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Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The New York Times confuses "embargo" and "blockade"

I've discussed previously the inaccuracy of the term "embargo" to describe the U.S. stance towards Cuba, and the accuracy of the term "blockade." Some, however, object, because the blockade in that case is conducted by laws, not by an encirclement of naval ships.

In the case of Israel's control of Gaza, however, there really is no such cause for confusion, because in that case there is a very real naval presence enforcing a blockade. But, when it comes to a ruling class organ like the New York Times, even that isn't sufficient, as we see today:

The Israeli Navy intercepted an Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid for people in Gaza, Iran’s state-run radio reported Tuesday.

The Iranian ship was stopped 20 miles off the coast of Gaza, according to the radio report, which also said that the ship, carrying food and medicine, left the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas two weeks ago.

The ship did not receive permission to pass through the Israeli embargo of Gaza.
Embargo? From Dictionary.com:


An order of a government prohibiting the movement of merchant ships into or out of its ports.
The isolating, closing off, or surrounding of a place, as a port, harbor, or city, by hostile ships or troops to prevent entrance or exit.
So what do you think? Do Israeli ships qualify as "hostile ships" preventing entry to Gaza, or is Israel just prohibiting the movement of ships into "its" ports? The answer is obvious. Except, evidently, to the New York Times.

Is this mere linguistics? Hardly. A blockade is an act of war. An embargo is not. That's quite a difference.

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