The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations greeted news of the flotilla disaster by repeating a common “pro-Israel” talking point: that Israel only blockades Gaza to prevent Hamas from building rockets that might kill Israeli citizens. If only that were true. In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve. ~Peter Beinart

Beinart’s emphasis on the blockade as the main issue is correct and something I did not discuss enough in my earlier post. This economic and political purpose of the blockade has never been a secret. During Operation Cast Lead, we heard all about how inflicting deprivation and misery on the Gazan population with the siege was intended to turn the population against Hamas. As I noted at the time, sanctions and embargoes do not cause people to rise up against their rulers, but they do make them resent the people imposing the sanctions and embargoes. Now that the blockade has produced an enormous political disaster, we are supposed to forget about that and focus on arms smuggling that has nothing to do with what the flotilla was attempting to bring to Gaza.

The blockade is a policy aimed at the steady immiseration and deeper impoverishment of Gazans. This not only deflects attention from Hamas’ abuses and misrule, but it also ensures that there will not be enough prosperity in the future to foster any sort of viable political opposition against Hamas. That tells me that Israel is actually quite willing to tolerate a Hamas-run enclave on its doorstep so long as it can keep the people living there poor and dependent.