If you're trying to figure out how the hell we got to the point where Israel is attacking ships in international waters like some crazed nation of pirates, killing at least nine and kidnapping hundreds of people, and stealing relief supplies intended for one of the most desperate regions on the planet, here is some background reading:
- the title of the Guardian's article, "Israel's Gaza blockade targets Hamas while citizens suffer", pretty much sums it up:
The blockade, preventing all exports from Gaza and confining imports to a limited supply of humanitarian goods, has failed to bring down Hamas but has heaped misery on Gaza's 1.5 million residents.
The UN humanitarian co-ordinator said last week that the formal economy in Gaza has "collapsed" and 60% of households were short of food. According to UN statistics, around 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water.
- the wik's article on the Gaza blockade:
On January 24, 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Council released a statement calling for Israel to lift its siege on the Gaza Strip, allow the continued supply of food, fuel, and medicine, and reopen border crossings. According to the Jerusalem Post, this was the 15th time in less than two years the council condemned Israel for its human rights record regarding the Palestinian territories. The proceedings were boycotted by Israel and the United States.
On December 15, 2008, following a statement in which he described the embargo on Gaza a crime against humanity, United Nations Special Rapporteur and member of the 9/11 truth movement Richard A. Falk was prevented from entering the Palestinian territories by Israeli authorities and expelled from the region. The Ambassador to the United Nations Itzhak Levanon said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was "hopelessly unbalanced," "redundant at best and malicious at worst."
In August 2009, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay criticised Israel for the blockade in a 34-page report, calling it a violation of the rules of war.
In March 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that the blockade of Gaza is causing "unacceptable suffering" and that families were living in "unacceptable, unsustainable conditions".
A UN Fact Finding mission lead by South African Judge Richard Goldstone suggested that the blockade was a war crime and possibly a crime against humanity:
- "Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed." The Goldstone report recommended that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court if the situation has not improved in six months.
In May 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that the formal economy in Gaza has collapsed since the imposition of the blockade.
- the BBC's guide "Gaza under blockade":
Overall, the UN says the blockade has caused the economy "irreversible damage". Unemployment has soared from 30% in 2007 to 40% in 2008, according to the World Bank, though it dropped slightly in early 2010. The UN says that when aid is discounted, 70% of Gazan families live on less than a dollar a day per person.
Before the blockade, 3,900 industrial premises were operating, employing 35,000 people - by June 2008, only 90 were still functioning, employing only 860, according to the Palestinian Trade Center. The situation improved slightly during the truce.
An estimated total of $140m of damage was done to Gaza businesses during the December and January military operation, according to a Palestinian business body, the Palestinian Private Sector Coordinating Council.
The facts of this latest incident are not yet clear. But if, after decades of new coverage slanted in favor of Israel, you find it hard to believe that the IDF would attack an aid ship, you ought to read about how they murdered peace activist Rachel Corrie while destroying Palestinian homes, and read about and see the video of Palestinian farmers taking fire from Israeli troops.