Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. FlatowCourtesy

Stephen M. Flatow is President-elect of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian Ara terrorist attack in 1995 and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.

I have often criticized the New York Times’s coverage of Gaza. But when they’re right, they’re right—and this week, they finally got Gaza right. Well, mostly.

The most common flaw in the Times’s reporting on Gaza concerns the Israeli blockade against weapons entering that territory. The Times frequently reports merely that Israel “maintains a blockade on Gaza,” without explaining what it prohibits from entering, and why.

But an August 8 article by Times Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley and his colleague Iyad Abuheweila for once explained what the partial blockade of Gaza actually does: “The blockade restricts the importing of goods, including electronic and computer equipment, that could be used to make weapons…”

Israel doesn’t prevent humanitarian goods, such as food or medicine, from entering Gaza. It doesn’t prevent 18,000 laborers from going back and forth between Gaza and Israel every day. It doesn't prevent Gazans entering Israel for medical procedures unavailale in Gaza. It just keeps out weapons and items that could be used for military purposes.

Israel has had some bitter experience with such “dual-use” items—especially cement. U.S. Mideast envoy Dennis Ross has admitted making a catastrophic mistake concerning the entry of cement. Catastrophic, that is, for Israel.

As a senior aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009, Ross pressured Israel to let Hamas bring cement into Gaza. Here’s how Ross recalled the episode in a Washington Post op-ed on August 8, 2014: “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.” That admission came six years too late.

Hamas used the cement to construct “a labyrinth of underground tunnels, bunkers, command posts and shelters for its leaders, fighters and rockets,” Ross acknowledged. They built the tunnels with “an estimated 600,000 tons of cement,” some of which was “diverted from construction materials allowed into Gaza.”

So yes, Israel’s partial blockade on Gaza is reasonable and necessary. It’s elementary self-defense, based not on some theory but on real-life experience with Hamas.

If Kingsley and Abuheweila had stopped at that point in their New York Times article, all would have been well. Instead, however, they added one more half-sentence about the blockade—and got it totally wrong.

The Israeli blockade also “prevents most people from leaving the territory,” they reported. That made it sound as if Israel has turned Gaza into some kind of hermetically-sealed ghetto.

But that’s false. Don’t take my word for it—just consider what even the United Nations, hardly a friend of Israel, has admitted. A recent UN report titled Movement in and Out of Gaza in 2022 acknowledged that last year, “the Israeli authorities allowed…424,417 exits” from Gaza, and “the Egyptian authorities allowed…144,899 exits” from Gaza.

So—yes, Israel blocks weapons from getting into Gaza. But no, it doesn’t stop people from leaving Gaza. Perhaps the fact-checkers at the Times should look into that one.