Financial Times Editorial Comment: The siege of Gaza must be end
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010
Published: June 6 2010 19:53 | Last updated: June 6 2010 19:53
The assault by Israeli commandos on the Gaza aid flotilla in international waters was the work of a government that has lost sight of the national interest. It has exasperated Israel’s friends and both incensed and delighted its enemies. By behaving as though it were above the law, Israel is steadily alienating international public opinion and eroding its legitimacy – and therefore its security.
The Israeli action, to preserve the blockade of Gaza, has instead led to an international clamour for that siege of a whole population – illegal as it is self-defeating – to be lifted. It has also jeopardised the only strategic relationship Israel had with a Muslim country, Turkey, nine of whose nationals were shot dead in the incident.
True, relations with the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have frayed badly since Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008-09 left 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, dead, and huge swathes of the crowded enclave in rubble.
But only last month Turkey voted to admit Israel into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Now, after the attack on Turkish-flagged vessels, President Abdullah Gul says relations with Israel will never be the same again – not exactly a plus for Israeli security.
Israeli policy towards Gaza, moreover, has strengthened the grip of Hamas on its 1.5m people.
The blockade hands the Islamists control of the smuggling trade through the tunnels into Egypt, and makes the population dependent on them for food, jobs and – for the thousands made homeless by Israeli bombing – even shelter. The flotilla fiasco gives Hamas political kudos at a time when all polls show it would lose any election to its rivals in the nationalist Fatah.
At a time when Israel (and the US) want to keep the spotlight on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, all this is an own-goal in extra time.
More generally, Israel’s ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and frequent resort to collective punishment are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Articles 49 and 33) to which it is a signatory. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has blustered that behind the aid flotilla lay the hand of al-Qaeda, but its own lawless behaviour serves as a recruiting sergeant for jihadism.
The Gaza blockade is, as US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said, unsustainable. It must be lifted and the intentions of Hamas must be tested. The loss of face Israel would suffer is nothing compared with the steady loss of legitimacy it is now suffering.