The achievement of the failed flotilla to Gaza – mainly, it must be conceded, by its dead – is that the demand is being heard from everywhere that Israel halt its policy of siege. The government of Israel was not willing to listen to the desperate supplications of John Ging, the head of UNRWA in Gaza. Now it must heed French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But unknowingly, this flotilla, like its predecessors and the ones still to come, serves the Israeli goal, which is to complete the process of separating the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. The process, it will be said here for the millionth time, started in 1991 and not after the rise of Hamas rule. Its purpose was to thwart the two-state solution, which the world understood at that time as based on all of Gaza and the West Bank, and the link between them.
Since the method of sailing to Gaza started about two years ago, none of its initiators purported to meet the need for this or that product. Israel is attempting by signs and wonders to prove there is no hunger in Gaza. The initiators are actually thinking about hunger of a different kind: a very human hunger for a direct link to the world, to freedom of movement of people, not just goods. The seaborne method was later switched to overland breaches to the Strip via Rafah, to Egypt’s displeasure and Israel’s joy.
Israel brought the closure to grotesque and petty proportions, attracting attention with its prohibition on macaroni and permission for cinnamon, the counting of calories and delaying cement even for a sewage treatment plant. Israel expanded the closure to the extent of prohibiting Gazans from working, creating, manufacturing and earning a living, with the declared goal of bringing down Hamas. But it achieved the opposite. That rule only grew stronger, proving its resourcefulness, its ability to suppress internal opposition and engender support by international activists who are ideologically opposed to its methods and philosophy. The siege strengthened Hamas to such an extent that Palestinian conspiracy theorists are convinced this was Israel’s intention from the outset.
Most Israelis, who have given up on real information, find it difficult to absorb that some people in the world are shocked at the existence of a huge prison whose warden is the Jewish state. But those who are shocked have become partners in the pressure campaign – supported, if not instigated by Hamas – against Egypt to unilaterally open the Rafah crossing, as if it is the occupier and not Israel.
And what serves the goal of separating Gaza from the West Bank better than forgetting the sealed the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, and focusing on Rafah and cement? Unintentionally, the runners of the maritime and media blockade focused attention on aspects that do not undermine the essence of Israel’s closure of Gaza. And that essence is denying the right and thwarting the will of Gazans to be an active, permanent and natural part of Palestinian society.
Long before Israel prohibited the entry of cement into the Strip, it prohibited Gazans from studying in the West Bank. While it still permitted guavas to be exported from Khan Yunis to Jordan, it forbade Gazans to enter the West Bank even via the Allenby Bridge or to meet relatives and friends. Step by step, Israel developed draconian restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, until it declared every Gazan in the West Bank, now and especially in the future, an illegal alien and an infiltrator. These are the essential prohibitions that must be breached. These are the prohibitions about whose existence Erdogan and U.S. President Barack Obama must be taught, and their abolition demanded.