Good may yet come of this tragedy for Gaza
Good may yet come of this tragedy for Gaza

Good may yet come of this tragedy for Gaza

It is easy to condemn Israel's attack on a flotilla of aid bound for Gaza as unnecessary, ill-conceived and disproportionate. What is harder to do – but what must now be done – is understand how this incident is an indictment of a much broader policy toward Gaza for which the wider international community bears responsibility.

For years, many countries have been complicit in a policy almost as misguided as Monday's raid: they have been trying to isolate Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas. The spectacular failure of this policy is matched only by the remarkable tenacity with which many continue to support it.

The Gaza Strip suffers from sky-rocketing unemployment and poverty, and lacks medicine, fuel, electricity, food, and other essential commodities. While Israel has legitimate security concerns about Hamas diverting imported material for military use, nothing justifies a blockade that amounts to little more than collective punishment imposed on Gaza's population, and most likely only serves further to radicalise it.

Yet many of the countries around the world that have now rightly condemned the Mediterranean raid themselves play a role in the deplorable treatment of Gaza that formed the backdrop to Monday's events. The policy of isolating Gaza, seeking to turn its population against Hamas, and endorsing a "West Bank first" approach was not exclusively an Israeli one. To focus on this recent tragedy is to miss the wider and more important political lessons.

Opening the humanitarian tap would be an important step, but it is not a sufficient answer to a policy whose fundamental premise is morally callous and politically counter-productive.

The challenge is not at its roots a humanitarian one. It is, and has always been, political, so political choices – about how to deal with Gaza, Hamas and the possibility of a new Palestinian government – will have to be made. Trying to undermine Hamas since it won elections in 2006 has very clearly not worked. Doing so on the back of the population of Gaza is wrong. International policy toward Gaza is in need of thorough re-examination.

The objective should be to open up Gaza to normal traffic while shutting down arms smuggling or the illicit diversion of goods through end-use monitoring by an independent body with international membership. More broadly, it is time to move toward a policy of engaging Hamas rather than ignoring it.

This week, we witnessed the sad outgrowth of a failed and dangerous political approach: not just by the Israeli government but by many others as well. If anything positive can come from this crisis, one hopes it at least provides an opportunity for a long-overdue course correction.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen is welcomed by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank June 14, 2022. Mohamad Torokman / REUTERS

Realigning European Policy toward Palestine with Ground Realities

Events in 2021 – particularly the Gaza war – put in sharp relief how much Europe’s policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs a refresh. The European Union and its member states should use the levers they have to push for their stated goal of a peaceful resolution. 

  • Share
  • Save
  • Print
  • Download PDF Full Report