Posts Tagged ‘Gaza blockade’

Disarming: Gaza or Israel?

August 7, 2014


Nasir Khan, August 7, 2014

Palestinians have been under Israeli occupation; they have been frequent targets of destructive Israeli wars and massacres. If common sense can be our guide in this situation than the solution is to disarm Israel and prosecute its war criminals for war crimes and crimes against humanity in ICC. Disarming Hamas? Hamas has no army, no air force, no missiles, no navy, no naval gunships, no tanks, no anti-aircraft missiles. If Israel has played havoc with the homes and buildings of the Gazans and killed people then the main reason for the Gazan tragedy lies in their inability to defend themselves.

Ideally, for Gazans to defend themselves against Israel’s military might they need a matching military power and weapons. It is obvious that without this they have no chance to defend themselves and their homes. We have seen this what Israel is capable of doing in the 29-day war on Gaza. The Gazans have been at the mercy of Israeli missiles and powerful bombs that pulverised their homes and other structures. Unless Israel lifts the blockade, ends the occupation and develops a new approach towards the people of Palestine the conflict will not disappear.

But how can the Gazans under Hamas do that, to defend themselves militarily, remains an open question. The leaders of the ‘New World Order’ especially the United States will not allow that. There is no major country that is ready to give substantive material support to the Palestinians. Therefore the prevailing conditions will remain intact.

We need to keep in mind that Gaza is beleaguered by Israel from all sides including its air space. It is the largest open-air prison in the world. Now Israel by intentional destruction of the infrastructure of Gaza has made sure that its people would not raise their heads again against the ongoing occupation and blockade for years to come. But if they did at some stage then they would have Israeli war-machine on their heads again. It is as simple as that if we want to understand the Israeli position.

No doubt, this is an undefendable situation. To my mind the only explanation lies in the fact that it is military might that decides the fate of a subjugated people, not their rights according to international law or humane considerations. Yet the struggle of the Palestinians for their national liberation from the Zionist yoke needs universal support. The public demonstrations in many countries around the world denouncing the Israeli genocide and carnage in Gaza have been positive. They show a growing awareness among the people of the world about the plight of the colonised Palestinians.

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UN raises questions on Israeli plan on Gaza siege

June 23, 2010
UN raises questions on Israeli plan on Gaza siege
UN official called the blockade “absurd, counterproductive and illegal”, citing elements in Israel’s easing plan.
World Bulletin, 23 June 2010

The head of the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency said on Wednesday the fine print of Israel’s pledge to ease its Gaza blockade raised questions about how effective it would prove to be.

Under international pressure over a deadly Israeli raid on a relief aid flotilla bound for Gaza that killed nine Turkish activists, Israel last week announced it would ease the siege on Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released few details about the possible changes in its three-year-old blockade, and it was not clear whether any firm decisions had been made.

But, the announcement did not specify how procedures for the import of commercial goods would change or list any specific products, saying only that cabinet ministers would decide in the coming days how to implement the new policy.

The siege has prevented Gaza from rebuilding after Israel’s deadly assault in the territory last year.

There was no mention in the statement of any change in other damaging aspects of the blockade, like bans on exports or allowing in raw materials used in industrial production.

Filippo Grandi, commissioner-general of the refugee agency known as UNRWA, called the blockade “absurd, counterproductive and illegal” and cited elements in Israel’s easing plan that left unclear how it would be fully implemented.

“They’re talking about items that will be allowed for certain times and not other times, depending on who the consignee is. So it’s still very complicated,” he told reporters in Beirut. “We have seen some broad statements of how they will do it but the devil is in the detail. We have to see how this will be done and we haven’t seen it yet.

“We’ve seen many times declarations and statements,” Grandi added. “But now we want to see facts … Believe me, it’s very urgent, because the conditions are very bad on the ground.”

Human rights groups and other critics slam the siege as collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinians.

Grandi called for Gaza’s land crossings to be opened.

UNRWA has said Israel must reopen the Karni cargo terminal on Gaza’s northeast boundary that is large enough to allow industrial-scale shipments of cement, building materials and aid. Instead, trucks are now routed to a narrower crossing.

