Gaza blockade: ensuring Israel’s insecurity

By Madronna Holden

June 2010 update

Note that I foolishly did not place the year in the update below, as if this were such a temporary situation.

Israel’s military choices have only resulted in creating more violence in this region.  Doing more of what has not worked in the past is sure insanity.

There is no excuse for storming a boat carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza– and nothing in this for Israel.  It is time to work both our hearts and minds to change the disastrous Israeli policy with respect to Gaza.  See the organizations at the very end of this post for work in this direction that you can support.

January 22 update.

Temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

Now there is a chance for the US as mediator to help broker in a fair peace in this area, but only if the media tells the truth and US government representatives know it.  When I lived under the Occupation, I was subject to the pressure of the Occupation to eject all foreign observers as it did during the Gaza invasion (even if those observers were from the Red Cross).

Help spread the word by writing letters to your local papers and Congressmen and women:  a fair peace tells both sides of  the story here without a “blame game” that inhibits communication and negotiation.

Here are some links that indicate the bias of the press in this regard and offer a balanced perspective:

The Blame Game in Gaza – Erasing Israeli actions to fault only Hamas:

Video – Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land:

Jon Stewart’s satirical critique of media bias on Gaza conflict:

International Law Seldom Newsworthy in Gaza War – Israeli justifications often cited uncritically:

For a recent US poll which shows the impact of the media bias:

Newsworthy and unnewsworthy deaths:

Video – Media bias about the Israeli – Palestine conflict exposed:

Video – Biased media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian:

If Americans Knew – A US project helping to convey alternative perspectives to Americans:

Please click on this link for an award winning video made by Avaaz which is the kind of material that we can be used to encourage more balanced understanding of the Middle East:

January 15 update:

The situation in Gaza is desperate.  Over 1000 dead.  Medical supplies, food, water–and journalists– are not allowed in.  And civilians are not allowed out. President Bush has blocked the UN initiative to negotiate a cease fire.  But international pressure is mounting.  You can help by signing this petition and passing it on to those you feel would be interested.  There are over 430,000 signers now and they are aiming for one million as this organization works sin the international arena to help negotiate a ceasefire.

Over a hundred Palestinian children have died in the invasion, including those taking refuge in a UN school.   The Red Cross has publicly complained about the refusal of the Israeli military to let medical help for the wounded in and out of Gaza–or to tend to them themselves according to the Geneva protocol.

This assault on civilians is NOT an appropriate  response to Hamas’ lobbing a few (thankfully) ineffective rockets over the border in response to the Israeli blockade that has stopped not only food and medical supplies but water from reaching the population of Gaza during months of suffering.  This invasion is an inexcusable assault on a population that cannot fight back– nor even run away.  And it has resulted in a vast escalation of Hamas rockets coming over the Israel border.

The combatants for peace include former Israeli and Palestinian fighters who have come to the conclusion that there is more effective way to ensure peace in this reason.  I have heard these brave and articulate men and women speak as they travel the US speaking on behalf of an alternative to the Israeli-Palestinian violence.

If you are in the US, follow one of the links below to call your Congressperson to urge a ceasefire. The new Congress is now seated, so there is a chance to change US policy that has supported the Occupation.

Or write a letter to your local newspaper.

There is good information and action to take here as well: US Campaign to End the Occupation.

Here is my original post drawing on my own experience living under the Occupation that indicates why the Gaza invasion does the opposite of protecting Israeli security.

Israeli airplanes, substantially  financed by US, are currently bombing  populated areas of Gaza in order to get at Hamas administration targets. All of these targets in heavily populated civilian areas, which are also suffering from the blockade Israel has established at the Gaza borders. The civilian death toll in the bombing has reached over three hundred and eighty since last Saturday.

The abhorrent humanitarian implications of the wholesale bombing are apparent in eyewitness accounts that relate the tragedy.

But those who  think that the bombing is necessary to Israel’s security need to think again.  Since four decades of oppressive occupation tactics coupled with  undermining moderate Palestinian elements has led to Hamas leadership in Gaza– more of the same will only make things worse.

