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Monday, January 21, 2008

Biting the hand that feeds you

There was never any question that from the moment Israel concluded it's headlong, disorganized retreat from Gaza, that the resulting power vacuum would result in a hostile terror base on our southern flank. Our leaders called predictions of missiles falling on Ashqelon "right wing scare-mongering" and pushed ahead with the flight from Gaza without even the most preliminary plan for how to sever our so-called responsibility to the Palestinians... much less how to provide for the resulting Israeli refugees.

Incredibly, even as Israeli citizens who were forced from their homes in Gaza continue, to this day, to live abandoned in poverty and squalor in temporary housing, the Israeli government has continued to supply Gaza's population with pretty much all of their day-to-day needs.

Yet, what nobody can deny is that today, as predicted, Israel has an hostile entity on our south-western border. No matter how distasteful we may find it, this entity is ruled by a legally elected party; Hamas, a pseudo-government that continues to order/facilitate the bombardment of Israel's civilian population centers with rockets and mortars (numbering in the thousands since the disengagement), and which makes daily calls for Israel's destruction.

I don't care where you think you are on the political spectrum... any rational person would have to admit that it is long past time to stop the madness of propping up our enemies. I'm not talking about bombing them into the stone age (something I've advocated in the past), or even targeting the Hamas leadership (something else I've called for).

No, I'm simply saying that enough is enough.

Gazastan cannot continue to be both an openly hostile entity, committed to Israel's destruction... and at the same time a fully dependant beggar-state that relies on Israel for all of its basic needs. This kind of dysfunctional relationship has never existed before in the world, and I dare say no other nation would tolerate such a parasitic situation to continue.

The Gazan border with Egypt is, for all intents and purposes, open. Weapons, money and people pour across from Egypt unchecked every single day. There is no reason why the world can't channel it's sympathy for the Gazan population into humanitarian aid supplied via Egypt. Except, of course, that this would remove the albatross from around Israel's neck... something that nobody really wants to do.

The world seems to enjoy the delicious irony of Israel being forced to keep the lights and heat on in the kassam workshops and explosive laboratories of Gaza, even as the lethal fruit of those laboratories rains down on the heads of Israeli civilians in the western Negev.

The EU and U.N. nod like proud parents as Hamas boasts publicly that it intends to bomb Israel into a cease fire... while ignoring the irony of the bombardment being the casus belli for Israel having had to resume military operations in and around Gaza in the first place.

Even the über-Dove Shimon Peres has gone on record as saying that all it will take for Israel to stop military operations against Gaza is for the rockets to stop falling on Sderot!

The Palestinians regularly accuse Israel of war crimes and breach of the Geneva conventions... yet they continue to defy all conventions of war by using civilian population centers to shield their combatants and by refusing to allow the International Red Cross to visit (or even get a sign of life from) their prisoner of war/hostage, Gilad Shalit.


Israel can no longer support a hostile entity that is openly bent on its destruction. Gaza has had ample opportunity since the summer of 2005 to make alternate arrangements for power, food, water, fuel and other basic needs. The world has also had ample opportunity to help them make these necessary arrangements via UNRWA, an organization created to do nothing else but provide for the needs of the poor Palestinians.

Whether or not we go to war with the Palestinians will continue to be a contentious partisan issue. But the decision to stop providing fuel, electricity, water and other basic needs to an armed entity that wants nothing more or less than our complete destruction should be a non-partisan no-brainer!

I can abide a beggar... even a serial beggar with no intention of ever becoming self-sufficient. But when the beggar holds a gun to my head and, in essence, bites the hand that has been feeding him, he ceases to be a beggar. He becomes an armed aggressor... and only a suicidal lunatic would feel any obligation to continue supporting such a sociopathic monster.

Posted by David Bogner on January 21, 2008 | Permalink


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Perhaps Israel's problem is that if she actually stopped providing these basics to Gaza, the rest of the world would stand idly by, and that would trigger a humanitarian disaster. Despite the justice and common sense of your post, that is what makes the situation so frustrating.

Posted by: cyberdov | Jan 21, 2008 4:39:01 PM

With respect, David, I think that the realities of the situation are different. The reason why all of this aid (and power, etc.) is funneled through Israel is not because the various organizations involved refuse to work through Egypt, but because Israel will not allow it.

