Gaza blockade

From Juan Cole

The humanitarian impact of Israel’s electricity blockade of the Gaza Strip. Raw sewage in the streets, which will soon seep into houses; asthmatics choking; hospitals on the verge of switching off life support.

Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group is eloquent in the Boston Globe/ IHT on why this Israeli tactic is self-defeating.

But more important than whether it is practical or not, it is a war crime.

Punishing the innocent many for the actions of a few is indeed a war crime.


  1. From the BG editorial: “A cease-fire goes against today’s prevailing theory. But it is the theory itself that goes against logic.”

    They should really get out more. I’m baffled as to why, after all the evidence to the contrary, people still think extremists are making mistakes when they antagonize their enemies. The only logic for this perspective seems to be the mistaken idea that we want peace so they should, too. And thirty-odd years of post-modern history is apparently not enough to disprove the notion.

    If antagonizing the enemy (or the enemy’s constituency) had no payoff, they’d stop doing it. But they don’t. Time after time, in war after war around the globe, leaders attack civilians on the other side– and we convince ourselves they’re making a mistake.

    From George W. Bush to Al Queda to Hamas to Zionists to Mahinda Rajapakse… the list goes on. They do it because it works– not to get them their public goals, but to continue a conflict that they need to reach their real goals (which are rarely as selfless). The LTTE raised this method to a fine art– and as they lose ground militarily, I guarantee we will see a return to such tactics. Extremists benefit from war, and attacking the other side’s civilians is a great way to prepetuate that war. True, some are less good at it than others. But as a tactic, it is tried and true.

    Cynical? You bet. But this paradigm explains extremist behavior, while thinking they’re making an endless series of mistakes doesn’t.

    I admit it took me some years and a good deal of field work to realize this. When I explain it to people, they either react with denial, or they see the logic of it– and yet forget as soon as the next extemist attack comes. “They’ve made a mistake,” I hear again. No, they haven’t. They’re doing exactly what they need to do to get what they want– it just isn’t what they say they want, or what we think they should want.

  2. I agree up to a point. But sometimes one side or the other loses, so their tactics didn’t help them at all. Plus, decisions like these can often be made out of blind rage or a desire for vengeance rather than cold calculation.

  3. They can be– but such leaders don’t usually stay in power long. The extremist leaders who survive any length of time are those who use the tools of violence well.

    At present in Sri Lanka, the LTTE has lost a lot of ground on the battlefield. They can’t compete in a conventional war against an army twenty times their size. But strategically, though a setback, the losses are not nearly as significant as the government makes them out to be, because LTTE can gain support by forcing the government to oppress the people they’ve now conquered. (Soon the people will forget that last year the LTTE was their oppressors.)

    The recent losses to LTTE leadership, however, must be painful. That’s an interesting case: the government claims it’s a blow that will help defeat the LTTE, but ultimately it will have the opposite effect because they’ve killed off the more moderate voices. The LTTE extremists will shun real peace, and the war will continue. An accident? Hmm.

    My paradigm: if someone consistently acts in a manner contrary to their goals, then for purposes of analysis, prediction, and strategy, their goals are irrelevant. Put another way: actions speak louder.

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