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You know, I agree with the vast majority of what you've said on this topic. The video evidence is fairly clear that the Israelis, within the context of these two naval blockade situations, have acted pretty reasonably by giving the "relief" convoys a peaceful way of getting aid to the Palestinians while still protecting themselves from the possibility of a re-armed Hamas. Up until yesterday I really thought the Israelis had both legs firmly to stand upon. Then I came across this list, which was compiled by an Israeli human rights group:

It's a partial list of items that the Israelis have prohibited and permitted to be brought into Gaza. Now I'll say right up front that even the authors of the list admit that it's unverifiable and thus, one can conclude, subject to much speculation. However, the reason that it's unverifiable is that the Israelis evidently refuse to publish a list of prohibited items for the rest of the world to see. The fact that it's a "partial" list also invites speculation - as the editors of the list could easily cherry pick examples of whatever point they're trying to make while leaving off counterexamples. All of that said, I think this is the most damning piece of evidence (if indeed it is an accurate list) against the legitimacy of the Israeli blockade that I've seen thus far.

When you first look at the list, the difference between permitted and prohibited items almost seems random - it's as if some group of Israeli bureaucrats just flipped coins when determining what to let in and what to deny. But if you look more carefully at the list two patterns seem to emerge. The first pattern is that many of the things on the prohibited list are necessities to establishing Palestinian self-sufficiency - things like wood for construction, concrete, iron, plaster, tar, seeds, fabric for clothing, fishing rods, fishing nets, irrigation pipe systems, heaters for chicken farms, planters for saplings, nylon nets for greenhouses, sewing machines, horses, donkeys, goats, cattle, chicks, etc. Basically, Israel seems to be prohibiting many of the necessary items for self-sufficiency, thus making the Palestinians forever dependent upon Israel for the necessities of life. They're essentially saying "We will control you by making you dependent on us".

The second pattern you see on the prohibited list is that many of them are "luxury items" - things like chocolate, potato chips, biscuits and sweets, fresh meat, ginger, jam, nutmeg, sage, coriander, gas for soft drinks, newspapers, toys, etc. It's almost as if the rest of the list is a punitive prohibition of goods designed simply to make people's lives miserable. To me, Israel is basically saying "We will control you by making your lives as miserable as we can." Now, everyone with a clue knows that this is an attempt to get the people of Gaza to oust their current Hamas leadership (a noble goal to be sure), but I really don't think that it's within Israel's rights to prohibit goods that can't possibly pose a direct threat to Israel.

I think that Israel is really shooting themselves in the foot by banning goods that wold make the Palestinians self-sufficienct and/or their lives a little more tolerable, at least in the court of public opinion - and, in fact, in my own opinion. The legitimacy of the blockade of Gaza was absolutely clear in my mind before I came across this information but now (again, if the list is even remotely accurate - and one can't verify that precisely because a published list doesn't exist) I'm really beginning to question Israel's motives. Certainly their primary goal is to stop missiles being fired into their homes and schools, but I'd be pretty pissed off too if a foreign power were deliberately trying to prevent my people from becoming self-sufficient and/or just making our lives miserable.

So anyway, I thought you might want to hear an interesting counterpoint on the situation :-)

- A


>Thanks, that is eye-opening. Responses:

  1. I agree that it's hard (or at least a lot harder) to justify embargoing items that have no military application.

  2. I also agree the Israelis really ought to publish a list of what's forbidden - and why.

  3. Finally, I wonder if it's not self-defeating to try and make the long- and much-abused Palestinians in Gaza miserable until they oust Hamas.

The general principle of a blockade, against people who are constantly launching attacks at your civilian population centers, seems completely justifiable. (Another example of the international double standard here: Imagine any other nation in the world being told it had to allow unlimited and uninspected shipping of supplies to a neighbouring territory the government of which was constantly launching terror attacks on them.)

However, it does seem rather less justifiable in the light of these specifics. I imagine Israel could hold itself to a higher standard here.