Here is what is wrong with the “need to bomb” argument:

  1.   Attacking Gaza’s civilian population ensures the continued and growing support of Hamas in Gaza.   Indeed, forty years of Occupation policy bears essential responsibility for the emergence of radical Palestinian elements. During my year teaching in the Occupied Territories (on the West Bank), I witnessed the Occupation systematically attack  moderate Palestinian leadership out of the fear such leadership would strengthen the Palestinian ability to become self-governing–and thus undermine the Occupation.   Thus, for instance, anyone with ties to Fatah was systematically arrested and/or deported and university teachers were pressured by the Occupation, on pain of deportation, to sign a statement that the PLO was a terrorist organization. (We did not).

The Occupation systematically undercut person to person communications between Israeli and Palestinian citizens,  forcing a busload of Israeli university students on their way to share lunch with their Palestinian peers, for instance, to stand all day in sleet before they turned them back to Israeli proper. They also conducted a concerted campaign of negative publicity to discourage other visits by Israelis to the Occupied Territories. As a result, even the members of the Solidarity with BirZeit committee of Hebrew University faculty were afraid to cross the “green line” of Occupation.

Notably, in my own modern Western clothes, I was sometimes taken for an Israeli but was greeted everywhere to the traditional hospitality of Palestinians.  Of course, the fact that I had a baby at the time did not hurt.

Occupation forces also attacked local self-sufficiency by uprooting Palestinian olive orchards and detaining and sometimes arresting those who came to join in community olive harvests and oil pressing.

The year I was there the PLO put out the word that under no circumstances should students respond to violence on the part of the Occupation with violence– to avoid giving the Occupation any excuse to close BirZeit University.  However, after nine months of pressure levied by the Occupation (blowing up houses, unsubstantiated arrests, closing local shops, sporadically confining civilians to house arrest by confiscating IDs and interminable check points, etc.),  the anger of some reached a boiling point.

And that anger was vented on the moderates who refused to fight back in the village of BirZeit (location of Bir Zeit Universtiy) when certain members of the radical  Muslim Brotherhood started a fist fight with Fatah-leaning students. When this resulted in a riot, the Occupation forces simply left the scene without lifting a finger to restore order. Elders in the village of BirZeit put down the riot by  standing at its gates and turning away any non-villager who showed up with a stick in his hand.

Israel has been particularly fortunate to have such wise elders to support a moderate course through Fatah leadership on the West Bank.

But my students from Gaza told me that the repression was far worse in Gaza than in the West Bank where I was teaching.   I do not doubt that the Occupation forces systematically undermined moderate Palestinian leadership in Gaza as they did on the West Bank.  In this sense, as noted, the Israeli government must assume substantial responsibility for Hamas coming to leadership there.  More repression and now this outright killing can only lead to strengthening the more violent wings of Hamas.

  1. The memory of the dead contributes to the typing of Isrealis as enemy.  When I lived there, I did not meet a single family without personal memories of someone taken from them.  As more die, moderate Palestinians who consciously differentiate Jewish persons from Occupation policies have a harder time gaining currency among their fellow citizens. If Israel hopes for peace, they will need to work to change such memories–  as certain courageous Israeli citizens, such as protestors of the bombing in Tel Aviv, those who took humanitarian goods across the Gaza blockades, those Isrealis and Palestinian doctors who share a hosptial in Jerusalem,  and current  draft resisters are doing.

3.  Gaza is the traditional homeland of the Palestinians who live there: one that they know intimately and love dearly.  Bombing them will dislodge neither their knowledge nor love of the land. But it will strengthen their resolve against the Occupation.

  1. Israel cannot expect a cease fire while it blockades  Gaza.  Not incidentally,  Israel’s blockade gives the radical Muslim Brotherhood (based in Egypt) an opportunity to gain support among the local population by bringing in life-saving goods  from that country. By NOT negotiating such a cease fire and moving toward a policy of mutual respect with the citizens of Gaza,  Israel is missing a chance for the security of an Arab friend on its borders.

Now, of course, there is much to be undone in order for such a friendship to develop. However, repeating and enlarging on the mistakes of the past is no way to do this.

All in all, it is no winning strategy to make a desperate people more desperate– or give an angry and grieving people  more reasons for anger or grief.

5.  This bombing also attacks Israel’s world status in the global arena. The Occupation and its tactics have  been censored by the UN for decades and the right of return of those ousted by the Six Day War from the Occupied Territories affirmed by that same body.

More information and ways  to support a cease fire in Gaza can be found here:

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