Sitting at lunch yesterday with friends, someone challenged me to think of a plausible scenario that might break the suffocating siege on Gaza.
Many around the world are commiserating with the Palestinians stuck behind closed borders. Students can’t travel to universities to continue their studies and risk losing their scholarships. Patients can’t travel abroad for life-saving medical procedures. I can’t even mail a box of books to the university in Gaza.
Egypt has closed its only border with Gaza at Rafah and has destroyed most of the tunnels which were the illicit, yet vital, lifeline between Gaza and the rest of the world.
Israel has 4 crossings with Gaza but only one of them is for PEOPLE. Another crossing is ostensibly for commercial cargo trucks to bring in supplies for 1.7 million people in Gaza. I wonder about the other 2 crossings.
In July 2013, a UN human rights official urged the end of the blockade. The UN issued a report that estimated that Gaza has had a total economic loss of over $76 million since the blockade began.
The UN report also included an assessment which indicates that 57% of people in Gaza do not have money to buy sufficient food and 80% of families receive some form of international aid.
So here’s my idea for ending the blockade.
- Forget changing the hearts and minds of the Israelis, Egyptians or Americans (whom I believe enable and encourage the blockade to continue.) Of course, I’m not talking about average citizens but their governments who enforce policies to maintain the blockade.
- Forget any airlifts into Gaza like the Berlin airlifts in 1948-1949. Israel maintains tight control over Gaza’s airspace and destroyed Gaza’s runway years ago.
- I think the United Nations (or some international group of nations and organizations) should plan to launch a flotilla to the Gaza seaport to bring in vital medical supplies and books, and then ferry passengers from Gaza to Cyprus or Crete where they can catch flights to other destinations. A permanent ferry system should be established, ideally with daily trips in each direction. The U.N. could address Israel’s “security” concerns by taking responsibility for the immigration and emigration documents, at least until Palestine is declared a state on its own. The U.N. could address travelers’ concerns about a potential repeat of the Mavi Marmara massacre by deploying U.N. observers on ships to accompany the ferries, at least for the first few months until the ferry service had safely been established. And some of the $$millions that Qatar generously donated to Gaza could be redirected to restoring a fully functioning seaport that can accommodate large ferries and eventually cargo ships and cruise liners.
There. That’s my solution to the blockade. Please tell me what you think.