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In Praise of Blockades

Israel upholds an honorable tradition.

Jun 14, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 37 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The Royal Navy’s blockade of Napoleon, most famously led by Lord Nelson, protected England from invasion and laid the groundwork for the liberation of Europe. Lincoln’s blockade of the South helped win the Civil War, preserve the Union, and end slavery. John Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba forced Khrushchev to withdraw nuclear weapons from that island and contributed to the eventual successful outcome of the Cold War.

In Praise of Blockades

Photo Credit: Newscom

The history of blockades by free nations is an honorable one. Israel’s blockade of Hamas-run Gaza—a blockade that, unlike some of the above, permits the delivery of humanitarian and civilian aid—stands in that tradition. It preserves a tenuous peace in the short run. And it may result in the liberation of Palestinians from Hamas’s dictatorship, and prevent their exploitation by a terror-supporting Iranian regime, in the longer run.

Israel withdrew from Gaza almost five years ago. Three years ago, Hamas took over in a military coup. Since then, Israel and Egypt have blockaded Gaza to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, which has launched missiles into Israel and which is committed to the killing of Israelis and the destruction of the state of Israel. Last week, Hamas sympathizers sought to break the blockade. Israel acted to stop them. It has nothing to apologize for. The blockade prevents Hamas, and its backer, Iran, from triggering a larger war from Gaza. It isolates Hamas and allows for continued progress on the West Bank. Israelis live in (relative) safety. The people of Gaza continue to have access to the necessities of life.

The Palestinian Authority owes Israel thanks for keeping Hamas at bay. The Palestinian people owe Israel thanks for weakening Hamas. The Arab states owe Israel thanks for controlling Hamas and curbing Iranian influence. The Europeans owe Israel thanks for denying Iran a port on the Mediterranean.

Israel will not receive public thanks from any of these entities. Nor, it appears, can Israel expect a full measure of understanding and support from the government of the United States, which one would have hoped would be less timid than the Palestinian Authority, less intimidated than the Palestinian people, less hypocritical than the Arab states, and less sanctimonious than the Europeans.

But the United States these days is under unusually timid, intimidated, hypocritical, and sanctimonious leadership. Such a failure of leadership is not just disappointing. It is dangerous. According to one reliable reporter of the administration’s views, writing in the Washington Post, “The Obama team recognizes that Israel will act in its interests, but it wants Jerusalem to consider U.S. interests, as well. The administration has communicated at a senior level its fear that the Israelis sometimes ‘care about their equities, but not about ours.’ ”

This shows the Obama administration does not understand U.S. interests and equities. And it shows the administration does not understand that its pathetic desire to split the difference between the forces of civilization and the forces of terror simply emboldens our enemies—our enemies, not just Israel’s enemies. Our weakness makes the world more dangerous. The forces of civilization retreat.

What can be done? Congress can speak for America. Congress can stand with Israel, expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself. And Congress can act. Congress can demand that we pull out of the farcical U.N. Human Rights Council, and can deny the use of any U.S. funds for the biased, Alice-in-Wonderland-type “investigation” authorized by that council in a resolution that already includes a condemnation “in the strongest terms” of “the outrageous attack by the Israeli forces.” And for that matter Congress could authorize the shipment of weapons and materiel to Israel to help enforce the blockade.

But it is not just a matter of congressional resolutions and pressure on the Obama administration. American political leaders can speak up. We survived the Carter presidency partly because men like Ronald Reagan and Scoop Jackson gave our friends hope a better day was ahead.

The dispute over this terror-friendly flotilla is about more than policy toward Gaza. It is about more than Israel. It is about whether the West has the will to defend itself against its enemies. It is about showing (to paraphrase William Gladstone) that the resources of civilization against terror are by no means exhausted.

—William Kristol


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