: Israel news Gaza Mahmoud Abbas Barack Obama
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position.

    Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once more put off announcing the creation of a committee of inquiry into the naval commando raid on the Gaza Strip flotilla, and the matter will not be brought before the cabinet for a vote this morning.

    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama

    Photo by: Archive

    Netanyahu and his advisers had hoped to announce the establishment of a committee of inquiry as early as yesterday evening for a vote in the cabinet today. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister’s Bureau said yesterday evening that the conditions have not matured for such an announcement “due to political reasons.”

    Talks have been held with the U.S. administration and several European countries to rally support for the mandate of the committee of inquiry and approval of its makeup. The Americans have rejected – a number of times – Israel’s proposals and asked that a retired Supreme Court justice head the probe. The issue was resolved when Justice Yaakov Tirkel was proposed for the post.

    The Americans have also been busy with the issue of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council and also with the visit to the U.S. capital by Abbas and so exchanges with Netanyahu’s bureau on the committee of inquiry were delayed.

    Apparently, there is another cause for delay involving exchanges between the Americans, Israel and European countries concerning the proposed foreign observers on the committee of inquiry and their authority. One of the foreign observers on the committee will be a senior American jurist. Washington has made it clear that the administration would like at least two European observers to be involved in order to strengthen the legitimacy of the Israeli panel.

    The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

    European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

    One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

    Abbas told Obama that actions easing the blockage should be done with care and undertaken gradually so it will not be construed as a victory for Hamas. The Palestinian leader also stressed that the population in the Gaza Strip must be supported, and that pressure should be brought to bear on Israel to allow more goods, humanitarian assistance and building materials for reconstruction. Abbas, however, said this added aid can be done by opening land crossings and other steps that do not include the lifting of the naval blockade.

    On Friday, Netanyahu met with Quartet representative Tony Blair in his office. This was the third meeting between the two during the last eight days, and centered on ways of easing the blockade on the Strip.

    Senior Israeli officials and European diplomats say there is agreement that policy on the blockade should be altered, but this should be done carefully and discretely.

    “There is agreement that no major declarations should be made so Hamas will not to be allowed to score points,” a source familiar with the talks with Blair said.

  23. Bill,
    Abbas also doesn’t care about Israel’s international standing and reputation and in fact would be quite happy to weaken it in order to reduce the disparity in the balance of power between Israel and Palestine.

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