Israel cannot have it both ways: either they can more or less hermetically seal the Strip (including the Rafah crossing, which they demanded - and received - control over its opening) in order to somewhat curb smuggling of weapons/terrorists/funds/etc., OR they can let things flow from Egypt, including necessary supplies.

I'm not one of those people who thinks Gaza is still under occupation because Israel controls the borders - that's crap. But the fact of the matter is that while we control every border of Gaza - and INSIST on that control - we can hardly blame others (including the UN, which provides most of the food) for not finding alternatives to going through Israel.

As for the power situation, Israel again has fostered that dependency. Egypt supplies some of the power, yes (about 8% I think?), but I assume that they don't have the infrastructure in place to immediately supply another ~120 MW if Israel cuts their own supply. (Similarly, Israel won't allow fuel shipments from Egypt to supply the Palestinian power plant, which can only churn out about a third of their power 'needs'. Hell, I read once that plans for a bigger power plant that would make Gaza self-sufficient were torpedoed by Israel years ago.) For that matter, Israel has made quite a bit of money off of the whole arrangement. I'm sure some people wouldn't mind to see it continue like this indefinitely.

So, which will it be? Will Israel abandon the pretense of being able to control Gaza's borders with Egypt and the sea (given the ridiculous amount of smuggling going on under the Philadelphi route), or will Israel decide it actually wants to CONTROL them and confront the terrorist threat directly? It can't work both ways; and certainly, the half/half measures currently in place are a disaster.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Jan 21, 2008 6:32:22 PM

Dave is absolutely right on everything and this business of supporting the terrorists has gone on long enough. You can't call what's going on there a humanitarian crises because they really are less than human. Everyone there is either a terorist, terrorist supporter, or voted in the terrorist regime. The children? Terrorists in training. We've all seen the pictures of 5 year olds wearing suicide belts as costumes. Enough is enough. Israel should be doing EVERYTHING to get rid of this scum and protect it's own citizens.

Posted by: Marsha G. | Jan 21, 2008 6:47:25 PM

I weep for the Palestinian children as I would weep for those of Jonestown. What a colossal tragedy.

It is a signature of the literal "evilness" of the world community that anyone would support the Palestinian aggressions, IMO. "Evil" in the sense of "missing the mark" or "missing the point."

That Israel would be put in a position to subsidize its enemy, and capitulate to that as some lesser of G-d-knows-how-many evils, is also tragic. We in the US think it's bad enough that many, many Americans *want* Mexico's (and other nations by the score) cast-offs to freely come in, with rights of US citizens, and collapse our system of government.

But compared to that, Israelis who want to continue to support Gazans (and others) who turn around and *immediately* rain as many rockets down on Israel as they can -- well. That's truly insane.

I can only guess that there are those in Israel who want to control the Gazans (and other border points?) by having a hand on any of several "off" switches. But that only means that when things are "on" (i.e., most of the time), one is pouring resources into a sworn enemy's coffers.


Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jan 21, 2008 9:42:32 PM

Maybe I'm missing something, but what I gathered from a number of the reports is that this whole "humanitarian crisis" is a farce manufactered by Hamas to crucify Israel in the realm of PR. Energy is one thing (Israel says it was still supplying 75%), but a halt to humanitarian supplies because there aren't enough plastic bags?

"We are going to have to suspend operations on Thursday or Friday ... because we are running out of plastic bags we use for food, and we are running out of fuel," said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which distributes food aid to 860,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza.


(Israeli news also repeated reports from Gaza of the same dramatic-yet-ridiculous flavor as Jenin in 2002, such as a burial-shroud shortage causing bodies to instead be wrapped in flags...

Posted by: Dan | Jan 22, 2008 1:07:08 AM

At least the Israeli government is consistent. A government that requires the Gush Katif evictees to continue to pay the mortgages on their government-destroyed homes would also supply the water and electricity needed for the enemy of its people to destroy it. There will be a special name for this syndrome, when historians complete their studies. It reminds one of what we used to say down on the farm about certain of the animals sleeping and eating in their own excrement...

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Jan 22, 2008 9:16:28 AM

Israel does NOT control the Rafah crossing and has not controlled it since the Hamas coup d'etat....Hamas and Egypt control that crossing to one degree or another, which is the crux of the problem today. Israel does NOT therefore control Gaza's borders---Israel controls her OWN border with Gaza, just as Russia controls its border with Poland or the US controls its border with Mexico....as all countries around the world control their borders.

