Leading article: This cruel and ineffective blockade of Gaza must be brought to an end

Share
Related Topics

Israel's brutal assault on the international aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip has united the outside world in agreement on one thing. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Quartet's Middle East peace envoy, Tony Blair (not to mention our own Prime Minister), have demanded an end to Israel's economic blockade of Gaza, which this naval convoy set out with the intention of challenging.

Such pressure comes appallingly late in the day. For three years, this siege has been a form of collective punishment on the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza. And it is scandalous that it has taken the deaths of nine passengers on the aid convoy this week for Israel's conduct to come in for serious international criticism.

The cruelty of the blockade is obvious. Israel claims that it allows in all the humanitarian aid that Gaza needs. But the United Nations says that less than a third of the necessary supplies get through. The result for Gazans is widespread malnourishment. The embargo on fuel has created chronic shortages of electricity. The blockade on construction materials means that three-quarters of the homes and buildings destroyed in the 2008/2009 Israeli invasion have not been rebuilt. Gaza's sanitation system is close to collapse.

The human cost of this economic strangulation can be seen in the plight of five-year-old Taysir Alburai, whose story we report today. Some Israeli officials joked about "putting the Gazans on a diet" when they first imposed this blockade. In the struggles of Taysir and his family we see the terrible consequences of this policy.

The Israeli government argues that moral responsibility for the privations of the Gazan population lies with Hamas, which refuses to renounce its commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel. The siege could be lifted tomorrow, they claim, if Hamas would only renounce violence.

Leave aside that Hamas has said that it is willing to enter into a long-term truce with Israel and consider the fact that the blockade is strengthening, rather than weakening, the militant group. Hamas's control of the smuggling tunnels into Egypt – the strip's economic lifeline – has reinforced its power. Virtually all other private enterprise has been crushed. And, with weapons being brought in through those tunnels, the blockade is not even succeeding in disarming Hamas. Israel's blockade is not only cruel; it is ineffective.

Yet the Israeli government seems unable to admit that its policy is failing. Vocal elements of Israeli public opinion are pushing for a still tighter squeeze on Gaza. Israel is a country which has ceased to listen to the voice of even its firmest allies in the outside world.

International intervention is needed to break the deadlock. If Israel will not lift the blockade, then a United Nations aid flotilla should be sent. The Israeli military might feel no compunction about boarding private vessels, but a UN convoy would be a different prospect. Meanwhile, the US must put pressure on Egypt to open Gaza's southern border. Cairo has opened the Rafah crossing in the wake of this week's flotilla deaths. But this is likely to be only a temporary measure.

The Gazan people need more than short-term relief. They must be allowed to breathe freely again. And the international community has a moral responsibility to ensure that this freedom is granted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz