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July 17, 2014

Israel: In 1967 Blockades Were Acts of War, in 2014 They’re Totally Awesome

You probably assume there’s nothing funny about the Israeli attack on Gaza, with the death toll among Palestinians currently at 230. (One Israeli has also been killed.) But that’s where you’re wrong, if you just ignore the human suffering and enjoy the hilariously sanctimonious hypocrisy of nation states.

Two days after Israel and Hamas first started shooting on July 7th, Hamas proposed a ceasefire agreement. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007, and Hamas wanted it lifted in return for a cessation of hostilities. Israel ignored this ceasefire proposal, and instead proposed a ceasefire with no lifting of the siege.

Hamas rejected this, which – according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki – apparently makes every death on either side from now on their fault. (When asked about the killing of four Palestinian children on the beach yesterday, Psaki emphasized that Hamas was "putting their own people at risk” by not accepting the ceasefire.)

But how did Israel come to occupy Gaza in the first place? Well, in the Six Day War in June, 1967 Israel conquered Gaza (along with the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai).

Israel shot first in the Six Day War, and, as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin later explained, it was a “war of choice” and there was "no proof" that Arab countries were going to attack them.

So what justification did Israel give at the time for shooting first? They said that in fact they hadn’t started the war, because Egypt had already started it by blockading an Israeli port several weeks before. Here's what Abba Eban, then the Israeli Foreign Minister and later the recipient of the Israel Prize, said to the UN General Assembly on June 19, 1967:

The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through armed violence. Never in history have blockade and peace existed side by side. From May 24 onward, the question who started the war or who fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant. There is no difference in civil law between murdering a man by slow strangulation or killing him by a shot in the bead. From the moment at which the blockade was imposed, active hostilities had commenced and Israel owed Egypt nothing of her Charter rights. If a foreign power sought to close Odessa or Copenhagen or Marseilles or New York harbour by the use of force, what would happen? Would there be any discussion about who had fired the first shot? Would anyone ask whether aggression had begun?

So that's the funny part:

By Israel’s standards, Hamas has been entitled (since the start of the blockade in 2007) to invade Israel and then occupy it for forty years.

Maybe Hamas officials should start pointing this out. They can direct curious reporters to the only place I can find Eban's speech online, the website of the Israel Defense Forces:


—Jon Schwarz

Posted at July 17, 2014 05:46 PM

speaking of things that are funny if you ignore the human suffering, how 'bout those bumbling anti-kiev forces in eastern ukraine? they shot down a plane and killed a lot of people - but it wasn't the plane they thought it was, and the people they killed weren't the ones the wanted to kill - truly a comedy of errors, once you set aside the sad aspects of the situation

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 17, 2014 06:38 PM

I think there's a little more gray area on the ceasefires. I don't agree on a lot with the Jewish Daily Forward but as J J Goldberg (who celebrates punishing the Palestinian "crime family") recently pointed out: usually ceasefires only get agreed on when both sides can claim victory. It follows that if both sides think they will get what they want through violence they won't be too interested in ceasefires.

Hamas and Likud both need to pull their governments to the right to maintain their influence. This last ceasefire was created without any input from the Palestinian negotiators, which the Jerusalem Post actually celebrated, along with the Egyptian dictator. The Hamas proposed ceasefire last week was at the height of the Israeli government's hysteria. Even though their conditions enforce international law, it would have been a huge victory for them but not for the Israeli government, and I think they knew that.

One other correction: the blockade of Gaza technically started in 2007 but there was very severe bombing and a naval blockade in 2006.

Posted by: Lewis at July 17, 2014 07:27 PM

Gaza and the West Bank are not sovereign states so Israel uses that as a way to avoid legal obligations.

Posted by: lasdkfj sdnfdudn at July 18, 2014 12:08 AM

And the bloody excuse the Israeli govt uses for the deaths of innocent civilians..... ( for all the believers of God, how is their God going to forgive those committing these horrors??... killing children!!!!.... for heaven's sake!! I do not understand it at all ... ).


