Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Righting a Wrong for the Sake of the People of Gaza | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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There is a clear difference between the 1.5 million people that make up the population of the Gaza Strip, and the few hundred which comprise the leadership and activists which fill the Hamas movement’s ranks.

Whatever differences one might have with the movement, one must realize that Gaza is not Hamas; and that the Gaza Strip is not owned by the Hamas movement, and its people are not Hamas soldiers, yet it is being punished in place of the movement.

The blurring of the lines between the people [of Gaza] and the Hamas movement was a big mistake which resulted in the blockade [of Gaza] over the past months, and the mutual boycott of both Hamas and the Gaza Strip. What is the logic behind preventing shipments of food supplies and medicine [from entering the Gaza Strip] and even preventing the import of luxury goods and entertainment items which have no military value? What is the logic behind the closing border crossings due to political and administrative differences [between Israel and Hamas]?

Having both missiles and flour on the prohibition list has in practice resulted in causing a gradual humanitarian crisis [in the Gaza Strip] even before Israel compounded the tragedy with its brutal attack.

Today – with the tragedy having reached its peak so far – it is important that the Arab parties reject this punitive boycott that is actually illegal under international law since it punishes civilians-who live on a system of [external] financing which provides them with everything they need with regards their daily lives and medical treatment-more than it does those associated with the war.

Regarding those calling for the imposing of sanctions against the Hamas movement, in order to pressure it into making concessions in order to avoid the option of military confrontation; this argument has a major flaw since Hamas and other Arab groups would prefer to sacrifice everybody rather than make one concession that detracts from their prestige or power. We have seen a number of these boycotts that have failed because all it resulted in doing was harm ordinary people and not those it was intended to affect. And so the boycott of Gaza has resulted in there being only 25 bakeries that remain open for business- not just in the city of Gaza but in the entire Gaza Strip- which forces people to stand in long queues for hours in an unsafe atmosphere. And this is for the lucky ones who live close to bakeries, as for the rest they are forced to make long journeys in order to buy their daily bread, or live on canned goods, if they are lucky enough to find them.

Will Hamas stop firing their cartoon-like missiles on Israeli towns like Sedirot and others, or [put down their weapons and] begin to engage in politics, if their people are reduced to living in such a miserable state?

Of course not, since Ismail Haniyeh the Hamas leader said without hesitation, even if Israel completely “eradicate” all of the Gaza Strip they “will not stand down.” Those who initiated the Gaza boycott are similarly indifferent to whether Gaza is eradicated or not, for they, like Haniyeh, consider life cheap, and use it in the game of politics.

The truth is that there is no practical solution which will guarantee fixing the political situation in Gaza, whether by bombing or blockading. Moreover, this policy was not supposed to push the political architect to a weaker position and that is the targeting of the people.

The experiences of blockades in the past have proven that it is an ineffective measure, and this is what is currently taking place in Gaza. It is imperative that the Arab parties understand the nature of the problem and seek to spare the people from further harm.

The solution lies firstly in the unconditional opening of the border crossings, especially with regards to food and medicinal supplies, indeed the import of all goods that do not have a military purpose. Now is the time to correct the mistakes which we cannot accept. I do not underestimate the complexity of the situation, like the need to form agreements, and impose observers, and an Israeli presence [at the border crossings]. With this we must insist on the separation between the people’s basic needs, and Hamas’s needs, and not confuse one with the other.