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March 02, 2009

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Great post Eric. What a disgrace to us all(international community, US government, and Israeli Government and people) Israel's policies are. Sorry that's such a botched sentence. I'm juggling too many things today.

aimai

Ah, dried beans. Yes the best "shrapnel" in those rockets raining down on those Israeli settments. Can't have that.

Nobody is trying to break the blockade.

No nations, you mean? Sadly, that seems to be true.

Volunteer groups have sent medical supply boats etc. to do so. None have been allowed to land.

Yes, I think "nations" was the intent there Nell.

That's not quite right. I'd forgotten about this last August, a momentary symbolic victory:

Boats Break Gaza Siege

Cherie Blair's sister participated, so the project accomplished more in the U.K. than here in raising awareness of the blockade.

McClatchy had a good overview article from last December about the blockade-breaking-boat campaign gaining traction. Acorns, oaks, etc.

The emphasis on medical supplies is meant not only to call attention to the blockade, but to highlight in particular the Israeli government's refusal also to allow people out of Gaza for medical treatment. Literally hundreds of Gazans have died after being denied permission to go to Israel or Egypt (which is co-operating with Israel in enforcing the sealing-off).

Israeli security officials have pressured Gazans to agree to spy in order to get through for medical treatment, which has the delightful effect of casting suspicion on the family of anyone who does manage to get through for treatment, whether they succumb to the blackmail or not.

Here's an account of what I believe is the most recent boat; it was turned back a month ago. This was the Muslim Brotherhood boat mentioned in the McClatchy article, which lends some plausibility to the reports (denied by Israeli govt) that the Israeli Navy fired on the vessel and beat the passengers after boarding it.

{note: because of delays between posting and appearance of comments, references in comments I expected to be back to back may be unclear. 'That's not quite right' above refers not to Eric's comment but to my own statement in a previous comment that no blockade-breaking boats have been allowed to land.}

Yeah, well, they know how to end the blockade, don't they? Stop launching missiles.

And they don't.

So, how much sympathy is really in order? A great deal for the little kids who suffer for their parents' bloodthirsty ways, sure, but for the adults?

Brett is totally correct. I mean, New Yorkers knew how to prevent another attack on the WTC: all they had to do was ensure that US forces left Saudi Arabia. But they didn't, so Osama gave them what they deserved. So much sympathy is really in order for those stupid New Yorkers? It sucks for the children, but their bloodthirsty and stupid parents deserved all the death and destruction they got.

I look forward to more instruction by Brett on that great moral philosopher O. B. Ladin.

The oppressive effects on the general population of the targeted country of putting almost everything on the forbidden list in a blockade with the excuse that the items are 'dual use' are familiar to those who followed closely the U.S. blockade/sanctions of Iraq in the 1990s.

A refresher for those who didn't.

Yeah, well, they know how to end the blockade, don't they? Stop launching missiles.

Actually, no. During the most recent cease-fire, the missile launches stopped at different intervals, but the blockade never did.

After the recent engagement in Gaza, after Israeli soldiers withdrew, the blockade, again, was not lifted.

Prior to the last engagement, and during that period's cease fire, missile launches came after airstrikes that targeted Hamas leaders - it was a tit-for-tat. Airstrikes that themselves were violations of the cease fire.

Which Israel violated more than 150 times.

Turbulence,

Bush learned the lesson, and pulled much of the American forces out of SA, and succesfully placed them in Iraq...

SOD, yes he did. Unfortunately, the great moral philosopher O.B. Ladin has made some other requests that the American government has failed to honor. Therefore, pursuant to Brett's logic, any further attacks on Americans by bin Ladin's followers will be justified.

One more potentially positive aspect of the blockade-breaking boats, from Los Angeles Times coverage of the arrival of the Dignity from Cyprus last October:

[Palestinian Authority parliament member Mustafa] Barghouti hailed the day's journey as a victory for those who seek to peacefully undermine the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

"Hopefully it shows all groups, including Hamas, the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance," Barghouti said after meeting with [Hamas leader and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail] Haniyeh.

Yeah, well, they know how to end the blockade, don't they? Stop launching missiles.
And they don't.

Collective punishment of civilians is a war crime. You might want to reconsider the sort of person you're keeping moral company with.

