Debunking the Gaza Siege Myth

This May, thousands of activists on a convoy of ships, one of which is named after the extreme left-wing American activist, Rachel Corrie, killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003, plan to sail to the coastal territory in the context of breaking the widely popularized myth of the Gaza siege.

On March 18th, just three days after a man was killed by a Gaza rocket in the Negev, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Gaza Strip and told the people of Gaza: "We stand with you." Ban called for an end to the so-called Israeli siege of the terrorist-controlled territory, saying it was causing "unacceptable suffering of human beings."

Without questioning the apparent Gaza suffering, one has to ask what siege Ban is referring to, when, in 2009 the IDF Spokesperson reported that 738,576 tons of humanitarian aid was transferred into the Strip.

The UN claims there is a siege when it has given $200 million to Gaza following a military operation that left 1,300 dead and wounded among a population of less than 1.5 million, and yet has only given $10 million to Haiti after the natural disaster there claimed the lives of an estimated 230,000. Of course, that is without noting that Haitians have not been attacking an innocent nearby civilian population for nine years.

International humanitarian aid has been flowing freely into the Strip for years, and in no way stopped after Operation Cast Lead, as 30,576 aid trucks entered the territory in 2009 while in the same period, 4,883 tons of medical equipment was also transferred to it. This past month during the week of April 11-17th 500 trucks of over 17,000 tons of humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip.

The Strip has been called "the world's largest open-air prison" allegedly because its residents are not able to leave the territory. But in 2009, 10,544 Gazans and their companions left for medical treatment in Israel. This past month during the week of April 11-17th nearly 500 patients and companions crossed from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment, while another over 100 Gaza residents crossed into Israel for other reasons, and roughly 200 internationals crossed in and out of the Gaza Strip.

The UN continues to promote the myth of a siege while failing to promote it has pumped $200 million into the Strip following last winter's operation.

In an UNRWA report titled, "An assessment of needs six months after the war", it became clear that of the $300 million it planned to give Gaza, it had already transferred close to $200 million.

Some US politicians as well, such as Congressmen Keith Ellison and Brian Baird, both of whom visited Sderot with the Sderot Media Center in February 2009 to see the impact of the rocket fire on the civilian population, have both promoted this myth by publicly calling for Israel to end its siege on Gaza and in this effort Ellison visited Gaza through the Egyptian border earlier this month.

They must be ignoring the fact that in Sharm el-Sheikh last year US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allocated $900 million in aid to the Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead. At the same time, a USAID and Department of Defense report calculating the aid sent to Haiti as of last month put the figure at just over $700 million - nearly $200 million less than the Hamas-controlled territory.

Tragically, the international community has bought this media myth about some Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip while ignoring the facts and most of all equivocating this supposed siege to the obvious humanitarian crisis.

In a press conference April 23rd, UNRWA President John Ging reiterated Ban's message that the current aid to Gaza is just "a drop in the bucket" to what is needed. However, the UN gave the grossly disproportionate $200 million in aid, their 2010 Emergency Appeal report estimates that over 60% of people in Gaza are "food insecure" with the World Food Programme reporting that over 90% of households are receiving food assistance. Proven by the UN statistics there is no siege on Gaza, therefore the world should be asking where all the aid money is going because there is clearly still a humanitarian crisis.

Over a year has passed since Operation Cast Lead, and more than 340 rockets and mortars have hit Israel from Gaza in that period. Five minutes away from the Erez crossing, Ban and the thousands of international activists sailing to the Gaza Strip should visit southern Israel and Kibbutz Netiv Ha'asara, where a foreign worker was killed by a Kassam rocket this March, or Kibbutz Nirim to see where a rocket destroyed a building the week before, instead of working to promote this media myth of a Gaza siege.