The signers of this letter included Keith Ellison, of Minnesota’s 5th district (including Minneapolis and St. Louis Park), Betty McCollum, of Minnesota’s 4th district (representing St. Paul), and Jim Oberstar, from the 8th district (Northeastern Minnesota).
As detailed in the Huffington Post, the letter demands that Israel permit people to go from Gaza to Israel freely, and provide “plentiful and varied food,” access to construction materials and spare parts, plus a whole long list of other things. (As a side note: Egypt has blocked its border with Gaza as well, but for some reason, nobody cares about that border. Nobody’s writing any letters to force Egypt to feed its neighbors… and they aren’t even trying to destroy Egypt. I wonder why?)
Now here is what I want to know – since when does a country not get to determine who does and does not get to enter its borders? Funny, last I checked, I get my passport checked every time I enter the United States, and if I were not a US citizen, technically, I could not be allowed in. In fact, we have a whole huge “immigration debate,” predicated on the very idea that we get to decide who we allow into our country or not.
And last I heard, it was a pretty generally accepted idea that most countries get to decide who to trade with, too. If we don’t want to trade with China, or Mexico, or Cuba – we don’t have to. In fact, the United States has banned trade of anything with Cuba for 5 whole decades – half a century of not trading anything to or from Cuba, just because we don’t like their leader and form of government. And they aren’t even actively trying to kill us.
Israel currently supplies Gaza with electricity, fuel, and much of its water – all from Israel directly, and supplied by the Israeli government! To a state that keeps sending missiles on Israeli towns. But I suppose unless the food supplies in Gaza are “varied and plentiful,” Israel must be forced to trade with its neighbor, attempts to destroy it be damned.
I suppose it’s really easy for Representatives Ellison, McCollum and Oberstar to cry “look, the poor Gazans, they’re suffering – Israel must be forced to help them!” The thing is – when you look at the facts on the ground – and I mean really look at them, not just read a couple of papers you get in Washington – things are not all that simple.
For instance: the letter signatories demand that Israel provide Gaza with medical products. Sounds totally simple, right? I mean, what could be more basic than medical supplies? Nobody could possibly argue with that!
Well, back in 2009, Israel sent medicine manufactured in Israel to Gaza as humanitarian aid – and Hamas used the medicine bottles as grenades against the Israelis! The Israeli medicine bottles were filled with explosives, and sent right back to Israel to kill Israeli soldiers. Under such circumstances, how can Israelis possibly be expected to continue providing items that will just end up being used to kill them? And we’re talking about medicine bottles here – we haven’t even started talking about bricks!
We have bombs washing up on the beaches in Israel – well north of Gaza – that are traced back to innocent-looking fishing boats from Gaza setting them afloat when they go out to fish freely. And we have Iranian ships being stopped by Egyptians and Europeans that are smuggling tonnes of weapons – automatic rifles, grenades, explosives, Grad rockets, and ammo – to Gaza when the borders are free and open.
So yes, Palestinians in Gaza are suffering – you’ll get no argument there from me. But it is not Israel’s fault that they are. It is Hamas – their own, democratically elected government – that is causing their suffering. And it is therefore their own responsibility to make it right – it is not Israel’s responsibility to make it right, just because they happen to be there. Slate magazine recently went out and spoke to Palestinians living in Gaza, and here is what they heard:
“Hamas is terrible for us…They only help those who support Hamas.”
“[W]hen Fatah was in charge here, people were working and had money. There were no shortages, and, most important of all, we could leave Gaza.”
“We tried Hamas, but now we have to get rid of them … And because of Hamas, the international community has imposed a siege on us.” She then abruptly ended the conversation, saying she was worried that Hamas might hurt her or her children.
So yes – there is suffering in Gaza. And Hamas is a big part of the cause.
If nobody was making bombs out of medicine bottles, maybe Israel could send in medicine. If nobody was trying to sneak into Israel with explosives under their coats to blow up innocent people in restaurants, perhaps it would be easier for Palestinians to travel to Israel.
But Israelis are afraid, and they have sadly been given too many reasons to be afraid of the Palestinians, and just like our airport security right here at home – they have no choice but to impose all these measures on the many in order to stop the murderous few. And it isn’t pretty – but this situation was not of Israel’s making.
The letter writers don’t like the “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.” Terrific. But how exactly do they suggest fighting against a (democratically elected) government without in any way inconveniencing its people? These people elected Hamas, knowing full well that Hamas stood for terrorism and a war of destruction against Israel. This is the course they chose to support, and we cannot treat them as innocent bystanders to this whole conflict. Without the support of people, there would be no Hamas; without their proud parents and celebratory funeral parades in the streets, there would be no suicide bombers – so yes, the proud parents end up paying a price as well.
I would love to hear any of the representatives mentioned above address these questions. Give us your brilliant solutions. But we aren’t hearing any solutions here. Nobody is addressing the tough questions of how do you expect Israel to actually deal with the daily threats of suicide bombers trying to sneak in from Gaza, the grenades made out of medicine bottles, and the constant barrage of rocket fire.
What do you suggest they do, if you don’t like what they are doing? Nobody is offering to put the US army in Gaza to keep the peace and protect Israeli civilians from harm – I don’t see anyone jumping up to do that job, even though I’m sure Israel would be happy to welcome all comers. All they manage to come out with is: “we don’t have any answers to help you, but let’s stop Israel from doing what they’re doing anyway!” But until they have some suggestions for what Israel can actually do to protect itself, Israel will just have to go on doing the best it can on its own.
I wonder if these enlightened representatives of ours had been around in 1945 they’d be petitioning for Dresden? It’s very convenient for other Arab nations to let Gaza rot, while they drown in oil riches. If the Arab League wanted to make Gaza the next Dubai and let the desert bloom, they had the chance after Israel unilaterally withdrew. But never let a good crisis go to waste right? Let Israel look bad and the whole world points their fingers while ignoring the Sudan, Kurdistan, Tibet, Western Sahara, Basque Country, Chechnya, and so on. How clever….
Bravo, Jenna! Your “Debating Israel’s New Border Cops” is the most eloquent response I’ve read yet to the decision of 3 members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Israeli families and embrace the bizarre logic of Hamas apologists. I’m especially stunned by Cong. Betty McCollum’s ongoing antipathy toward the Jewish state of Israel — the only nation in the Middle East that shares the DFL’s values of human rights, religious tolerance, diversity and democracy.
On second thought, bravo TC Jewfolk!
These are great questions and points made. Perhaps Congressman Ellision will address them on Friday night. He will be speaking at Mount Zion during Shabbat Services. His topic is “The Peace Process: A View from Gaza.”
Thank you Jenna for another excellent piece and for pointing out the infuriating double standard: that American leaders feel free to dictate to Israel what her border policy should be, but to Egypt, who has sealed its border with Gaza, they have….. no comment.
Well written column. Very insightful. Thank you for your efforts to show clarity on subjects which are so clouded by much of the media.