Yeah, well, they know how to end the blockade, don't they? Stop launching missiles.

And all Israel has to do to end the missiles is have a blockade!

Direct causation. Works every time!

"Collective punishment of civilians is a war crime."

Not when it is inflicted by the US or one of its allies--everyone knows that. Now, on the other hand, if you call for a mere boycott of Israeli universities (which I would not support, btw), that's rank anti-semitism--

Thomas Friedman


How is Israel preventing pasta from being exported by the Egyptians to Gazans?

This is a serious question. I think Egyptians have some say over what happens on their border to Gaza. As they're people are not being attacked by missiles and suicide bombers I assume Egyptians would be much more kindly disposed to send whatever Hamas will allow in.

And I'm sure Hamas will allow anything in that helps the suffering of the average Gazan. Anything.

Pococurante: Are you making an assertion, or just inuendo? If you are making an assertion, please state it and offer evidence to support it.

I asked a serious question. How is Israel preventing Egyptians to export to Gaza anything Hamas will accept to help common Gazans.

I'm not sure how much more clearly and objectively I can state the question.

Israel is not preventing that. Egypt has its own beef with Hamas, and is cooperating in the blockade (Muslim Brotherhood related beef).

However, Israel controls the better points of entry, including the seaports that are better suited to transfer large shipments of needed humanitarian supplies of food, medicine and fuel.

Eric, Egypt has a significant coastline along the Mediterranean and the Sinai peninsula. Its ports are some of the largest most heavily used in the history of the Western world.

http://www.stratfor.com/files/mmf/8/3/832dd45212545d3de6bbc02bb53b671c0c2786e3.jpg

You are asserting that a concentrated effort along thousands of miles of coastline in legal Egyptian waters from both the east and west can't compare to a few tens of miles coastline along Gaza.

I certainly take your point that Egypt has its own beefs with Hamas. But the point is what is the obligation to the average Gazan.

Week after week I read on Obsidian Wings the a constant emphasis on what Israel owes the average Gazan regardless of the actions of Hamas and foreign provocateurs.

I think there is merit to that but I'm trying to understand why Egypt would not take advantage of its thousands of miles of coastline, some of the most traveled international ports in the world, excellent national highways... to help the average Gazan.

Is not Egypt obligated by any humanitarian sense to help common Gazans? With even the most trivial of efforts the could could completely invalidate anything Israel can do over such a small place.

And I'm not finding the answer here. What I do hear repeatedly is that only Israel should be held accountable. Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on a government which has simple political objections?

It can't simply be a matter of which country gets millions of dollars from the US. We give millions to both.

My questions are quite serious. I'm not insinuating anything. The questions are uncomfortable simply because the potential answers are unpleasant and not found here that often.

You are asserting that a concentrated effort along thousands of miles of coastline in legal Egyptian waters from both the east and west can't compare to a few tens of miles coastline along Gaza.

Not exactly. I'm saying there is no port along the Egyptian border with Gaza. There is a difference logistically.

Is not Egypt obligated by any humanitarian sense to help common Gazans? With even the most trivial of efforts the could could completely invalidate anything Israel can do over such a small place

No, Egypt could not completely invalidate Israel's actions due to the fact that Israel still controls air space and the vast majority of Gaza's borders. It could undermine the blockade, but it would not allow Gazans to cross borders, nor would it allow them to control their airspace, etc.

Israel is held to a different standard because they are doing most of the blockading, they are the ones firing missiles into Gaza and they are the ones leading armed military incursions into Gaza.

Egypt, thoug, deserves sharp criticism for its reprehensible behavior, but then the Egyptian regime has a very bad record in terms of human rights. It is not a democracy, nor does is it really considered as such by neutral observers.

Israel, on the other hand, aspires to be something better than the Mubarak quasi-dictatorship. As such, it will be judged by how well it meets those criteria.

If Israel wants to argue that it's really just the equivalent of Egypt in terms of commitment to human rights, justice and the rule of law, well, they can do that. But then Israel will be treated as Egypt's equal on these measurements.

Pococurante, I think the realworld answer to your question is: Egypt does not want to get into a fight with Israel, and via Israel, with the US.

