Posted by on August 04, 2010 in Blog
Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are trapped in Gaza, with 4 out of 5 depending on humanitarian aid agencies for basic necessities. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the suffering inflicted on the people of Gaza by the blockade as "unacceptable." The blockade's purpose was not merely to keep weapons out of Gaza, but was deliberately designed to target the civilian population of Gaza, with bans on things like potato chips, soda pops, pasta, and other things that clearly posed no security threat. The arbitrary nature of the ban on items was highlighted in a report put out by over a dozen humanitarian and human rights organizations at the end of 2009, which noted that ""particular fruits allowed in one day as ‘essential' can easily be branded ‘luxuries' and turned away on another day."
The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, explicitly prohibits the collective punishment of civilian populations. As such, a consensus exists among legal experts, and international human rights organizations that Israel's blockade on Gaza is unlawful, as it clearly constitutes collective punishment.
Crimes Against Humanity?
According to the Goldstone Report,
"the series of acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their access a court of law and an effective remedy... might justify a competent court finding that crimes against humanity have been committed [by the Israeli government]."
Didn't Israel Lift the Ban on Humanitarian Goods? Why Is This Still an Issue?
Under mounting international pressure, Israel recently announced that the blockade would be "eased" by allowing exclusively-humanitarian goods into Gaza unrestricted. However, in addition to the persisting ban on essential reconstruction materials, other aspects of the blockade continue to preclude the possibility of decent or dignified life in Gaza:
(a) Restriction of Movement: Palestinians in Gaza continue to be trapped in what some commentators have deemed the world's largest open air prison. Currently,
"This closure makes it extremely difficult for Palestinians in Gaza to exit even to receive necessary medical treatment and virtually impossible to leave for reasons such as visiting close family members or taking up university places and jobs." - Amnesty Int'l Statement
(b) Economic Strangulation: Gaza's economy cannot be revitalized as long as restrictions on trade and commerce with the outside world remain in place. Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Director for the Middle East and North Africa, explained:
"Just as important as allowing goods into Gaza is allowing exports to leave Gaza, yet there is no mention of this in today's announcement. Banning the vast majority of exports, raw materials and the movement of people has destroyed the economy of Gaza, and pushed its population into unemployment, poverty and dependency on aid agencies for survival. These problems will not be solved while the blockade continues."
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