Monday, December 1, 2008

Gaza Aide Ship Blocked

by Rory McCarthy

The Israeli navy today prevented a Libyan ship carrying 3,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid for Palestinians from docking in Gaza.

The al-Marwa, carrying food, blankets and powdered milk, attempted to challenge Israel's tight economic blockade on the Gaza Strip, which has worsened in recent weeks.

But as the ship approached Gazan water at dawn, an Israeli naval ship ordered it to turn back. The al-Marwa headed south and has reportedly docked at al-Arish, an Egyptian port in the northern Sinai just south of Gaza.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said there was no physical contact with the ship but it was ordered back by radio. "This is a policy we have had for a long time: if somebody wants to bring in humanitarian aid they can do it through the border with Egypt or the Israeli passages into Gaza," said the spokesman, Andy David.

More at the Guardian UK

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Comment begins:

It is hard to imagine a group of people more luckless than the Palestinians. Every silver lining for them comes with a huge Cumulonimbus storm-front complete with F-5 tornadoes. Israel's withdraw from the Gaza strip was greeted with great joy several years back, finally Palestinians would be free of the oppression of their Jewish neighbors. But the Palestinians forgot about their special ability to hit rock bottom and then to start digging. Palestinians are proof positive that is possible to fall off the floor.

After the liberation of Gaza, Hamas was able to seize control of this tiny sliver of land. Israel then responded by clamping down on Gaza. Gaza became the worlds largest maximum security prison. No thing and no one got into the place without Israeli say-so. The economy, never particularly healthy, crashed with 85% unemployment. If it was not for the largess of world community Gaza would starve. As it is Gaza only functions because of the E.U. and a small corps of dedicated local public servants.

But that does not stop Hamas from launching counter productive mortar strikes against the Israelis. Only the threat of world disapprobation keeps the Israelis from crushing Hamas like a small bug. As it is Israel just keeps tightening the rope around the collective throat of Gaza. The actions of Hamas even queers logical allies. The Egyptians, the former resident power in Gaza, want no part of Gaza lest the Hamas contagion infect their fragile body politic.

There is a disastrous feed-back loop between Hamas and Israel. Hamas strikes out against Israel via mortar attacks and other "freedom fighting" ventures which causes a disproportional response from Israel. The Israeli clampdown further deteriorates the living conditions in Gaza, less food, less water, less power, less legitimate work, less of everything other than misery.

It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If that is true then both the Israelis and the Palestinians are quite insane. Both resort to brute force and violence to achieve their ends. The bad news for the people of Gaza is that Israel's supply of brute force far outweighs theirs. Hamas' resort to violence only strengthens the Likudnik hard liners. While Olmert can not be described as a dove his Kadima party is much more pacific than Benjamin Netanyahu's. The present passive-aggressive mode of Olmert's Administration could easily become unalloyed aggression under Netanyahu. Unlike the West Bank Gaza is easily sealed off and shut down. A bloody-minded Israel could simply smother Gaza out of existence. All it would take is an indifference to world opinion and for the Egyptians to look the other way.

The question then becomes, how much political capital will Barack Obama expend to bring a Likudnick Israel to heal? As both he and his nominee for Secretary of State spent inordinate amounts of time butt-snorkeling ( thank you Larry Johnson for that lovely term) AIPAC we might be surprised how difficult it will be for Obama to rise above boiler-plate denunciations of Israeli action which result in no obvious change in policy.

Even if Israel does not resort to rolling tanks into Gaza there are plenty of other ways for her to increase the level of pain for the people who live there. By controlling the supply route Israel can continue to degrade the living conditions in Gaza. Hamas' fighting spirit can be slowly drained away by its supporters struggle to merely survive. The Israeli choke hold on the supply route is manifest. There is no way for Hamas to support the population with Zodiac supply runs. Eventually the coping strategies of the people of Gaza will become exhausted. Hamas really has no adequate answer to Israel's anaconda strategy. In point of fact its bloody-minded policy of continuing to attack Israel with mortar strikes guarantees Israel will be equally bloody-minded about its siege of Gaza.

There is a real issue for Hamas: how does it get Israel to cease its policy of assassination of Hamas leaders? As a befitting a nation of Talmudic scholars the Israelis are quite adept in explaining away their transgressions. There always seems to be an circumlocution of how Israel did not really violate the terms of the cease-fire. Israelis can offer up the most innocent of rationalizations of the most brazen assaults on Hamas leadership. Israel is constantly finding novel ways of justifying the blowing up Hamas leaders and any luckless passers-by who are in the kill zone. The Israelis find loopholes that heavily armed helicopter-gunships can easily fly through.

There is a real question of when Israel will finally cease its counter productive strategy of assassination. Unlike Hercules Israel will never slay the Lernaean Hydra that is Hamas. Israel will ceaselessly chop off Hamas heads and Hamas will only replace those heads ad infinitum. Unfortunately Israel is still insanely hacking away at those heads and the regrown heads are just as insanely continuing to nip at the heals of Israel.

Meanwhile a cargo ship sits in an Egyptian port unable to ship its supplies to the people who disparately need those goods. Just a typical day in the little slice of hell on earth we call the Holy Land.
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