Sure, Egypt could take upon itself the responsibility of defying Israel and help Gaza become a financially-independent nation with flourishing trade links with other countries, free to import what they cannot make or grow. They could make themselves leaders in the international support for Gaza: they could fundraise and help the Gazans build a harbour, take down the barriers and build a highway from Egypt to Gaza. They could defend their common borders from Israeli military incursions. They could shoot down Israeli planes that bomb the Gaza-Egypt border.

They could. In theory.

But, because they don't want to get into a war with Israel, they won't.

But, because they don't want to get into a war with Israel, they won't.

This is true, but there are other reasons as well. Egypt gets lots of cash from the US; we pay the Egyptian government for being at peace with Israel. If Egypt starts pissing off Israel, that cash supply is threatened.

Jes and Turb: Both true, but Egypt is also hostile to Hamas independently of that dynamic.

"And Israel’s Prime Minister says Israel can never agree to an independent Palestinian state."

Small factual correction: Netanyahu is Israel's past, and prospective, but not current, Prime Minister. Not yet. The Prime Minister of Israel, remains for now, Ehud Olmert. Until such time as Netanyahu can actually assemble a parliamentary majority, and a Cabinet, and present them to President Peres to form a government.

"Not exactly. I'm saying there is no port along the Egyptian border with Gaza. There is a difference logistically."

There's no port along Canada and the U.S border, but we manage to trade. That's because of the land border.

Back in January of 2008, tens of thousands of Gazans were crossing into Egypt, and bringing back tons of stuff. Because the Egyptians let them. For a while. Until they stopped.

That's because Eqypt doesn't want the responsibility, and chose to seal the border again. Few things would have thrilled the Israeli government more than if Eqypt took responsibility for their Gaza border.

"Egypt, thoug, deserves sharp criticism for its reprehensible behavior, but then the Egyptian regime has a very bad record in terms of human rights."

The criticism might be a bit more balanced and a bit less muted, especially, again, given the massive aid given to Eqypt by the U.S., which is the usual excuse given for an exceptionalist focus on Israeli crimes over those of other nations.

It should be noted that the news article which Gary Farber links to makes clear:

Rhetoric aside, the Israeli reaction to the Gazans having the ability to trade freely with Egypt by taking down the barrier was two-fold:

1. Assert that the Gazas would be bringing in weapons (and we'd have heard a lot more about this had Egypt not sealed the border again)

2. Threaten to withdraw water, medical supplies, and electricity from Gaza if the barrier remained down.

In the past two days, Gazans have stocked up on supplies in Egypt, including cement, fuel, cigarettes and other staples. In response, Israel stopped emergency shipments of industrial diesel fuel, arguing that Gazans were now able to get supplies from Egypt. However, Palestinian officials said Gaza's power plant would shut down Sunday, for a second time in a week, if the fuel shipments don't resume.
Given that Israel disrupted the electricity supply in Gaza as en immediate penalty for having their border open to Egypt, there's no reason to suppose that the threat would have been expressed in a phased withdrawal, but an immediate shutoff: no clean water, no electricity, and no medical supplies. As we already know from the same situation in Iraq, the babies, young children, and the ill would have died first when Israel imposed this collective punishment for Gaza - for the "crime" of having an open border with Egypt, and the ability to trade that Israel did not control.

It is also clear from the article that Gary Farber links to that the Egyptian government had received demands to continue the blockade: yes, we can say they should have defied Israel for humanitarian reasons, but as I noted above: aside from everything else, Egypt has reasonable cause not to want to go to war with Israel.

"Balanced" criticism of Israel, for Americans, is traditionally finding excuses for Israel by blaming its Arab neighbors. Just as "fair and balanced" as Fox News.

"1. Assert that the Gazas would be bringing in weapons (and we'd have heard a lot more about this had Egypt not sealed the border again)"

Well, the Gazans do bring in lots of weapons via the tunnels; do I really need to supply links about that?

"'Balanced' criticism of Israel, for Americans, is traditionally finding excuses for Israel by blaming its Arab neighbors."

Of course, I made no excuses whatever for Israel in my comment. Pointing out that Egypt also deserves some criticism doesn't speak a word of excuse for Israel. If I'd wanted to make excuses for Israel's unjust blockade of Gaza, I'd have written some. If I'd wanted to say that the blockade was justified, I'd have said so.

