State Terrorism

Rashid Khalidi · The Siege of Gaza

It has become a pattern. Israel takes shocking action, as in Lebanon in 2006 where it killed 1000, Gaza in 2008-9 where 1400 people died (mostly civilians in both cases), and now its act of state terrorism on the high seas against a humanitarian mission to relieve the siege of Gaza. Then Israeli leaders complain that those who criticise their actions are 'delegitimising' the state of Israel. A real friend of Israel would tell its leaders that it is mainly their own actions that are undermining Israel’s standing in the world – actions that are not legitimate by any standard of international law, morality or even common sense.

The deeper story here is the illegal blockade by Israel (with the connivance of Egypt) of the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million inhabitants who live in the world’s largest open-air prison. Despite Israeli spin that portrays Gaza as flowing with fresh produce, it is in fact the scene of a severe humanitarian crisis. As international organisations charged with monitoring the situation have consistently verified, tons of sewage pour into the Mediterranean for lack of treatment because spare parts for the sewage plant cannot get through the blockade; 90 per cent of Gaza’s people drink polluted water because the water supply system cannot be repaired; the electrical system, smashed by Israeli bombers, can only supply current intermittently. Israel’s attack on the flotilla has proved that it is still the occupying power in Gaza. As such it has an obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to allow the people under its control a decent life. This the imprisoned Gazans manifestly do not have.

So where does this latest crisis leave the world? There is a pressing mandate for the powers that support Israel to end the siege of Gaza once and for all. This could be done with a Nato naval convoy to break the blockade, or a fresh resolution with real teeth (such as sanctions). If ever there was a time for action to end the inhumane siege, which is a blot on the record of the entire international community, then this is it.


  • 3 June 2010 at 9:16am
    Geoff Roberts says:
    I agree with most of what you have written. But realistically there is little chance of NATO even discussing the possibility of a blockade run. The most feasible answer would be for President Obama to earn that Nobel Prize award and inform the Israeli government that they negotiate for the two-state solution or else and immediately end the blockade. The action to stop the Turkish ship this week achieved something at a very high price - it showed the world that a solution must be found and soon. But we all know what the next step will be. Only the Israeli people can end this madness.

  • 3 June 2010 at 11:08am
    ski says:
    There is absolutely no chance, none whatever, that the UN would ever attempt to break the blockade. Such a notion is pure fantasy.

    I do agree, however, that this is Obama's chance to make a stand. But I fear that he will be constrained by the fear that a tough stance against Israel would effectively end his presidency. And that is the reality: such is the influence of the Israeli lobby in the US (via AIPAC, but also the unconditional, almost fanatical support that Israel has among certain religious elements of the right wing) that a direct confrontation between the White House and Tel Aviv would make a second term almost impossible for Obama. The other thing is how much could he, Obama really achieve by say announcing a suspension of American aid to Israel. Congress (and there are elections in November) would make his administration grind to a halt.

    That said, I think Obama has been trying to be more robust in his relationship with Israel. The best that can be hoped for is that his administration succeed - by persuasion and pressure in the background - in getting the blockade policy reversed. But for any of this to be meaninful it would have to be in the context of a renewed attempt at rebuilding the peace process.

    You can imagine the trouble however that, if a week after the blockade were lifted, a volley of rockets rains down on Sderot. That is to say: there are things Hamas could do to either help the potential for progress or to make movement possible. If their goal is a peaceful workable Palestinian state, they need to hold off on the rockets, if their goal is obliteration of Israel they will provoke Israel again and guarantee more extreme suffering for their own people.

  • 3 June 2010 at 3:45pm
    pinhut says:
    "You can imagine the trouble however that, if a week after the blockade were lifted, a volley of rockets rains down on Sderot."

    If retaliation is not forthcoming, this can be arranged by Israel. We've already seen, time and again, the capacity of the Israeli machine to manufacture events. This week has seen rational thought thrown in their meatgrinder once again, with a clear case of piracy on the high seas being respun until those involved were terrorists who 'asked for violence' etc. One angle that would help is if the UK broadsheets were not complicit in disseminating such viewpoints in future, but what do you do when the 'left-wing' Guardian offers only one Comment piece on this, and that is written from the viewpoint that Israel had 'no choice' and the author is an Israeli ex-member of the IDF?

    "...if their goal is obliteration of Israel they will provoke Israel again and guarantee more extreme suffering for their own people."

    You're reading a lot into the rocket attacks here, it sounds like you're mixing up the Official Rhetoric against Hamas with the Official Rhetoric against Tehran. To me, they look more like the result of impotence and desperation.

    But the rest, sure, you make some sound points re: likely US action, ie: non-existent. The ground has been removed in the US, to not 'stand with Israel' is, de facto, to 'support terrorism' etc.

    • 5 June 2010 at 4:44pm
      rest says: @ pinhut
      I cannot agree more with pinhut here. I have been in the West Bank many times and the feelings of impotence and despair is everywhere - and this would be a million times worse in Gaza. I too see no way out.

  • 4 June 2010 at 7:17am
    Geoff Roberts says:
    The Turkish government is making a lot of noise about this, calling for an international enquiry, 'punish the culprits' etc. What I'd like to know is what are their motives and objectives in this affair? Been quite close to the Israeli government, as close as anybody in the region, so what is going on here?