Barnabas Palfrey


Thanks Michael, for making clear the manner of the Turkish convoy, and the mistaken label of "peaceful" to them. It brings out the Quaker in me. By contrast, the Irish Rachel Corrie ship – though no doubt full of angry people – appears to have had people on board not intent on either "martyrdom" or taking out Israeli soldiers.

If it is true, as a Guardian report suggests, that 70% of Gazans are dependent upon UN humanitarian relief then this must make Gaza a place of broken lives and dreams. And huge huge anger and hatred.

When the people of Gaza (and the West Bank) voted for a relatively uncorrupt government, the stupid, stupid, stupid outside world (US, UK, EU) refused to recognise the new government. Israel's stupidity in this regard is more excusable, but it was still idiocy. Of course not all Hamas are the same, any more than all of the IRA or Sinn Fein are or were the same.

I think there is a philosohpical, even spiritual, point at stake here. However angry or intractable your enemies are – even if some of them are intent on inexcusable violence against you – if you fail to see that some of them, perhaps many of them, could go on a journey to be your friends, or at least to recognise you as fellow human beings, then you have not yet become ready yourself for peace that recognises the humanity of the other side. (By contrast, witness Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness as First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland - a perfectly ordinary miracle)

I think there has been a basic failure to understand what Hamas is (and yes, I know people'll quote its charter to me -- tell me something I don't know: who cares, and what do you expect?)

I have heard it said that what is most hard to take for Palestinians is the constant trickle of little daily humiliations. These add together into robbing people of their dreams, and of their self-respect before themselves and their fellows; metaphorical spittings in the face, day in and out. In Gaza, this is done by remote control - since that rogue Sharon pulled his "disengagement" trick and withdrew (for most of the time) to the walls of the prison.

As an affluent society with powerful international backing, Israel can go on bunkering itself away against its neighbours, or it can start being courageous for peace. Last time someone tried that, of course, he got shot by the nutter-element that Israel has become too good at harbouring and humouring. And then they got that tosser who buggered that chance for peace up that time, and who's back in charge now, God help us.


I assume by 'the guy who was courageous for peace and got shot by a nutter', you mean Sadat. And by 'tosser who buggered up the chance for peace that time' you mean Arafat. ;^) We probably differ a bit (or perhaps a great deal) in our senses of who bears what responsibility for the current crappy situation.

However, I have no quibble at all with, and I deeply appreciate you pointing out, and I will print again here, this:

However angry or intractable your enemies are – even if some of them are intent on inexcusable violence against you – if you fail to see that some of them, perhaps many of them, could go on a journey to be your friends, or at least to recognise you as fellow human beings, then you have not yet become ready yourself for peace that recognises the humanity of the other side.


Barnabas Palfrey


we do disagree a little, yes – I visited briefly Bethlehem in 1998, at the end of several years of relative peace that Netanyahu had squandered. The students at the university said to us (a UK Council of Christians and Jews study tour) "peace process? what peace process?".

No doubt, some of these reasonable young people's frustrations were with the corruption of Arafat's PLO; but more immediately there was the Bar Homa Israeli settlement being built about 4 miles from the city; the constant stalling on moves towards the creation of a viable Palestinian state; the constant harassment of individuals and the effective economic blockade of their town, cut off from Jerusalem; the splicing of their land into bits by multi-lane highways built to bypass Palestinian centres of population on their way to little bits of Western suburbia laid out in existing and ever-growing illegal and inexcusable Israeli settlements. Spittings in the face, indeed.

However, it is typical of you to kindly and generously reprint my sentence about moving beyond demonising one's enemy. That is something to build on and I am very grateful for this. And thanks too for your efforts to show sides of things that too easily get lost or ignored amid the old cliches that we lazily turn to. Cheers,


And if two middle-class, Western, Anglophone, over-educated, philosophy-degree-holding, white boys can overcome their differences . . . isn't there hope for universal brotherhood yet? ;^)

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