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Palestinians in Gaza Photo: EPA
Palestinians in Gaza Photo: EPA
 
 

The truth about Gaza

Op-ed: NGO calling to end Gaza blockade distorting reality, ignoring Hamas terrorism

Anne Herzberg, Jason Edelstein
Published: 10.28.11, 00:12 / Israel Opinion

With the end of Gilad Shalit’s five years in captivity, political advocacy NGOs are grossly misrepresenting the facts in order to advance their own fringe agendas. This tactic was no more clear and egregious than in Sari Bashi’s “Time to lift the Gaza siege.”

 

Bashi employs selective memory to advance the specious argument that the sole reason for Israel’s imposition of sanctions on Hamas was retaliation for the capture of Shalit. Now that he is free, Bashi claims, Israel should allow for the unfettered movement of all goods in and out of Gaza.

 

Her argument is based on the faulty premise that Israeli policies are the only obstacle to “a chance for normal life in the Gaza Strip, and an opportunity for its million and a half residents to build a healthy, prosperous society that would be able to peacefully co-exist with its neighbors.”

 

Bashi seems to live in a world of her own invention, devoid of 10,000 rockets since 2005, suicide bombs, shooting attacks, kidnappings, and other terrorist attacks. Rather, this fictional world is apparently filled with a peaceful Hamas. While we, too, wish this to be true, it simply is not. To paraphrase the late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Individuals are entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

 

In 2005, Israel uprooted 8,000 citizens from Gaza in a bold, courageous and significant policy change intended to give the Palestinians there a chance to begin real state-building efforts, and to build a prosperous Gazan society that could live side-by-side in peace with Israel.

 

Instead of reciprocating with peace overtures, within days of the withdrawal, Gazans destroyed the now infamous greenhouse buildings that Israel left for them, and rocket and mortar fire on Israeli civilians substantially increased.

 

Hamas attacked many of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza that were used to transfer goods to the territory, forcing them to close in many instances. At other times, Hamas fighters commandeered these goods altogether for their own use. Hamas also attacked European Union officials who had agreed to oversee the border between Egypt and Gaza.These officials ran away at the first sign of intimidation.

 

Finally, in June 2006, Hamas crossed into Israeli territory, killing soldiers and abducting Shalit. In 2007, Hamas took complete control over Gaza in a vicious coup where its political Fatah opponents were thrown off 17-story buildings. Again, rocket attacks on Israel increased. It was only at this point when Israel hardened its economic policy towards Gaza.

 

Pointedly, Bashi fails to inform her readers of any of these events. Nor does she explain why her organization failed to regularly and outspokenly campaign against these blatant violations.

 

Condemn terrorism 

If Bashi really thought that Shalit’s abduction was the reason for economic sanctions on Gaza, then why didn’t her organization, Gisha, tirelessly campaign for his release? Why did she not repeatedly and loudly condemn Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli civilians or its murderous suppression of political opposition?

 

Moreover, why doesn’t Bashi acknowledge the funneling of arms and other materiel to Hamas by Iran and Syria? Why doesn’t she note that Israel is obligated under Security Council Resolution 1373 to prevent any direct and indirect support for Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization? And why don’t Bashi and Gisha condemn the core nature and principles of Hamas - a genocidal, anti-Semitic, radical terror organization that targets civilians with impunity and brutally exploits its own citizens as human shields to achieve its goals?

 

If Bashi really wants Gazans to have “a chance for a normal life”, why doesn’t she campaign to free them from Hamas?

 

One wonders if Bashi saw footage from Gaza and read the news reports in the days after Gilad Shalit returned home. Along with celebrations and speeches welcoming home murderers and calling for the “next Gilad Shalit,” she would have read the speech by Wafa al-Biss. Al-Biss, it should be noted, was caught at the Erez border crossing in 2005 with 22 pounds of explosives she was planning on using to kill Israelis.

 

Upon her release to Gaza she told a crowd of cheering schoolchildren, “I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.” The children responded, “We will give souls and blood to redeem the prisoners. We will give souls and blood for you, Palestine.”

 

Rather, it would be more productive if Bashi and Gisha stopped using hundreds of thousands of Euros provided by the EU and European governments to cherry pick human rights issues solely based on biased political and ideological agendas. They should strongly and consistently condemn terrorism. And Israel’s policy in Gaza should be presented and understood in a manner that reflects history’s realities and all the accompanying complexities, not in a distorted and oversimplified version that so blatantly seeks to achieve narrow policy goals.

 

Anne Herzberg is legal advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institution dedicated to promoting universal human rights and to encouraging civil discussion on the reports and activities of nongovernmental organizations, particularly in the Middle East.

 

Jason Edelstein is communications director of NGO Monitor.

 

 

 

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