The kibbutzniks blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza – Mondoweiss

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The issue of Israelis physically blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza has been reported in the mainstream media over the past few months. In March, CNN’s Clarissa Ward reported on Israeli right-wing activists seeking to block the crossings into Gaza where humanitarian aid was being transported in with their bodies. Ward pushed back on the demonstrators’ claims that the rice bags were being filled with bullets by explaining that Gazans were dying of starvation, to no avail. 

On Friday, the Biden administration issued a selective sanctioning of the primary organization blocking the aid “Tzav 9” — meaning “Order 9,” a name alluding to the Israel military reserve call-up order. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller commented:

“For months, individuals from Tzav 9 have repeatedly sought to thwart the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, including by blockading roads, sometimes violently, along their route from Jordan to Gaza, including in the West Bank… We will not tolerate acts of sabotage and violence targeting this essential humanitarian assistance… We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to promote accountability for those who attempt or undertake such heinous acts, and we expect and urge that Israeli authorities do the same.”

But the idea implicitly promoted here that “Tzav 9” are the only bad actors to blame is highly misleading. The blocking of humanitarian aid is only aided by these activists — it is the Israeli government which is the main party using starvation as a weapon against the whole Gaza population. It’s a key part of its genocide. 

In her report, Clarissa Ward noted correctly that a recent Israeli Democracy Institute poll showed that 68% — over two-thirds — of Jewish Israelis, oppose humanitarian aid to Gaza. The poll actually showed 80% among right-wing voters (who constitute about 2/3 of the population). And it didn’t matter if Hamas and UNRWA were excluded from supplying the aid — they still opposed it. In other words, the protesters of “Tzav 9” are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, these right-wing activists have now been joined by another notable group: Kibbutzniks who are also blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza with their bodies. 

The kibbutz society in Israel is typically known for its left-wing socialist vein. But since the beginning, it is and has been instrumental in Israeli colonialist takeover and apartheid. As The Kibbutz Movement’s chair, Nir Meir, said recently, “The settlers aren’t wrong. The right-wing is correct: That is the way to seize and hold land, and their claim that, any place we Israelis leave, the Arabs will come in our place, is correct. The right is also correct in its path: It’s by settlement and only by settlement that sovereignty can be imposed.”  

On Sunday, the Israeli centrist daily newspaper Maariv reported that videos were now circulating of kibbutz members who were also blocking humanitarian help. The embedded video features two men from kibbutz Sdeh Boker (actually Ben-Gurion’s kibbutz), and they are activists in the “Koah Kaplan” — the “Kaplan Force,” the organization protesting the current government. It is named after Kaplan Street in Tel-Aviv, where the main demonstrations have taken place. The Maariv video, which they say may be from February, shows the kibbutz members’ blocking of trucks at the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza, and that “Tsav 9” has confirmed that “Kaplan Force” was part of the effort to block aid in recent months. 

Here’s what the two activists say in the video:

“I’m Boaz Sapir from kibbutz Sdeh Boker, I’m here to pass on a clear message…the message is that there is no right or left, that all the kidnapped return, alive.”

“I’m Gilad Shavit from kibbutz Sdeh Boker, together with Boaz… I’m coming to bring the message, that the kidnapped belong to the whole nation of Israel, the whole nation of Israel wants to return the kidnapped, but the government has forgotten this for a moment. It is not possible — we will not give any [humanitarian] assistance to the Hamas, as long as the kidnapped are not returned — that’s our message.”

That very message was also voiced early on in the genocide, by the man who has recently been elected to lead the Israeli Labor party — Yair Golan

Golan came into Labor from the left, having been part of the Meretz party, which failed to make the electoral threshold in the November 2022 elections. On October 13, Golan advocated for starving Gazans outright: 

“First of all, close all the electricity switches to Gaza. I think that in this battle, it is forbidden to allow a humanitarian effort. We need to say to them: listen, until the [captives] are released, from our side, you can die from starvation. It’s totally legitimate.”  

In its report, Maariv asks the obvious question: “Will the American government enact sanctions upon ‘Kaplan Force’ activists?”

I think we all know the answer. The Biden administration is not going to sanction a movement that represents Israeli “democracy,” since it ostensibly fights the government and demonstrates a political plurality in Israel. 

Biden wants to get away with symbolic gestures like in March, when he sanctioned four settlers “that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank”. Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi remarked:

“It’s a little bit like there’s a raging fire, they pour a cup of water on it, and at the same time they’re providing gasoline to fan the flames… Sanctioning a few individuals who are part of a settlement drive that has been backed by the Israeli government for fifty-six years is absurd in and of itself. You either sanction the multibillion-dollar driver of this, which is the Israeli government and American tax-free donations, or you don’t pretend that you’re opposed to settlements.”

The U.S. should be preventing genocide, not playing games with sanctions on this or that organization. Israel as a whole is committing this genocide. Instead, Biden is only going after the low-hanging fruit of far right-wing actors, a symbolic act while continuing his policy of unwavering support for the Israeli genocide. 

The Israeli kibbutzniks, often held up by liberal Democrats as the best of Israeli society, are no different from “Tzav 9” when it comes to blocking life-saving aid to Palestinians in Gaza. And their words and deeds reveal just how genocidal Israeli society is as a whole.   

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