Again, shipment to Gaza masks terror supplies
Again, shipment to Gaza masks terror supplies

Those cruel, blockading Israelis! 

Once again, Israel has blocked a shipment into Gaza.  Perhaps the Palestinian residents of Gaza just wanted to go swimming in the Mediterranean or be able to birdwatch in the Gazan dunes.  After all, who wouldn’t want to break their boring daily life under siege? Yet the heartless Israeli authorities, enforcing their iron grip on the residents of Gaza, recently intercepted a shipment of innocent, sporting - like scuba diving gear - and other “dual purpose” goods that would have brought a little light to the dark lives of Gazans.

That’s what you can expect UNWRA and pro-Palestinian human rights groups and their media supporters to report. The truth, however, is different. Very different.

To appease international criticism, the Israeli government allows numerous trucks with supposedly “humanitarian” items to enter Hamas-ruled Gaza each day.  In keeping with the policy set by Israel, an average of 800 trucks enter the Gaza Strip each day.  They carry food, medical equipment, fuel, building materials, and more.

We are told by Israel’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) authority that these “goods are crucial for the Gazan economy and the needs of the civilian population. Building materials are used for constructing and renovating houses, public institutions and international projects; medical equipment assists in the activities of hospitals and clinics; fuel and gas contribute to the development of the energy sector; and these are only partial examples.”

It’s a big risk, because Hamas repeatedly has exploited Israel’s kindness by using the humanitarian shipments as means of smuggling in materials that can be used for terrorism. They did it again earlier this month.

Examining a shipment of goods bought on-line and destined for Gaza, Israeli border inspectors at the Erez crossing point discovered “military and electronic equipment such as skimmers, knives, scuba gear, drones and satellite communications equipment and binoculars,” according to the media.

Almost three years ago, five Hamas terrorists in scuba diving suits swam ashore at Israel’s Zikim Beach, north of the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, they were intercepted and killed by Israeli troops before they could reach their target. The Israeli authorities have not forgotten that incident and are on the outlook for attempts to smuggle scuba equipment to Gaza.

Perhaps the most important revelation about how Hamas smugglers have taken advantage of Israeli—and American—kindheartedness came from Dennis Ross, in an August 8, 2014, op-ed in the Washington Post.

Ross served as a senior aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and as Middle East director on the National Security Council during 2009-2011. Those were the years when Hamas was starting to build tunnels to enable its terrorists to reach Israel from Gaza, and the Israelis began restricting the importation to Gaza of building materials that could be used for the tunnels. So, the Obama administration sent Ross to the region--to pressure Israel.

In his Washington Post op-ed, Ross admitted what he did: "I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools and basic infrastructure could be built. They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right."

Assured by the Obama administration's insistence that the cement would not be used for terror, Israel allowed it to be imported. The result? Hamas built "a labyrinth of underground tunnels, bunkers, command posts and shelters for its leaders, fighters and rockets," Ross acknowledged. They built them with "an estimated 600,000 tons of cement," some of which was "diverted from construction materials allowed into Gaza." 

Those arguing for the lessening of restrictions on Gaza need to learn from Ross’s mistakes. Don’t give Hamas the benefit of the doubt. Don’t pressure Israel to permit extra “humanitarian” shipments to Gaza. Because concrete for homes can also be concrete for tunnels, and innocent-looking sports equipment can be—and has been—used for terror.

As we light our Hanukkah menorahs this year to recall a miracle from more than 2,200 years ago, let us also be grateful to those who stand today on the front lines performing miracles along Israel’s border with Gaza.  They are today’s Maccabees.

Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight For Justice Against Iranian Terror now available on Kindle.