Open­ing Gaza bor­ders will bring greater hell

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY BEN­JAMIN PO­GRUND

HA­MAS IS de­mand­ing that Is­rael and Egypt lift their block­ade of the Gaza Strip as a con­di­tion for a cease­fire. But end­ing the siege is not straight­for­ward: it is easy to sit back and say that it must be done, but im­ple­ment­ing it is a mine­field.

The prob­lems start with Ha­mas it­self, whose Char­ter 88 man­i­festo com­mits it to de­stroy­ing Is­rael and the Jews. Ha­mas has done its best to ful­fil those aims. Sui­cide bomb­ings were for some years its stock in trade. It has been la­belled a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion not only by Is­rael but by the EU, the US, Canada and Ja­pan.

Ha­mas wants border cross­ings to be re­opened, an in­ter­na­tional air­port and sea­port, the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of in­dus­trial ar­eas, and the ex­pan­sion of its fish­ing zone by six nau­ti­cal miles — but ac­ced­ing to such a list would al­most cer­tainly re­sult in carnage for Is­rael.

Let’s start with border cross­ings. Re­cently, a Gazan woman who came through the Erez cross­ing said she had a metal plate in her leg and asked not to have to go through the se­cu­rity elec­tronic check. She was taken into a room to be searched, and blew her­self up, with her guard. This is one of the rea­sons for the border block­ade.

What about the pos­si­bil­ity of in­ter­na­tional su­per­vi­sion of the cross­ings? In Le­banon, UN peace­keep­ers have to­tally failed to pre­vent Hizbol­lah from build­ing up an ar­se­nal of tens of thou­sands of mis­siles aimed at Is­rael.

Nor will Is­rael feel any more as­sured by the be­hav­iour of UNWRA, the relief or­gan­i­sa­tion for Pales­tini­ans, which found mis­siles in three of its schools. UNWRA ex­plained that, not know­ing what to do, it handed them to Ha­mas.

Of course the sea block­ade must be lifted to en­able Gaza’s fish­er­men to get fur­ther out to sea. But what as­sur­ance will Is­rael and Egypt have that mis­siles will not flow in for the next at­tacks? In March this year, Is­rael in­ter­cepted a ship car­ry­ing dozens of long-range rock­ets be­ing smug­gled from Iran.

The Is­raeli bom­bard­ment has dev­as­tated ar­eas of Gaza. Large num­bers of apart­ment blocks, schools and mosques must be re­built. Con­crete, metal pipes and other build­ing ma­te­ri­als must pour in, as Ha­mas de­mands. But what as­sur­ance does Is­rael have that the ce­ment will not be used to build mis­sile launch­ers and un­der­ground tun­nels with ex­its in Is­rael? The IDF es­ti­mates that 600,000 tonnes of con­crete were used for tun­nels, suf­fi­cient to build a set of sky­scrapers.

It hardly needs to be noted that this vast amount of con­crete could have been used to re­pair pre­vi­ous dam­age and im­prove life in Gaza.

Hav­ing said all that, the block­ade was in­tended to put the squeeze on pop­u­lar sup­port for Ha­mas — and has, clearly, been a fail­ure.

Egypt’s block­ade has, if any­thing, been even more se­vere. The govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sisi has shut the border. It has de­stroyed 1,300 tun­nels and has at times pre- vented Gazans from re­turn­ing home, leav­ing hun­dreds stranded on the Egyp­tian side.

The ul­ti­mate an­swer, of course, is an over­all peace deal be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans. Ha­mas is one of the sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles. If the block­ade is to end, Ha­mas will have to per­suade Is­rael and Egypt that it can be trusted. Mean­while, the or­di­nary peo­ple suf­fer. ‘Draw­ing Fire: In­ves­ti­gat­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions of apartheid in Is­rael’ by Ben­jamin Po­grund is pub­lished this month by Row­man& Lit­tle­field

A Face­book page ti­tled “Stand­ing With the IDF” con­tains dozens of pho­tos of Is­raeli women adorned with mes­sages of sup­port for the army

Spoof “Tube” map of Ha­mas tun­nels, by an Is­raeli blog­ger

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