Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound shipment of chemicals used to make rockets was not just another stroke of good fortune. It shatters everything that critics have been claiming for years about Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza.
I put the word “blockade” in quotation marks because it’s a policy that is constantly, and deliberately, misrepresented.
A typical example: a New York Times article earlier this year matter-of-factly stated that Israel “maintains a blockade on Gaza.” That wording falsely indicated that Israel maintains a general blockade that prevents all imports to Gaza.
In reality, Israel’s restrictions concerning Gaza do not prevent the entry of food, medicine, or other purely civilian goods. Those items flow across the Israel-Gaza border daily.
An August 8 report in The New York Times took it a step further. It claimed that Israel “prevents most people from leaving the territory.” That’s nonsense. According to a recent United Nations report, “Movement in and Out of Gaza in 2022,” last year “the Israeli authorities allowed… 424,417 exits” from Gaza, and “the Egyptian authorities allowed…144,899 exits” from Gaza.
Except during security emergencies (caused by Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks), more than 18,000 Arab laborers go back and forth between Gaza and Israel every day.
Does Israel actually have a blockade on Gaza?
The only thing that Israel’s “blockade” actually blocks is the entry of weapons and dual-use items that could be used for military purposes.
Given the fact that the Hamas regime which rules Gaza is committed to Israel’s destruction and regularly launches terrorist attacks against the Jewish state, interrupting the flow of weapons to Gaza is simply self-defense.
The latest interception illustrates the problem quite clearly.
A shipment from Turkey, bound for Gaza, was making its way through Ashdod Port when customs officials became suspicious. The shipment, two containers weighing 54 tons, appeared to consist of sacks that were labeled “gypsum,” a soft mineral used as fertilizer and to make plaster and chalk. Very innocent looking. For civilian purposes, it seemed. But not everything was as it seemed.
Hidden between the piles of gypsum sacks were 16 tons of identical-looking sacks containing something very different – ammonium chloride, a chemical used by terrorists in Gaza to manufacture rockets. Sixteen tons would help produce a lot of deadly rockets to fire at Israeli kindergartens.
Not that this is the first bitter experience Israel has had with such “dual-use” items. US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross has admitted to making a catastrophic mistake concerning the entry of cement to Gaza.
A senior aide to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2009, Ross pressured Israel to let Hamas bring cement into Gaza.
Here’s how Ross recalled the episode in a Washington Post op-ed on August 8, 2014: “I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools, and basic infrastructure could be built. They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right.” That admission came six years too late.
Hamas used the cement to construct “a labyrinth of underground tunnels, bunkers, command posts, and shelters for its leaders, fighters, and rockets,” Ross acknowledged. They built the tunnels with “an estimated 600,000 tons of cement,” some of which was “diverted from construction materials allowed into Gaza.”
So yes, Israel’s limited restrictions on what can enter Gaza are reasonable and necessary. It’s elementary self-defense, based not on some theory but on real-life experience, as the latest events prove once again.
The writer is president of the Religious Zionists of America (RZA) He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. Note: The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.