Given the current reality, the current Dumbert-led government of incompetents seems incapable of making ANY decison, attending peace conferences one week, threatening embargoes the next week, launching military incursions the next week, then backing down and reversing themselves depending on which way the international winds are blowing.

This is suicide. David laid it out beautifully. Good thing for Hamas I'm not in charge---Gazastan would look like Germany, May, 1945.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jan 22, 2008 8:11:35 PM

aliyah06: You're incorrect. While Israel does not GUARD the crossing (or the Philadelphi route) anymore, they most assuredly do control it. Until the Hamas takeover, there was an 'agreement on movement and access' (or somesuch) that created EUBAM, and allowed Israel complete control over who and what goes through the crossing. Under the agreement, Israel can bar any individual or shipment from crossing due to security concerns - and more importantly, can close the crossing entirely at will (which it did for most of the time since the Shalit abduction). Furthermore, NO exports at all are allowed through the crossing. This was a deal worked out with the EU, PA, Egypt, and Israel, and it definitely amounts to Israeli control (though IAA does not directly administer the crossing).

Since the Hamas takeover in June, EUBAM stopped work and the crossing effectively closed. Egypt keeps it sealed except for a few times when Israel has allowed the crossing to open to let people into the Strip. The rest of the time, goods (and often people) have entered Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing after being carefully vetted by Israel (and occasionally through others - Erez, etc.). Just today some 50 Palestinians were wounded when they tried to break through the Rafah crossing - not by Israeli soldiers, but by Egyptian troops keeping the crossing closed.

Egypt's role in securing their border with Gaza has been far from perfect, but they have acceded to Israeli demands on keeping Rafah closed. Israel also has surveillance on the border crossing - something that certainly does not qualify as 'like any other border' in the world.

Sorry, but I'm not buying it. If we want to sever ourselves from Gaza, then we have to relinquish our control of it. I'm cool with that - up to and including severing electricity (after a reasonable period to allow Egypt or Hamas to come up with alternatives for the very basics), fuel supply, stopping all aid shipments, closing all crossings, etc. But we have to then be prepared for the fact that the border with Egypt will not be under our control.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Jan 23, 2008 12:09:03 AM

My modest suggestion is that we impose absolutely no sanctions on Gaza. Let them have their supplies. I also propose that we take no military action against the militants AT ALL. We should please the international community who condemns us if we engage them militarily because our army is bigger and better equipped than their militants. We should please them by making sure no sanctions are taken against civilians.

What I propose is that we treat them exactly equally as they treat us. They shoot a qassam at our civilian population centers, we shoot an identical qassam right back at theirs. We do nothing more and nothing less than the exact thing they do. Qassam for qassam. And let's see how long the population of Gaza supports those sending the rockets when they get them in return. In exactly equal numbers and with exactly as much ability to control where they land, what school they hit, what house they smash, what child they maim, how many people go into shock. I am all for equality.

Posted by: Yaeli | Jan 23, 2008 2:40:00 PM


Your mistake is a common one. You take the text of the agreement for the facts.

Posted by: Ruth | Jan 23, 2008 3:25:14 PM

What exactly about what I said was not factual? Before June, the agreement was followed to the letter. Afterwards, the agreement no longer holds (obviously, given that two of the four groups who negotiated it are no longer involved in the crossing), but Egypt was following Israel's wishes in controlling the flow of people etc. through the Rafah crossing (today's events nonwithstanding; we can hardly expect 750 Egyptian troops to stop 350k people from crossing a border that no longer exists).

If you're going to make claims about 'facts', I'd like to see some evidence.

Posted by: matlabfreak | Jan 23, 2008 6:46:54 PM

Actually Matlabfreak, Egypt is imposing closure on their border for their own reasons, namely the strong ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (basically one and the same). It is no coincidence that as soon as the border was breached Egyptian police went and rounded up 50 of the top MB leaders and arrested them. The MB, as Hamas successfully did in Aza, wants to do a coup in Egypt. Hamasniks were involved in a number of the bombings in Egypt in conjunction with the MB and so forth. Egypts worst nightmare is that the international community will begin to pressure it to take Aza back.

