Blockades and Blockades

In the past few years, I’ve often heard those in favor of Israeli concessions – even conservatives – make an argument that goes this way: if Israel unambiguously gives back X, and the Palestinians have clear control over X, then, when they do Y, and blow it, the world will see who’s really right.

The Fatwa Flotilla ought to put this argument to rest forever.  If ever there were a more clear-cut case of concessions yielding bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians, and the world siding with the killers, I can’t think of it.

By now, the mini-history is well-known.  Israel pulls out of Gaza, and what should have been useful infrastructure is reduced to rubble within hours by the grateful recipients.  Hamas stages a coup, and immediately begins rocketing southern Israel.  Israel finally has had enough, enters Gaza to rid itself of the menace, and leaves after a few weeks, largely timing the withdrawal in order not to present the new US President with a middle east mini-war on his first day in office.

But in order to keep military materiel out of Gaza, Israel imposes a completely legal blockade. It specifically permits food and medicine to enter – although there’s no real way of knowing how much of that is commandeered by Hamas to feed itself rather than its citizens who elected them in what, according to ex-Icon Jimmy Carter, were the freest and fairest elections he’s every seen.  (And he’d know, having seen some pre-1980 Georgia elections.)

It is a blockade designed to keep people alive, while preventing their ability to make war.  For those, like Peter Beinart, who find such a strategy morally objectionable, I would point them to Winston Churchill’s speech of August 20, 1940:

There is another aspect.  Many of the most valuable foods are essential to the manufacture of vital war material.  Fats are used to make explosives.  Potatoes make the alcohol for motor spirit.  The plastic materials now so largely used in the construction of aircraft are made of milk.  If the Germans use these commodities to help them to bomb our women and children, rather than to feed the populations who produce them, we may be sure that the imported foods would go the same way, directly or indirectly, or be employed to relive the enemy of the responsibilities he has to wantonly assumed.

That blockade included food and medicine, specifically because they could be used as war materiel.  Israel’s does not, but is there any doubt that construction and industrial materials could easily be converted to military uses?

The problem Beinart identified – American Jews choosing their liberalism over Zionism – is one he exemplifies.  It’s the failure of liberalism to maintain a moral compass equal to the task of defending western values and humane civilization in the face of barbarism.

At each stage, even as Israel has retreated into a more defensive positions, Hamas has become more aggressive.  This should surprise no student of human nature, but it also doesn’t seem to have won Israel any of the credit it was supposed to gain by imposing moral clarity on the situation.  Concessions, if useful, should be made in the context of the negotiating partner, not a preening peanut gallery.

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