Since the Israeli raid on a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships bound for Gaza this week that resulted in 9 deaths and widespread international condemnation, American conservatives rushed to defend the raid, echoing Israeli officials’ erroneous claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. At the same time, the Obama administration and leading Democrats in Congress won’t condemn the attack. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) refused to comment on it and an Israeli government spokesman thanked the U.S. for working “behind the scenes to water down” a U.N. Security Council statement on the incident.
But across the Atlantic, America’s closest friend and ally has taken a decidedly different position. Today during the UK parliament’s Prime Minister’s questions, acting Labour Party leader Harriet Harman asked Prime Minster David Cameron about the incident, noting that Israel’s Gaza blockade is “prolonging” Palestinians’ “suffering” and hindering Middle East peace. Cameron, a conservative, agreed:
CAMERON: What has happened is completely unacceptable. We should be clear abou that. And we should also deplore the loss of life. [...]
We should do everything we can through the United Nations, where resolution 1860 is aboslutely clear about the need to end the blockade and to open up Gaza. And what I would say in addition is this, that friends of Israel, and I count myself a friend of Israel, should be saying to the Israelis that the blockade actually strengthens Hamas’s grip on the economy and on Gaza and it’s in their own interests to lift it and to allow these vital supplies to get through.
While Israel’s logic of the blockade has been that “a collapsing economy will convince Gaza’s people to push Hamas from power,” the reality is that ordinary Gazans are suffering and Hamas “has benefited handsomely” from it:
They’re doing so, veteran Gaza businessmen say, thanks to the fact that Hamas can generate capital while all its potential competitors are running dry. They charge that Hamas and its associates have been using their control of smuggling tunnels, money changing, and tax revenue to buy prime tracts of land and buildings across Gaza, particularly along the enclave’s main boulevards.
“Thanks to Israel, while everyone else suffers, day after day Hamas is strengthening itself with the blockade,” says Amr Hamad, executive manager of Gaza’s Palestinian Federation of Industries (PFI), a private-sector organization. “And they are using this position to deepen their roots in Gaza.”
Even a Bush administration State Department official said in 2008 that the blockade “wasn’t working.” “Within Gaza, Hamas seems the least effected by the closure,” he said.