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August 20, 2014

That Porous 'Siege' of the Gaza Strip


The word “siege�? is often used by news media referring to Israel's partial blockade of the Gaza Strip. The description has become commonplace despite its tendency to echo misleading Palestinian allegations. For example:

A Daily Star (Beirut) article was titled “Lifting siege vs. disarmament clouds Gaza talks�? (Aug. 13, 2014 ). The Economist misused the word by writing that “[t]o stop the fighting Hamas must promise not to fire its rockets into Israel. But in return Israel should agree to honour an agreement dating to 2012 to lift the siege that has immiserated Gaza’s inhabitants since 2007 in an effort to enfeeble Hamas (“Israel and Gaza: Stop the rockets, but lift the siege,�? July 26, 2014).

But in terms of the transit of goods into and a large number of people out of the Strip, there is no siege.

In his blog, "Haifa Diary," Stuart Palmer explained what's wrong with journalists' parroting the Palestinian "Gaza siege" mantra: “Not only do food, medicine, fuel and aid enter freely at all times, but in peacetime, commodities and consumer goods of every type are transferred daily from Israel to Gaza through the land crossing.

"The types and amounts of consumer goods are determined by Palestinian merchants and depend primarily on market forces in Gaza. For the more affluent, Gaza offers a variety of consumer opportunities, from a modestly-sized mall to upscale restaurants. Even during the latest hostilities in Gaza, an international journalist reported on shopping at one of Gaza's supermarkets, which offered (“The Myth of an Israeli Siege on Gaza�?, “Haifa Diary�?, Aug. 12, 2014) "all kinds of goods".

Hardly a siege. There is a partial blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt following the takeover by Hamas of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and its violent ouster of Palestinian "unity government" partner Fatah in 2007,. The blockade is a response to, not a cause of terrorist attacks by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Muslim fundamentalist groups in the Gaza Strip.

The maritime blockade is legal under international law. As Palmer explains:

“In 2011, a special panel convened by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon examined the maritime blockade. The U.N. panel found both the naval blockade and its enforcement, including in international waters, to be legal. This panel of experts emphasized that all assistance to Gaza should be transferred only through the designated land crossings.

"The panel also found that Israel had legitimate security concerns regarding violence by Hamas and that weapons trafficking to Gaza permitted Israel to enforce a naval blockade. Repeated attempts to smuggle dangerous weapons via the sea--including powerful long-range rockets from Iran--attest to the fact that the maritime blockade is an essential security measure.�?

In response to continued terrorist infiltration attempts including construction of an elaborate tunnel network, the launching of thousands of mortars and rockets by Hamas and other groups into Israel and pervasive anti-Israel, antisemitic incitement, an Israel siege might make sense. Instead, large volumes of humanitarian aid and consumer goods enter Gaza and tens of thousands of Gazans are admitted to Israel for medical treatment annually.

“While Israel faces a serious threat from terrorists in Gaza, it still allows the supervised movement of people into Israel," the Haifa Diary pointed out. "In the first five months of 2014, approximately 60,000 individuals entered Israel from the Gaza Strip. Many of these were patients and their escorts who received medical treatment in Israel and elsewhere, while large numbers of Gazan businessmen and merchants also visited Israel.�?

Meanwhile, diarist Palmer adds, "Gaza's existing resources are systematically abused by Hamas for its own nefarious goals. Enormous amounts of money are used for procuring and producing weapons, training and funding terrorists, building terror infrastructures and for the enrichment of Hamas' leaders. Almost unimaginable quantities of cement were diverted from the construction of housing, schools and hospitals to building an underground city of terror tunnels and bunkers for Hamas members.�?

Such is the Israeli “siege�? of the Gaza Strip. Under it the territory's Hamas rulers have survived up to now, with cash first from Iran, then Qatar, to arm and training thousands of gunmen. They've acquired technology and material from Iran and Syria for an arsenal (before Operation Protective Edge) of 10,000 or more rockets and missiles. Imported too were building materials for numerous fortifications and tunnels. Simultaneously, jihadis infiltrated from Gaza into Egypt.

In World War II, the Warsaw Ghetto was under siege. So was Leningrad. The Gaza Strip is subject to something much less. For accuracy's sake--that is, for journalistic precision--call it a partial blockade. Hamas and other Palestinian apologists have reason to repeat the "siege" cliché; reporters have a duty to be skeptical. -- Ziv Kaufman

Posted by ER at August 20, 2014 03:40 PM


I think you mean Leningrad, not Stalingrad.

Posted by: Jacob at August 21, 2014 12:46 AM

Correct, and corrected. Ziv Kaufman

Posted by: Ziv Kaufman at August 28, 2014 03:13 PM

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