Because of “national security,” the Israeli government does not allow cement and other building materials to enter the Gaza strip; as Peter Kenyon reports “They’re very concerned about the Islamist Hamas movement using building materials, steel, cement and certainly other things that could be turned into weapons or used for military purposes.” The bulk of the Rachel Corrie’s cargo was cement.
Wednesday: Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to the US: “the organizers of the flotilla repeatedly rejected Israeli offers to transfer its cargo to Gaza once it was inspected for military contraband…in the recent past, Israeli forces have diverted nine such flotillas, all without incident, and peacefully boarded five of the ships in this week’s convoy. Their cargoes, after proper inspection, were delivered to non-Hamas institutions in Gaza.”
Yesterday: IDF Naval officer on the radio with the Rachel Corrie: “It has been brought to my attention that should it result in the way I proposed, of you coming into Ashdod under escort and offloading the cargo in Ashdod Port, the cement that you said is the bulk of your cargo will be transferred to Gaza. That’s the assurance I have just been given by my superiors. To the best of my knowledge that would be precedent setting. It would something you could take back to your supporters, to your fellow passengers, to the people you say you want to support, and to the government you say you are rebuking for not doing more for Gaza,” a Navy officer said during a radio exchange on Saturday.
Today, after the Rachel Corrie refused the offer: “Israel refused to allow 500 tons of cement into the Gaza Strip transported by Irish ship Rachel Corrie on the basis that Hamas will use it for military purposes. This comes after Israel raided the Rachel Corrie earlier in the day and diverted it to the port city of Ashdod.”
* * *
The point is not, of course, that Israel broke their word; whether or not they would have allowed the cement to reach Gaza if the Rachel Corrie had agreed to the proffer from the IDF naval officer quoted above, the point is that these aid convoys are forcing Israel into an impossible position. They can either allow the cement in — and relax the rules of the blockade — or they can continue to enforce a bloackade that’s manifestly not, in any way, about stopping the flow of military weaponry to Hamas. In other words, it’s a demonstration that when Ambassador Michael Oren said — in a NY Times column whose mendacity has to be read to be believed — that “Our struggle is not with the people of Gaza but only with the radical regime that overthrew the legitimate Palestinian Authority and has pledged to seek Israel’s destruction,” he is lying. If the Israeli government’s struggle was with Hamas — whose democratic election was probably unfortunate, certainly predictable, and by no means an “overthrow” — then they wouldn’t fucking be embargoing fucking cement. But it’s a demographic war they’re fighting, so of course they’re attacking houses and children.