Speaking to the Orthodox Union earlier this week, Chuck Schumer offered a revealing policy rationale for the Gaza blockade—it’s collective economic punishment of the local population:
“The Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Torah, in David, in a Jewish state, in a two-state solution. More do than before, but a majority still do not. The fundamental view is, the Europeans treated the Jews badly and gave them OUR lad – this is Palestinian thinking .. You have to force them to say Israel is here to stay.”
“The boycott of Gaza to me has another purpose — obviously the first purpose is to prevent Hamas from getting weapons by which they will use to hurt Israel — but the second is actually to show the Palestinians that when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement. When there’s total war against Israel, which Hamas wages, they’re gonna get nowhere. And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go makes sense. “
I find these sentiments disgusting, but I don’t want to jump all over Schumer with the condemnations too quickly. The important thing in the first instance is to say that it’s good to debate this issue honestly. The Gaza blockade isn’t a security measure designed to prevent Hamas from getting rockets. It’s a collective punishment aimed at making civilians’ lives miserable, while avoiding mass starvation. You can make a case for that if you like, but that’s what you’re making the case for. I’ll note for the dozenth time that the majority of the residents of the Gaza Strip are children, so the moral logic here seems to be particularly grizzly. A policy undertaken with this rationale also seems to be clearly in violation of international humanitarian law.
In contrast to his proposed remedies, Schumer’s critique of Hamas policy is sound. At the same time, the political party currently governing Israel is also opposed to a two-state solution and the current Prime Minister of Israel is seeking settlements and land-seizures rather than peace. To the best of my knowledge, Schumer’s view is that the correct U.S. policy response to Likud governance is for America to make Israel our largest recipient of foreign aid.