Gaza blockade 2010 by Free Gaza Flotilla a PR victory for Hamas

Hamas demonstrators waving flags

The Israeli raid on the Free Gaza Flotilla, the latest battle in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, was a PR victory for Hamas. WILPF photo.

The Gaza Blockade, a key aspect of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, was started about three years ago by Israel and Egypt to contain Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls Gaza. The Israeli raid on the Free Gaza Flotilla last week has refocused international attention on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Gaza’s isolation. International leaders are questioning reasons for continuing the Gaza Blockade in 2010. Critics call the Gaza Blockade a strategy of inhumane oppression. Supporters say the blockade is essential to prevent rocket attacks by Hamas on Israeli soil.

U.N. wants Israeli raid investigation

The United Nations, European leaders and others harshly criticized Israel after its commandos stormed six ships in international waters. About 700 activists were trying to break the Gaza Blockade by bringing in 10,000 tons of aid. Voice of America reports that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the violence aboard the Turkish ship could have been avoided if Israel had heeded earlier calls to lift the Gaza Blockade, which has prevented essential goods from reaching Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. Ban said he is considering an investigation into the Israeli raid that resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Israel defends Gaza Blockade

Israel says it allows more than enough food, medicine and supplies into Gaza and opposes any independent investigation of the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The Associated Press reports that Israel also rejects claims that Gaza is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. In an address to his nation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the aim of the flotilla was to break the blockade, not to bring aid to Gaza. “This was not the ‘Love Boat’,” Netanyahu said,”It was a hate boat.” Israel says its soldiers were acting in self-defense because passengers attacked them when the commandos rappelled onto the ship from helicopters.

Hamas wins by losing

The attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla is shaping up as the latest public relations coup for militant organizations dedicated to antagonizing Israel. In 2006 Hezbollah, a gun-toting, grenade-throwing Islamist political organization , scored a huge victory over Israel merely by surviving an onslaught it sought to provoke in southern Lebanon that devastated the countryside. Hamas, which regularly terrorizes Israel with rocket attacks from Gaza, seems to escape international rebuke for that misbehavior. Meantime, Israel finds itself in lose-lose situations when it claims to be defending itself. Netanyahu has warned that if the blockade ends, hundreds of ships will bring in thousands of missiles from Iran to be aimed at Israel.

Israel gives gift to its enemies

The situation created by the Gaza Blockade and the Free Gaza Flotilla creates a geopolitical Rubik’s Cube for the United States. America’s relationships in the Middle East may have to be reset to a shifting balance of power that now sees Turkey — a non-Arab country who gained massive Middle East street cred by sanctioning the blockade — as the linchpin. The clear loser in the game is Israel. Hamas is the only winner. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reports that the U.S., Egypt and even the Palestinian Authority had been betting on the weakening and eventual demise of Hamas. But now, Hamas can operate from a position of strength, ironically, because of Israel.

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