On Oct. 9, the only power station in Gaza received its first supply of fuel from Qatar, part of a $60 million aid package. The tankers that delivered it entered the strip via Israel, and against the wishes of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who threatened to cut off financial transfers to Gaza in retaliation. Prior to the influx of fuel, Gazans were getting about four hours of electricity a day.
On Friday, thousands of Gazans gathered at the Israeli border, as they have been doing every week – and, increasingly, every day – for months. They hurled incendiary kites, grenades and bombs, and Israeli media reported that, for the first time, Israeli soldiers were being targeted with crossbows. One group blew a hole in the border fence, and three people ran through – right toward Israeli troops, who shot and killed them. A day later, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman suspended the Qatari fuel transports. “We have exhausted all existing options,” he said.
That was something of an understatement. The Netanyahu government could have easily pointed at Abbas’ rationale for protesting the humanitarian aid to Gaza – that doing so only legitimizes terrorist enterprise. Instead, it tried to do something positive. What other country at war would show that sort of compassion to its enemy?
Perhaps that’s why little was made of Friday’s deaths in the media: there was simply no way to blame Israel this time. For months, critics scoffed that the border “marches” were no threat to Israel, that Israeli soldiers were injuring and killing innocent protesters, that the border was not in danger. Even when those assumptions were proven false – by the grenades and flying firebombs hurled over the fence, by Hamas’ repeated exhortations to break through the fence – Israel was still the bad guy. Then what Israel said would happen happened, and there was no other way to spin the story.
Israel was right to act to keep out the enemy infiltrators from Gaza. It will, however, likely receive less support for attempting to keep Lara Alqasem out of the country.
Alqasem is the Palestinian-American who arrived Oct. 2 with a student visa to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem before being ordered deported based on her previous involvement in the boycott movement against Israel. There is no disputing that she was formerly the president of the Students for Justice in Palestine group at the University of Florida, and an Israeli judge upheld the deportation order on that basis. But on Sunday, Israel’s Supreme Court stayed the ruling. It will hear her case later this week.
Alqasem has promised not to engage in any boycott activities while studying in Israel (and Hebrew University is backing her), but that was not enough for Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who demanded she also publicly renounce BDS. Israel has every reason to be cautious about activists who arrive intending to cause trouble, but it’s not entirely clear that’s the case here. We have Alqasem’s promise that she is in Israel for study purposes alone – and if she is true to her word, why not let her stay? Maybe she’ll even learn a thing or two.