Why the blockade must end
By: Keith Ellison
It seems as though each day brings new horrors and heartbreaks in the Mideast hotspot. More than 1,600 dead. Gazan children blown up on the beach. A UN shelter hit. It is important to understand that many Gazans who have no association with Hamas view the return to the way things were as unacceptable.
These people aren’t rocket shooters or combatants. For the past several years they have lived in dreadful isolation. The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom.
This is not an attractive future. Gazans want and deserve the dignity of economic opportunity and freedom to move. This can be accomplished only with an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which must be considered within the framework of a lengthier cease-fire. Israelis likewise deserve to live free of rocket fire and terror attacks. In order for Israelis to live safely and securely in their homes, Hamas must give up its rockets and other weapons.
I have traveled to Gaza three times since 2009 and have visited hospitals and schools there. As I have talked with ordinary Gazans, I have not encountered anyone representing Hamas. During one visit, I had the opportunity to meet Scott Anderson, deputy director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Anderson, a 21-year veteran of the US Army, said it best when I spoke to him again this week: “Unless there is material change to the status quo, you’re just resetting the clock for another cycle of violence.” Continuing to block goods and services to and from Gaza keeps the keys to opportunity away from the people who just want to live, work and travel.
Israel and Egypt also view the blockade as a success because it pushed Hamas into a financial crisis. This is short-term thinking. It ignores the fact that the economic devastation from the blockade weakens the public and private sectors in Gaza and strengthens extremists and smuggling enterprises. Repression and deprivation fuel terrorism; economic development and inclusion can fuel long-term peace.
The international community, especially nations in the region, should help Gazans rebuild their demolished homes and businesses. But who will invest if war will predictably break out every two years?
There is no military solution to this conflict. The status quo brings only continued pain, suffering and war. Promoting economic development and social interaction in Gaza is in the long-term security interest of Israel and the rest of the region.
(The writer, a Democrat, represents Minnesota’s 5th District in the House of Representatives.)