June 4, 2010
“First Successful Use of Non-Violent Strategy
In Middle East”
The Turkish flotilla of ships carrying
relief aid to embattled Gaza “was the first successful use of a non-violent
strategy in the Middle East,” says Frank Anderson, President of the Middle
East Policy Council.
Israel was infuriated and acted as
foolishly as did Sheriff Bull Connor to the provocation of Martin Luther
King’s non-violent Selma March. “Non-violence is disarming to power at any
time,” quipped Anderson, who spent 27 years in the CIA, finally serving as
Director for the Near East and South Asia Division.
Martin Luther King and Gandhi were both
successful. So were the flotilla organizers who wanted to bring world
attention to Israel’s unjust blockade of 1.5 million people in Gaza. For
three years, since Hamas won an election, Israel has allowed only meager
amounts of food and medicine into the densely crowded strip of land on the
“Conditions now are pretty bleak.
People are surviving at the subsistence level, with 80 percent living off of
food assistance from abroad,” says Bill Corcoran, president of American Near
East Refugee Aid (ANERA), which shipped $49 million of relief to Gaza last
year. He has made seven trips to Gaza, returning from one two weeks ago.
“During the Israeli invasion, tanks and
bulldozers destroyed dozens of wells. We have tried repeatedly to get spare
parts in to fix the wells, but this is not permitted by the Israelis.
Fertilizer is forbidden, and agricultural land is not being farmed because
Israel has created a perimeter near the walls, which cuts off agricultural
“Ninety percent of industry was
destroyed, such as eight cement factories, metal working shops, carpentry
shops. Ordinary families are suffering the most. They are angry, frustrated
and depressed, because they don’t see any way out of this. Between 15,000 to
20,000 households were destroyed,” but Israel will not allow cement or
building materials to be shipped that could be used to reconstruct them.
When I was in Gaza refugee camps 15
years ago, I was shocked to see rancid raw sewage running in partially
closed cement gutters, down to stinking cesspools. ANERA has a contract from
USAID to build pipelines for water and sewage, but Israel blocks that too.
Why? This brutal treatment seems
designed to build fierce, angry militants. Oddly, Israel believes that if
Hamas cannot deliver a better life, that people will turn against Hamas. Of
course, residents blame Israel, not Hamas. It is a foolish,
On his second day in office Obama asked
Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. “This policy has to stop,” said former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday.
Israel claims it is only trying to
prevent arms from being shipped into Gaza. The issue was debated on the PBS
Newshour. Ruth Wedgewood of Johns Hopkins argued, “In an armed conflict,
one party has a duty to prevent neutral countries from shipping arms, a duty
to inspect cargo to keep arms from infiltrating.”
Anthony D’Amato of Northwestern
countered, “What armed conflict? There is no armed conflict with Israel.
Hamas is a conquered country. Israel had no right to go on high seas, beyond
its territorial waters, to stop ships. It had a right to wait on the
beaches to see if any contraband was being brought in.”
Days after Israeli commandos dropped
from helicopters, killing nine activists, it has provided no evidence that
any arms were aboard the six-boat “Freedom Flotilla.” There were thousands
of tons of food, used clothing, toys, wheelchairs, and $10 million of
building materials (cement, steel, tiles) which Israel has forbidden because
it could be used for “building bunkers.”
Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab
American Institute, called Israel’s attack “outrageous, but consistent with
the way Israel handles things – with overwhelming force, and damn the
consequences. Then they lie about what they did.”
He called the blockade “an immoral
collective punishment against an entire civilian population. It is racism
that rankles me so. Some 45 percent of the children suffer from
malnutrition. This is criminal.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
charges the blockade “punishes innocent civilians.”
The American response has been
excessively muted. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has said the blockade
is “unsustainable,” and anonymous spokesmen say “There is no question that
we need a new approach to Gaza.”
One would think that the Jews, who have
suffered centuries of persecution, would never persecute another people.
But that is what is now happening, with American acquiescence.
It is outrageous and must be stopped.