And I didn't link to the article that I did because, gosh, I just didn't notice that it had negative implications as regards Israeli policy. I linked to it so as to not make excuses.

There's no port along Canada and the U.S border, but we manage to trade. That's because of the land border.

Sure, but I didn't say the land border was unusable. Quite the opposite, I said Egypt could undermine the blockade if it opened up. But I did say that ports make it easier considering how much of the relief material is arriving by boat.

Gary, it's not clear whose comments you are characterizing as having an "exeptionalist focus on Israeli crimes."

You acknowledge the existence of Israeli crimes, including the crime of collective punishment via the blockade. I think we can agree that the blockade of Gaza has been created and maintained at the behest of the Israeli government, and that it is part of a policy that has the complete support of the United States government.

A blockade would not be possible without the active co-operation of Egypt and the United States (money to Egypt, unconditional money to Israel, blocking international action through veto on UN Security Council).

The responsibility for the starvation and suffering in Gaza is as much ours as it is the Israeli government's. If the U.S. government wished to end the blockade, it would end: We could suspend military and economic aid to Israel and Egypt until Gaza is unsealed, organize a U.N. initiative to send humanitarian aid that the Israeli government will not be permitted to veto item by item, etc.

But we won't, because such actions are considered almost unthinkable by most members of Congress and the administration. If anyone dared to propose them, they would be characterized as trying to destroy the state of Israel.

"But we won't, because such actions are considered almost unthinkable by most members of Congress and the administration."

And to be clear, I agree that things alone those lines should be done.

Jes: They could. In theory.
But, because they don't want to get into a war with Israel, they won't.

Jes's point here with respect to Egypt and the sealing-off of the Gaza-Egypt border applies generally to other nations.

A vivid example of this is the occasion last November of Libya, alone among Arab nations and indeed the world community of nations, making an official effort to break the blockade by ship. The Libyan ship, carrying 3000 tons of food and medical supplies, was prevented from landing last November by the Israeli Navy:

Analysts said the incident showed that Arab and Muslim nations, while eager to end Gaza's isolation, won't risk military confrontation with Israel. ... "The Arab world is not very happy about the siege Israel has imposed on Gaza, and they are trying to break it," said analyst Moshe Maoz of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "They can only blame and denounce Israel, but they won't fight."

If they did "fight", that is, use force to run the Israeli Navy's blockade in order to deliver non-military goods to Gaza, they would find themselves at war with Israel.

That is, they would be at war with a country which has been permitted to bomb its neighbors with no consequences (the Syrian who-knows-what facility in 2007, Lebanon in 2006). They would be at war with a country allied with the United States, which supplies it with whatever cluster bombs, bunker-busters, and other weapons are needed without once asking any questions about how those weapons are used (in violation of our own laws, such as the Arms Export Control Act).

"They would be at war with a country allied with the United States, which supplies it with whatever cluster bombs, bunker-busters, and other weapons are needed without once asking any questions about how those weapons are used...."

January 10th:

President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran’s main nuclear complex [...] But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.

The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily.

[...]

Early in 2008, the Israeli government signaled that it might be preparing to take matters into its own hands. In a series of meetings, Israeli officials asked Washington for a new generation of powerful bunker-busters, far more capable of blowing up a deep underground plant than anything in Israel’s arsenal of conventional weapons. They asked for refueling equipment that would allow their aircraft to reach Iran and return to Israel. And they asked for the right to fly over Iraq.

Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off, but “we said ‘hell no’ to the overflights,” one of his top aides said.

Sometimes questions have been asked.

in violation of our own laws, such as the Arms Export Control Act

Eh? Do tell.

What's your question/point, Slartibartfast?

"What's your question/point, Slartibartfast?"

I think he was asking for an example of what you mean. I'm guessing it's something like this.

Whether it is, in fact, a violation of AECA is beyond my competence.

Gary has it right regarding what I was asking for, but I don't think a Kucinich letter is quite the evidence you'd want in order to prosecute.

AECA clearly delineates self-defense purposes, which are at least arguable in this case.

I'm a rudy, not a skin
I eat Ital, I drink gin.

MattMinus wins one of the most impressive song allusion contests in the history of ObWi!!!

Scofflaws!

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