Posted by: Yaeli | Jan 23, 2008 7:16:29 PM

Egypt assented to the closure because they don't want the MB to gain any more strength in their country. But Israel is calling the shots: just look at the whole mess over the people returning from the Hajj. Egypt is worried about letting people out of Gaza, yes. But they don't have the same concerns that Israel does about letting them in (or weapons, given their rather lackluster performance in stopping smuggling). There has been quite a bit of tension over the issue. (Also, it actually is coincidental about the MB chaps being arrested. Egypt has been running regular sweeps of MB for some time now, if you follow internal Egyptian news.)

But let's say that you and others are right - in theory Israel wanted control of Rafah and Philadelphi, but they don't have it. This argument implies that no one has issues with my fundamental point: that if Israel has control over Gaza that goes beyond a normal relationship along a border, then we also carry some responsibility for it. We can't expect others to step in if we won't allow them access to Gaza. Additionally, on the points of greatest dependency (esp. electricity) we can't up and say,
"Well, we've been supplying you with electricity for decades now and have actively thwarted moves to make you independent of us, but now we're going to cut 2/3 (or 3/4, depending on who you read) of your power." I agree with the fundamental point that we shouldn't supply an enemy with anything, but we can't realistically expect others to do so if we are actively involved in disrupting such efforts.

Furthermore, there is the additional issue that the Rafah crossing is really designed only for people and not the transfer of large amounts of goods. This is obviously intentional on the part of Israel (no surprise here), but in today's environment is makes Gaza dependent on Israel for supplies - whether or not we want it. (One could argue that the nascent port on the coast is also a route for supply, but the Israeli navy has blockaded it - for valid security concerns, but again increasing the dependency.) Israel has fostered that dependency, and either we need to wean them off it - and give up any remaining shred of control over the Strip - or we should stop complaining about having to supply them with their basic needs even though they are a hostile territory.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Jan 23, 2008 8:47:28 PM


"but Egypt was following Israel's wishes in controlling the flow of people etc. through the Rafah crossing"

Was it? How about these incidents:

Is this enough for a start?

Posted by: Ruth | Jan 24, 2008 10:51:38 AM

Let's see... I think your sources actually support my argument:

1) "Palestinians allowed to return to Gaza": The article is clear that this move is unusual because Egypt hadn't 'coordinated' the move with Israel. What normal border would need coordination from a third party?

For that matter, it explicitly states that, "Egypt has kept the crossing almost hermetically closed on the ground that European border monitors assigned there under a US-sponsored agreement left the site after Hamas wrested control of Gaza." I'll agree that it's nothing like the level of control Israel had during EUBAM or pre-Nov. 2005, but it still suggests a fairly high level of influence over a border crossing that is not under their jurisdiction.

2) "Egypt allows re-entry of thirty Palestinians to Gaza" Certainly a worrying phenomenon, but an isolated exception that proves the rule. The only source that the 30 people were IJ members was from the Ma'an article; every other article on the issue merely repeated the information from them. I'm not going to say it's not true, but it's not well sourced. Even if it were true, IMO the fact that these sorts of things make big news when they happen (and that the crossing is usually closed on Israeli demands) is pretty good proof that the border is under a great deal of Israeli influence.

3) (Something in German) I tried translating this, but I'll be the first to admit that it was less than comprehensible. From what I understand, though, it was addressing the issue of smuggling, not the Rafah Crossing. Egypt has done some work against the smuggling, but I'll be happy to agree that they could do more. On the other hand, even at the height of IDF activity on Philadelphi, there were still a significant number of tunnels in operation... so we can't really expect a full closure.

4) "Palestinians Stranded..." Ditto on the smuggling tunnels, and the rest seems to support my point. Egypt has not reason not to let the people in the article cross into Gaza... EXCEPT for the fact that Israel won't allow it.

Look, the vast majority of the people who've wanted to cross from Egypt into Gaza have been refused (at least initially), and many of them have been required to pass into Israel first and enter through the Kerem Shalom crossing (as of Oct. 2007 at least 6k had already been required to do this). This is not a normal border.

Now, we could imagine that Egypt is doing it out of a burning desire to be a good neighbor with Israel, and that they happen to like it when the Arab world portrays them as Israel's accomplice in oppressing the poor Palestinians. I'm more inclined to believe that Israel still has de facto control over the crossing due to an explicit agreement.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Jan 24, 2008 6:07:11 PM

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