Posted by: rupa at July 18, 2014 11:40 AM

Just in case anyone's curious about what the Hebrew says on that screencap:
[...] the blockade of the straits, while the first bullet in the war was shot by Israel on the morning of 5 June, 1967.
The Israeli position on this issue was described well at the time by the then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abba Eban, using his eloquent language, when he spoke to the special session of the General Assembly on 28 June 1967.


And he cites J.R. Gainsborough, “The Arab-Israeli Conflict”, A Politico-Legal Analysis, 1986 (pages 81-94, 104-105, 126-164) for that quote.

(And if you come across stuff in Hebrew, I'm always glad to help out, Jon. ShunraCat on Twitter. DM as needed.)

Posted by: Dena Shunra at July 18, 2014 12:36 PM

@Dena Shura
Thank you! It is always good to understand every word in Jon's blog.

And here is the interesting part.....
133. The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through armed violence. Never in history have blockade and peace existed side by side. From 24 May onward, the question who started the war or who fired the first shot became momentously irrelevant......



Posted by: rupa at July 18, 2014 02:42 PM


And if anyone wants to hear him speak a few words.....


Posted by: rupa at July 18, 2014 02:47 PM

Blockades kill..... so do shells and bombs.....
Not to be missed.......


Posted by: rupa at July 18, 2014 11:30 PM

And Norman Finkelstein points out that Israel didn't have a right to start the 1967 war because people need to understand that Israel is the aggressor and the agenda is imposing a racist state on as much of Palestine as they can get away with. Israel's attack in 1967 was part of that agenda. Chomsky points out how Zionists fabricate history: "It is not even controversial that in 1967 Israel attacked Egypt … to convert it into an Arab invasion is rather audacious — or would be, if the practice were not routine." -Chomsky, Deterring Democracy Chapter 6
Menachem Begin admitted: "In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."
General Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces:
"I do not believe that Nasser wanted war. The two divisions which he sent into Sinai on May 14 would not have been enough to unleash an offensive against Israel. He knew it and we knew it." (Le Monde, February 28, 1968 )
If you read Norman Finkelstein's book "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict" you can learn that Israel wanted another war and rejected attempts to prevent it. "U.N. Secretary-General U Thant proposed (with the support of Israel's closest allies, the US and Canada) the repositioning of UNEF on the Israeli side of the border", Israel rejected this.
And the history shows that Israel was rejecting the diplomatic attempts to address the Straits, Egypt accepted but Israel rejected a special mediator to deal with the situation. "Reaching Cairo just after the blockade was announced, U Thant elicited a "very significant" (his words) assent from Nasser to a new diplomatic initiative: the appointment of a special UN representative to mediate the crisis, and a two-week moratorium on all belligerent acts in the Straits. Israel peremptorily rejected both of U Thant's proposals." "Nasser repeatedly expressed willingness to submit the Straits dispute to the World Court" Israel REFUSED.
"Alongside U Thant, the U.S. also tried its hand at mediation in late May and early June. Nasser agreed to send his vice-president to Washington to explore a diplomatic settlement BUT "Just two days before the Egyptian's scheduled arrival, however, Israel attacked." Israel wanted war, not mediation, and it used anything it could as an excuse to attack.
What right did Israel have to the Straits of Tiran anyway? They were opened by force when Israel attacked Egypt in 1956. Nasser had every right to close them as Nasser said he did because Israel continued to refuse to honor the UN resolutions calling on it to allow the Palestinians refugees expelled during the 1948 war to return home. (Israel was accepted into the United Nations on condition that it accept the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees.)
Israel had no right to launch a war of aggression in 1956 and then get rewarded for it by being allowed to use the Straits. "Indeed, President Eisenhower had delivered perhaps the most impassioned defense of the principle that Israel’s withdrawal must be without conditions, asking rhetorically if: ”…a nation which attacks and occupies a foreign territory in the face of United Nations disapproval should be allowed to impose conditions on its withdrawal?” p. 137 Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict
The UN should not reward aggressors, the UN could not 'condone a change of the status juris resulting from military action contrary to the provisions of the Charter' p. 137 Image And Reality And Israel had continued its aggression against Syria, Egypt was under no obligation to help Israel by allowing it to ship through the Straits. Even a claim of a "right of free passage" doesn't include shipping supplies to facilitate military aggressions. Egypt's case was very strong and Israel knew it stood a real chance of losing its claim of a right of passage had the issue been decided on a legal basis.
BTW, Israeli aggression is part of a pattern which started "immediately after the armistice agreements of 1949, Israel began encroachments into the demilitarized zones along with military attacks with many civilian casualties and the expulsion of thousands of Arabs" p. 101 Fateful Triangle, Updated Edition : The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Search my blog for links to sources)

