More than 50 members of the United States Congress affixed their signatures to a letter last week demanding that President Obama do more to pressure Israel to lift security restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2006. According to the letter:
"The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your broader Middle East peace efforts."
Unsurprisingly, a collection of Islamic organizations have praised the news. While groups such as the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the American Task Force on Palestine, and American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights were simply repeating their frequently heard anti-Israeli message, members of Congress should know better.
The "blockade" referenced in the letter, limiting the movement of people, weapons, and supplies to the Gaza Strip, was put in place as a result of the election of Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Now, ignoring the effectiveness of these measures, a bi-partisan coalition from Congress has come out criticizing Israel's attempts to ensure the safety of its citizens.
Despite recognizing the need for Israel to engage in self-defense "out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups," the authors of the letter take issue with the methods that both the Israeli and Egyptian governments have utilized.
While it may be true that the availability of humanitarian assistance has been hampered as a result of the security restrictions, the benefits of such measures vastly outweigh any costs. For instance, partly as a result of the restrictions imposed on Gaza, there was not a single suicide bombing within Israel during all of 2009. Additionally, the number of rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip has declined by approximately 75% since the imposition of the blockade. In asking for renewed availability of construction materials and fuel, the Congressmen ignore the fact that these supplies are frequently used in the construction of weapons, not houses.
Despite the efficacy of the security measures, some members of Congress remain critical. In calling for the lifting of these restrictions to relieve the suffering of Palestinian people, they ignore critical facts. While the Palestinian people may be suffering, that pain can be attributed to the repressive terrorist regime running the Gaza Strip. Rather than support the Palestinian people, the easing of these security procedures would have the effect of propping up the Hamas government rather than aiding the Palestinian people it claims to represent.
Their message might be better targeted at Hamas leaders, calling on them to abandon their obsession with violence and confrontation at the expense of their own people's well being.