Gaza Strip impoversished by Israeli stranglehold

Cloaked by the darkness of early morning on June 3, Israeli commandos rappelled to the deck of the Mavi Marmara, a relief ship bound for Gaza, to inspect its cargo for weapons. When the sun crested on the edge of the Mediterranean, the dead bodies of nine relief workers and activists were strewn across the deck of the ship.

Israel’s disproportionate use of force and insistence on maintaining a naval blockade against Gaza exemplify the brutal stranglehold Israel has on residents of the tiny arid strip of land along the Mediterranean.

Despite instant criticism from the international community, Israel asserts that the blockade keeps the population safe because it prevents Iranian weapons from getting into the hands of terrorist groups such as Hamas. However, the blockade is also preventing essentials like food, medical supplies and building equipment from getting to the people of Gaza who live in dilapidated buildings riddled with gaping holes from Israeli missile attacks.

Gaza has been choked off by the Israeli naval blockade. Unlike the West Bank, where investments and supplies freely flow across borders, Gaza remains impoverished. Growth in the West Bank will be almost 7 percent this year because of economic initiatives started by Palestinian leaders, according to Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson. This kind of growth cannot occur in Gaza because of the cage that has been built around it. Israel has effectively turned Gaza into a concentration camp.

Israel has every right to defend itself, but the blockade is untenable. It has created a black market for goods that are smuggled into Gaza via tunnels in neighboring Egypt. With Hamas controlling these tunnels ­— and therefore the life blood of the region — it is no surprise that the terrorist group has been able to sweep the parliamentary elections in Gaza.

Part of Israel’s problem rests in the state’s foundation. The Jewish state deserves the right to exist, but in an era of globalization – a time of rapidly eroding borders — Israel cannot continue to erect new spatial boundaries derived from religious texts and use archaic maritime laws to justify a blockade of its hostile neighbors. Originally built upon the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people, Israel has deviated from its founding principles by expanding beyond its borders and becoming the kind of tyrant that its people evaded for centuries.

If the Palestinians want help from the international community, they must practice civil disobedience and not elect groups — such as Hamas — that do not recognize Israel. The Palestinians may be caged like animals and treated inhumanely, but they must not act inhumanely in return.

A religious conflict — which is exactly what this is, not a squabble over land like many scholars contend – can never be rationally adjudicated. When two groups of people are besieged by war or genocide simply because of differing views of the hereafter, rational solutions will elude them. Their problems on Earth will plague generation after generation until they become concerned with the one heaven that matters — the one on earth.

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