Remove the blockade

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves after a signing ceremony of H.R. 3230 August 7, 2014 at Wallace Theater in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

Now in its eighth year, the medieval blockade of Gaza appears to have only just caught U.S. President Barack Obama’s attention.

Although the current truce between Israel and Gaza appears to be surviving, lasting peace will only be possible if the roots of the problem are tackled.

Otherwise, every couple of years, Israel, itching for a war, will find a suitable excuse. Catalysts could, theoretically, come every day. Enough different excuses were used for this most recent “operation” against Gaza, a war by any other name, and one which left at least 430 Palestinian children dead. First it was the three murdered Israeli teenagers, then it was the rockets from Gaza, and then it was the tunnels.

And there were casualties on the other side too – 64 Israeli soldiers were killed, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai citizen. This is the highest military death toll since Israel’s 2006 war against Lebanon. Does Israel want to keep repeating this cycle of events?

“Long-term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world,” Obama said, adding that the Palestinians needed to see “some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off.”

But they do not just “feel” walled off, they are literally so, unable to get out by land or sea or to bring necessary basic goods and medicine in. Until they are able to live any semblance of a normal life, how can anyone expect Gazans to cease digging tunnels or launching rockets? Maintaining the blockade gives them an excuse to continue doing both.

Words, not actions, are needed now. The bloodshed must stop, and removing the blockade is the first step to doing so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2014, on page 7.




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