Following Israel's interception of the "Freedom Flotilla" on the Mediterranean Sea, news outlets reported on condemnations of Israel for the ensuing violence. Some have said that the passengers on the flotilla's IHH Mavi Marmara ship are to blame for the deaths of nine passengers after attacking Israeli commandos with clubs and knives.
No one was hurt on five other ships on which passengers peacefully surrendered.
Yet, there's a relevant question which rarely is addressed in the news coverage of the incident: Would an end to the blockade soften the position of Hamas leaders toward peace?
In the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, Stanford University Professor Joel Brinkley called such a notion "utterly naïve." He noted:
"Hamas leaders are single-minded, heedless of anything but their generational crusade. Could there be better evidence than Hamas' refusal to accept the aid unloaded from the flotilla ships, tons of it - denying their people all of that food and medicine, preferring instead to make a political statement?"
Brinkley also called out the selective outrage that comes with any incident involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the flotilla issue dominates headlines and diplomatic circles, gunmen in Pakistan killed 12 people in their hospital beds on the same day. The shooting victims had survived attacks on two mosques that killed 93 other people. The slaughter barely drew a peep in international condemnation. That prompted Brinkley to wonder:
"Imagine for a moment that the activists had decided to storm Egypt's gates to Gaza instead and, when Egyptian troops tried to stop the aid caravan, activists assaulted the soldiers with iron rods and knives. If the Egyptians shot and killed nine people in the ensuing melee, do you think the U.N. Security Council would be dropping everything right now to rush through a resolution condemning Egypt? Certainly not."
Meanwhile, few people question what Hamas is doing while the world focuses on the flotilla. Veteran award-winning journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reports that little of it is helping the civilian population in Gaza:
"Ever since it seized control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, Hamas has imposed a reign of terror on the local population in general and its critics in particular. Hamas has brought nothing to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip other than death and disaster."
Little attention was given to Hamas's raid on NGOs in the Gaza Strip days after the flotilla incident, Toameh writes. Hamas security agents confiscated documents, computers and other equipment, and ordered the offices closed indefinitely. Hamas provided no explanation for their actions. Palestinian human rights groups were outraged.
Furthermore, Toameh argues, "Under Hamas, the Gaza Strip is being transformed into a fundamentalist Islamic entity resembling the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan." He adds:
"Instead of searching for ways to improve the living conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, Hamas is busy enforcing strict Islamic rules on the population, such as Hamas policemen, for example, often stopping men and women who are seen together in public to inquire about the nature of their relationship."
In each column, the point can be made that the flotilla's aim of breaking the embargo on Gaza merely strengthens the hand of Hamas rather than helping the people in need.
"Those who wish to deliver aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can always find better and safer ways to do so - either through Israel or Egypt. But those who only seek confrontation with Israel in the sea are only emboldening Hamas and helping it tighten its grip on the people of Gaza Strip."
And Brinkley asks:
"'We want to break the siege of Gaza,' the Free Gaza Movement says. In the process, do they want to 'free' the leaders of Hamas? Last week, these leaders made their position clear. They fired four missiles into Israel, toward Ashkelon and Sderot." (Hyperlink added).