Fifty international organizations issued a public appeal yesterday for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza, which they deemed a “violation of international law.” The signatories were the usual suspects: human rights groups like Amnesty International, aid organizations like Oxfam, and six UN agencies.
As Haaretz Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff points out, this appeal is sheer nonsense. Israel ended restrictions on civilian imports to Gaza two years ago, and today, the only civilian product not available “in abundance” is fuel – which isn’t Israel’s fault:
The source of that problem stems from the Hamas government’s refusal to pay the high price for a liter of fuel (like every Israeli citizen pays) and its insistence on receiving smuggled fuel from the Egyptian side at a cheap price, facing off against the Egyptian regime’s complete refusal to allow the continued smuggling of fuel into Gaza (also in light of the serious fuel crisis in Egypt itself).
And while Israel does maintain a naval blockade of Gaza, that blockade was deemed legal by no less an authority than the UN itself, in last year’s Palmer Report.
So why are these agencies suddenly trying to resurrect a nonexistent issue? Granted, most of them need no excuse to attack Israel, but there’s a more urgent motivation – a need to divert attention from the real culprit before the world, and the Palestinians themselves, cop onto the truth: Gaza’s real problem is that the Palestinians’ own elected government couldn’t care less about its people’s welfare.
Last week, Gaza’s only power plant shut down because armed gangs in Sinai hijacked a fuel convoy, and there were no fuel reserves to cover the shortfall. Given the ongoing security chaos in Sinai, that is likely to recur with increasing frequency if Hamas continues to insist on relying exclusively on smuggled fuel.
But the alternative, importing fuel legally via Israel, is unacceptable to Hamas – not only for financial reasons (legal imports both cost more and deprive Hamas of the taxes it collects from the smuggling tunnels), but as a matter of principle: It would rather see its own people suffer than cooperate with Israel.
Consider, for instance, what happened in February, when another shortage of smuggled fuel shut down the power plant. Egypt promptly offered to send an emergency shipment via Israel, beause the Egypt-Gaza border terminal isn’t equipped to handle large cargo shipments. But Hamas refused, saying it would only accept the shipment if it came through Sinai. In other words, it preferred leaving its people without power during one of the coldest months of the year to accepting a shipment via Israel.
Nor is this exceptional: As I noted last week, it would also rather have its people drink polluted water than let Israeli firms help build a desalination plant.
But if the world woke up to the fact that the party that actually won the last Palestinian election was more interested in hurting Israel than in helping its own people, it might question the Palestinians’ readiness for statehood. And that, of course, would undermine one of these agencies’ most sacred dogmas. So instead, they’ve decided to flak for Hamas: to cover its own sins by redirecting international anger at Israel.
In short, organizations founded to defend the little people against oppressive rulers are now instead defending the government that oppresses them. It’s a sad commentary on how low these groups have fallen.