Besides the comments Phil has already posted, there are lots more things that could be said about Terry Gross's interview with Lawrence Wright about Gaza on NPR's Fresh Air today. Here's the comment I sent today to Fresh Air and NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard:
On Fresh Air on June 22, 2010, guest Lawrence Wright said "Then in 2007, there was an election in the Palestinian territories, and to the astonishment of practically the entire world community, Hamas won." In fact, the election Hamas won (to the Palestinian Legislative Council) was on January 25, 2006, not 2007 (see, for example, the Linda Gradstein report entitled "Hamas Appears to Win Majority in Palestinian Elections" on Morning Edition, Jan. 26, 2006).
This seemingly small mistake is only one problem in Wright's extremely distorted response to Terry Gross's request that he "Remind us how the Israeli blockade of Gaza was started, how and why." His response starts with the capture of Gilad Shalit in June 2006, then proceeds to Hamas's election victory, which he says occurred in 2007, then to the ouster of the (US-backed) Fatah forces in Gaza in June 2007 - "that's when they [the Israelis] began imposing this very strict blockade," he says.
It's certainly true that Israel tightened its blockade then, and Wright is hardly alone in dating its beginning to that moment, but in fact the Israelis started it, if in somewhat less stringent form, much earlier. Some would say it dates to the 1990s, when Israel launched its "closure" policy, but in something like its current form it began shortly after Hamas's election victory in January 2006 - not only before the ouster of the Fatah forces, but also before the capture of Shalit. See, for example, your own Peter Kenyon's Morning Edition report entitled "Gaza Misery Growing Under Israeli Embargo, Attacks" on Sept. 22, 2006. Or, even earlier and in more vivid detail, the story entitled "Gaza on brink of implosion as aid cut-off starts to bite" in the UK Guardian/Observer as early as April 16, 2006, which begins:
An empty watchtower overlooks a deserted road lined with rusting vehicle parts. This is Gaza's economic lifeline, the Karni crossing into Israel, which is supposed to handle 1,300 containers of merchandise and food per day in order to sustain 1.3 million people.
But nothing is entering or leaving Gaza, and now the funds to purchase what is available there are also drying up, bringing the dire situation of its people to a new and febrile crisis.
Karni is officially closed because the Israeli army has declared a security alert for the Jewish Passover holiday. Yet it has barely been open this year. The effect is a paralysis of Gaza's commerce and severe shortages of basic foods. Not that the locals are in a position to buy what food there is. There is little money because the European Union, Canada and the United States have stopped funding the aid-dependent Palestinian Authority, which can no longer pay its staff's wages.
The result is that families are existing on tiny amounts of money and businesses are facing collapse.
All that, to repeat, well before the capture of Shalit and the ouster of the Fatah forces.
Wright may be a good writer, but he's spent only three weeks in Gaza, and he's clearly no expert on the subject. If you really want to know what conditions are like there, why don't you interview Sara Roy of Harvard, who is universally recognized as the leading Western expert on the Gaza economy (and also happens to be the daughter of Holocaust survivors)? And how about talking to some people who actually live in Gaza and can report first-hand on what the siege means - like Dr. Eyad El Sarraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, or Dr. Mona El-Farra, Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip, who been published by the Boston Globe and Le Monde Diplomatique and who does a blog called "From Gaza, with Love," or Laila El-Haddad, a young mother and journalist who lives part of the year in the US and the other part in Gaza, has a B.A. from Duke and a Master's degree from Harvard, has written for the Guardian and the Baltimore Sun, among other publications, and writes the blog "Gaza Mom"?
At a minimum, I'll be listening for a correction to Wright's error about the date of Hamas's election victory.