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Who knew that the Israeli blockade is ‘economic warfare’?

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When the corporate media explain the logic behind Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, they turn to what Israel says officially and publicly. For example, today’s New York Times, in an article on an Israeli government–backed investigation into the deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla heading to Gaza, states:

Israel argues that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons or materials needed to make them, and to weaken Hamas control.

This sounds similar to a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently justified the siege by saying that "Gaza is a terror state funded by the Iranians, and therefore we must try to prevent any weapons from being brought into Gaza by air, sea and land." (David Samel noted the propagation of the weapons rationale here the other day.)

But the Israelis must know that the blockade has not accomplished this, as materials for weapons are reportedly smuggled in to Gaza via underground tunnels that go from Egypt to Gaza.

So if the blockade isn’t working, why does it still exist? A June 9 article that appeared in McClatchy Newspapers puts the Israeli logic behind blockading Gaza this way:

In response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using ‘economic warfare,’" the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza.

The revelation that Israel’s blockade is not about security and actually about punishing the Palestinians for putting Hamas in power isn’t new, though. Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, infamously said that the purpose of the economic sanctions against Gaza is to "put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger." Israel has also characterized the purpose behind the siege as one that promotes "no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis" in Gaza.

These frank admissions that the blockade of Gaza is designed to punish its civilian population, however, are missing from the majority of our media outlets. A Nexis search only turns up mentions of the Israeli government document about "economic warfare" in publications associated with McClatchy. And before the document was revealed, the Weisglass comment was rarely mentioned in the U.S. media. Perhaps U.S. media outlets think that reporting that Israel is engaged in collective punishment is too harsh for American ears.

This article originally appeared at the national media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s blog.


Alex Kane

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