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Unseizing Gaza

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister says Blockade of Gaza Was a “Mistake and Not Effective”

In an interview with National Public Radio aired on August 30, 2010, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that the three-year blockade on most foodstuffs and other materials was "a mistake" and that "denying different items or products into Gaza was not effective." 

For three years, Israel and Egypt, supported by the United States and the European Union, have restricted travel and trade and have allowed only the most basic humanitarian aid into Gaza as collective punishment for the Palestinians of Gaza electing Hamas as their government.  The purpose of the siege, blockade, quarantine of Gaza is to put pressure on the people to overthrow the government of Hamas.

But, sieges and sanctions seldom effect the change that other governments want.  Instead, the sanctions make life miserable for the average citizen while the political elite live their lives with little impact. The United States has had a 50 year blockade on Cuba to get the people of Cuba to revolt against Fidel Castro and the revolution-and it didn't work.  The ten years of sanctions on the people of Iraq didn't result in their taking up arms against Saddam Hussein's regime.  And the ever increasing sanctions on the people of Iran are doomed to fail in the same way-they are all "ineffective" for the purposes for which they were created-putting such economic, medical and daily food pressure on civilians that they will take up weapons against their own heavily armed military force.

I went to Gaza three times in 2009 and after each trip tried to get our United States government to respond to the extreme conditions caused by the blockade which were greatly deepened by the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli pounding of Gaza that killed 1440, wounded 5000 and left 50,000 homeless and most water and sewage infrastructure in rubble and most industries destroyed.  Israel said its actions were to stop the thousands of homemade unguided rockets from Gaza that have killed 30 Israeli citizens in six years.  However, the disproportionate use of force on Gaza by the most sophisticated, high-tech military in the region that receives $3 billion in military aid from the United States each year, elicited condemnation from human rights groups, but little from governments.

The partial lifting of the blockade came because of another Israeli disproportionate use of force, this time on the passengers of the May 2010 Gaza flotilla.  It took the Israeli killing nine persons and wounding 50 others and the resulting outrage of citizens of the world that forced their governments finally to strongly condemn Israel's actions and demand that Israel to end its  blockade.

Tragically, it was not the long history of deaths of Palestinians during the siege (particularly 1440 killed in 22 days) that brought pressure on the Israelis to change their policies, but the deaths of internationals on the flotilla.

Ayalon commented that the Gaza flotilla "expedited" the decision to ease the blockage but that he believes "the decision would have come up anyway," and added, "Action like a flotilla certainly is trying to put Israel in a no-win situation."   

Tens of thousands of citizens from all over the world are funding ships for the second flotilla (, including a ship to represent the citizens of the United States (

As a survivor of the Gaza flotilla, I can assure Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon that there will be a second flotilla to continue to pressure the Israeli government to totally end the blockade of Gaza and break down the walls to the open air prison called Gaza. 

It will be a win for the people of Gaza and for us all.

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Ann Wright

Ann Wright

Ann Wright is a 29 year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.  She is the co-author of the book "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."  (


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