Search Penny Hill Press

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Israel’s Blockade of Gaza and the Mavi Marmara Incident

Carol Migdalovitz
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retained controlled of its borders. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and later forcibly seized control of the territory in 2007. Israel imposed a tighter blockade on the flow of goods and materials into Gaza after its military offensive against Hamas in December 2008/January 2009. That offensive destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure, but Israel has obstructed the delivery of rebuilding materials that it said could also be used to manufacture weapons and for other military purposes. Israel, the U.N., and international non-governmental organizations differ about the severity of the blockade's effects on the humanitarian situation of Palestinian residents of Gaza. Nonetheless, it is clear that the territory's economy and people are suffering. 

In recent years, humanitarian aid groups have sent supply ships and activists to Gaza. However, Israel directs them to land at its port of Ashdod for inspection before delivery to Gaza. In May 2010, the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and the pro-Hamas Turkish Humanitarian Relief Fund organized a six-ship flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break Israel's blockade of the territory. The ships refused an Israeli offer to deliver the goods to Ashdod. On May 31, Israeli naval commandos intercepted the convoy in international waters. They took control of five of the ships without resistance. However, some activists on a large Turkish passenger vessel challenged the commandos. The confrontation resulted in eight Turks and one Turkish-American killed, more than 30 injured, and 10 commandos injured. 

Israel considered its actions to be legitimate self-defense. Turkey, whose nationals comprised the largest contingent in the flotilla and the casualties, considered them to be unjustifiable and in contravention of international law. There was near universal international condemnation of Israel's actions. The U.N. Security Council in a U.S.-Turkish compromise condemned "the acts" that resulted in lost lives and called for a impartial inquiry. 

The Obama Administration tried to walk a fine line between two allies, Israel and Turkey, and not allow the incident to derail efforts to ameliorate relations with Israel in order to protect Israeli- Palestinian talks now underway. However, its restrained reaction displeased Turkey, and may contribute to that country's ongoing pursuit of a more independent foreign policy course. Turkish- Israeli relations, which have been deteriorating for some time, have reached a low point. All sides, especially the Palestinians, would be relieved if a creative solution could be found to enable Israel to ease or lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, while continuing to prevent shipments of weapons and dual-use items to Hamas.

Date of Report: June 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41275
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.