The lie of the “Gaza blockade”
The UN, the Palestinian Authority and others are apparently devoted disciples of Mark Twain, who reputedly once quipped: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
In a literally unending list of publications, the United Nations insists on referring to the ostensible Israeli “blockade on Gaza.” Relying on these UN statements, others then further embellish the fallacy by claiming “Gaza is the biggest prison in the world.” Both descriptions are used as a means to attack Israel and depict the Gazans as trapped victims of Israeli policies.
The UN rhetoric is then mimicked by the Palestinian Authority leadership. For example, when addressing the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee to ask the international community for donations, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh spoke about the need to end the “harsh siege on Gaza.”
What makes Twain’s comment so relevant is the fact that statistics published by none other than the UN itself disprove their own claim.
Situated between Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza has one main crossing point with Egypt, namely the Rafah crossing, and one secondary crossing – Salah Al-Din crossing. Both people and goods pass through the Rafah crossing while the Salah Al-Din crossing is limited to the transfer of fuels and goods. Gaza also has two crossing points with Israel, the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. While the Erez crossing is used for people to cross into Israel, the Kerem Shalom crossing is used for transferring goods/fuel/and other things.
Despite the claims of the UN and PA PM Shtayyeh, according to the website of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the so-called “occupied Palestinian territory” (OCHAoPt), in 2021 alone there were 358,366 exits from and entries into Gaza. These figures refer only to the movement of people and are additional to the movement of goods and fuels.
When broken down, the UN figures show that the 2021 movements included 100,246 exits and 80,684 entries via the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and 90,421 exits and 87,015 entries via the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel.
In 2019, there were approximately 522,000 exits from and entries into Gaza (140,000 exits and entries into Gaza via Rafah and approximately 382,000 exits from and entries into Gaza via the Erez crossing).
Even in Corona stricken 2020, when global travel was restricted, there were still approximately 173,000 exits from and entries into Gaza (50,000 exits and entries through Rafah and approximately 123,000 exits and entries through the Erez crossing).
The movement of people to and from Gaza via the Rafah and Erez crossings is separate from the movement of goods and fuels which enter and exit Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah and Salah Al-Din crossings and to and from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Critics may argue that while there are hundreds of thousands of entries and exits to and from Gaza, the number of people moving is far less than the number of people requesting permits and thus Israel’s policies still constitute a “blockade on Gaza”.
Criticism of this nature is as empty as the claim itself.
Firstly, Israel is not responsible for the policies of Egypt.
Secondly, there is no legal or moral requirement that Israel be singled out as the only country in the world that is required to have open borders. Israel, similar to every other country in the world, is entitled to decide who, how many, when, and under what conditions, foreigners are allowed to enter its territory. Gaza is governed by an internationally designated homicidal terrorist organization that as recently as May 2021 fired 4,500 rockets at Israel, indiscriminately targeting Israel’s civilian population. Declaring an Israeli “blockade of Gaza” simply because Israel does not agree that an unlimited amount of Gazans - and among them numerous possible terrorists who enter with the purpose of harming Israel - be allowed in to Israel is simply ludicrous.
Others may also criticize the Israeli maritime blockade of Gaza. These critics can be answered by referring them to the pertinent comments of the Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, which, before finding that “Israel’s naval blockade was legal” noted:
“At this juncture, a word of clarification is necessary. The naval blockade is often discussed in tandem with the Israeli restrictions on the land crossings to Gaza. However, in the Panel’s view, these are in fact two distinct concepts which require different treatment and analysis. First, we note that the land crossings policy has been in place since long before the naval blockade was instituted. In particular, the tightening of border controls between Gaza and Israel came about after the take-over of Hamas in Gaza in June 2007. On the other hand, the naval blockade was imposed more than a year later, in January 2009. Second, Israel has always kept its policies on the land crossings separate from the naval blockade. The land restrictions have fluctuated in intensity over time but the naval blockade has not been altered since its imposition. Third, the naval blockade as a distinct legal measure was imposed primarily to enable a legally sound basis for Israel to exert control over ships attempting to reach Gaza with weapons and related goods. This was in reaction to certain incidents when vessels had reached Gaza via sea. We therefore treat the naval blockade as separate and distinct from the controls at the land crossings.”
[Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident]
Since the UN itself has certified the legality of the naval blockade of Gaza, and since it appears to have had little impact on the movement into and from Gaza, surely the UN cannot hold that Israel alone is prevented from using legitimate legal tools that all other countries in the world can use.
Accordingly, since figures published by the UN itself negate the claim of the “blockade on Gaza”, whether it be from the Israeli or the Egyptian side, the question must be asked: Why does the UN perpetuate the lie?
The following are the graphs that appear on the website of OCHAoPt: