Crisis in the Holy Land: Israel and the Gaza blockade

The May 31, 2010, crisis over the Israeli boarding of a ship filled with activists trying to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian-run Gaza Strip caused serious ramifications for religious groups in the Middle East and in the United States.


The raid by Israeli commandos sparked violence between the soldiers and the people aboard the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in a six-ship flotilla bound for Gaza, and left nine protesters dead — including one American of Turkish descent — and several Israelis injured. Groups protesting the blockade that had worsened already terrible conditions for the 1.5 million residents of Gaza made another attempt aboard a ship called the Rachel Corrie, but were stopped by Israeli forces without incident on June 5, 2010.

The confrontation inflamed simmering passions in the Arab and Muslim communities, prompted fierce debates and defenses among Jews, and caused different groups in American Christianity to declare themselves on the side of the Palestinians or of Israel, which seemed to have suffered a serious diplomatic and public relations setback in the wake of the raid.

The crisis also coincided with the one-year anniversary (June 4, 2009) of President Barack Obama’s historic address to the Muslim world from Cairo. That speech was seen as “re-booting” U.S. relations with Muslims that had been so badly damaged in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and the ensuing American-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

But many analysts saw the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as undercutting Obama’s standing in the Muslim world, as this June 4, 2010, Christian Science Monitor story explains.

This source guide provides resources for journalists covering the crisis and a list of stories representing religious voices weighing in on the debates.

Additional information

Related source guides