Posted by: Tom Murphy at July 19, 2014 08:34 AM

I received this from a friend in Israel. it will make you cry.......

Dearest friends -

The last night was extreme. The "ground invasion" of Gaza resulted in scores and carloads with maimed, torn apart, bleeding, shivering, dying - all sorts of injured Palestinians, all ages, all civilians, all innocent.

The heroes in the ambulances and in all of Gaza's hospitals are working 12-24hrs shifts, grey from fatigue and inhuman workloads (without payment all in Shifa for the last 4 months), they care, triage, try to understand the incomprehensible chaos of bodies, sizes, limbs, walking, not walking, breathing, not breathing, bleeding, not bleeding humans. HUMANS!

Now, once more treated like animals by "the most moral army in the world" (sic!).

My respect for the wounded is endless, in their contained determination in the midst of pain, agony and shock; my admiration for the staff and volunteers is endless, my closeness to the Palestinian "sumud" gives me strength, although in glimpses I just want to scream, hold someone tight, cry, smell the skin and hair of the warm child, covered in blood, protect ourselves in an endless embrace - but we cannot afford that, nor can they.

Ashy grey faces - Oh NO! not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out - oh - the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shovelling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes,cannulas - the leftovers from death - all taken be prepared again, to be repeated all over. More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here - almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors - all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterdays hospitals.But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.t

And as I write these words to you, alone, on a bed, my tears flows, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief, of anger and fear. This is not happening!

An then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now: salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down on the shores, the roaring F16, the sickening drones (Arabic 'Zennanis', the hummers), and the cluttering Apaches. So much made and paid in and by US.

Mr. Obama - do you have a heart?

I invite you - spend one night - just one night - with us in Shifa. Disguised as a cleaner, maybe.

I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.

Nobody with a heart AND power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.

But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another "dahyia" onslaught on Gaza.

The rivers of blood will keep running the coming night. I can hear they have tuned their instruments of death.

Please. Do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.


Gaza, Occupied Palestine

Mads Gilbert MD PhD
Professor and Clinical Head
Clinic of Emergency Medicine
University Hospital of North Norway
N-9038 Tromsø, Norway
Mobile: +4790878740

To all the readers of this blog.....
PLEASE demand that this horror be stopped NOW.Thank you.

Posted by: rupa at July 20, 2014 10:18 AM

no cops along the route.... absolutely peaceful...


Posted by: rupa at July 21, 2014 10:03 AM

rupa - congratulations for participating in that protest march

jon - best wishes for you in your new position:

"The new digital magazine to be launched by Matt Taibbi as part of First Look Media today announced that Elspeth “Elle” Reeve and Jonathan Schwarz will join in senior positions. As a senior writer Reeve will work with Taibbi and executive editor Alex Pareene to help build the digital magazine. Schwarz will be responsible for helping reporters to conceive, design and produce original content."

more at

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 21, 2014 02:46 PM

WOW! Congrats Jon!
The WORLD WIDE WEB will light up like the skies on New Year Day of 2000!!


Posted by: rupa at July 23, 2014 01:26 PM