In the Arena

How to Blockade

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Israel apparently has learned its lesson: no more commandos from the sky (one at a time–I mean, how stupid). This time, the aid ship Rachel Corrie was stopped and boarded in traditional fashion from the sea. There was no violence, no injuries. The ship will be taken to Ashkelon, where the humanitarian aid shipped will be unloaded and taken to Gaza.

That was easy. And that’s what should have happened last week. Let me reiterate one other point, though: So long as Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and seeks arms from Iran, it must be assumed that a state of war exists between Israel and Hamas. Under those circumstances–and given the history of rockets and bombs flying from Gaza to Israeli towns–an arms blockade makes complete sense. The question here is whether building supplies, steel and cement, should be blockaded. The Israelis say yes, those materials can be used to build fortifications. True enough. But there are an awful lot of innocent Gazans who seek to rebuild their homes, schools and hospitals. And if this continuing bull-headed boycott costs Israel a crucial ally (Turkey), heightens tensions in the region, creates more potential terrorists and makes like more dangerous for American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, then it is hardly worth the candle.

Granted, Hamas is maddening…but it has happened onto a successful strategy. It stonewalls, refusing to release a lone Israeli soldier–Gilad Shalit–an act that, in itself (according to Israeli officials), would result in a loosening of the blockade. It does this so that Israel will seem the inflexible villain. Israel foolishly plays along. I mean, if Netanyahu really wanted to be creative, he’d organize international teams of peace activists to go into Gaza and rebuild houses. But Netanyahu doesn’t want to be creative. He wants to be…strong. In the process, he is vastly weakening Israel’s international position.

Once again, Israel is justified in maintaining an arms blockade for as long as Hamas insists on maintaining, in effect, a state of war.