Israel’s naval blockade will also remain in force.

Agencies

Chernus: Israel Raises Nuke Threat to Iran

June 6, 2010
by Professor  Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, June 3, 2010

You’ve got to give Israel’s leaders credit for creativity, if for nothing else. They never run out of new excuses for their violence, each more imaginative (and imaginary) than the last. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just gave his official explanation to the Israeli people for the deaths on the Mavi Marmara. And guess whose fault it was. (Are you ready for this?) Iran!

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, since Netanyahu and most of Israel have been obsessed with Iran as the source of all evil for years now. But how did he make such far-fetched connection? Simple: “Iran is continuing to smuggle weapons into Gaza. It is our obligation to prevent these weapons from being brought in by land and sea. … If the blockade had been broken, dozens and hundreds more ships carrying weapons could have come.”

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The Gaza Blockade Is Illegal and the Flotilla Attack Was an Illegal Act of War

June 5, 2010

Because the blockade of Gaza itself violates international law, Israel committed an illegal act of war attacking the convoy, regardless of who attacked whom first.

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, June 5, 2010

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Israeli officials claimed that the IDF commandos who killed and wounded dozens of activists on a humanitarian aid convoy bound for Gaza this week faced a potentially lethal attack, and opened fire in self-defense. Eyewitnesses on board tell a different story, saying the special forces troops fired on the ships before boarding, weren’t in fact attacked and were unrestrained in their hostility. The question of who attacked whom is irrelevant, however, according to experts in international law. The blockade itself is illegal, and therefore Israel had no right to board those ships in the first place. It renders the argument over culpability moot. Israel committed an illegal act of war attacking the convoy, regardless of who tried to draw “first blood.”

Israeli officials claim that the Jewish state is at war with Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip. On that basis, officials say Israel has a right to intercept shipping in and out of Gaza under the law of war. In an opinion piece AIPAC has been pushing to reporters this week, Leslie Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that “blockades are quite legal,” and compared the Gaza siege to the Anglo-U.S. blockades of Germany and Japan during World War Two. “Only knee-jerk left-wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute this,” wrote Gelb sneeringly. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., echoed the World War Two comparison.

The parallel is entirely false. Gaza is not an independent state at war with Israel. Gaza is occupied by Israel, and, as such, an entirely different set of international laws apply. As UC Hastings legal scholar George Bisharat explained this week, the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the ground in Gaza is immaterial, as the area remains under Israel’s “effective control” — it’s a remote occupation but an occupation nonetheless.

Under customary international law that Israel accepts as binding … a territory is “occupied” when foreign forces exercise “effective control” over it, whether accomplished through the continuous presence of ground troops or not.

Israel patrols the territorial waters and airspace of the Gaza Strip, regulates Gaza’s land borders, restricts internal movements by excluding Gazans from a “buffer zone” that includes 46 percent of the strip’s agricultural land, and controls the Gaza Strip’s supplies of electricity, heating oil, and petrol. Together these factors amount to remote but “effective control.”

According to Bisharat, this is not a matter of dispute. “The Gaza Strip remains occupied,” he wrote, “as the United Nations, the U.S. government and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all recognized.” Hamas controls the ground within Gaza, but Israel controls Gaza.

There are two important ramifications to this. First, a blockade that restricts the local population’s access to vital goods violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifies that an occupying force has a legally binding duty to protect an occupied population. Bisharat explained it like this:

Israel has authority to halt arms imports into the Gaza Strip. But it also owes a general duty of protection to civilians under its control, and has specific duties to allow them access to adequate food and medical supplies, and to maintain public health standards – duties it has deliberately violated in imposing the siege on Gaza. Currently 77.2 percent of Gaza Palestinians either face or are vulnerable to hunger …

Moreover, collective punishment is specifically barred under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that the objective of the blockade is to weaken the Gaza economy and undermine support for Hamas. That is a political, not a military, objective, and it is impermissible under international law to target innocent civilians to achieve nonmilitary goals.

The second point pertains to the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. As Bisharat notes, “Actions taken to enforce an illegal siege cannot themselves be legal.” The Israel commandos were transported 70 miles offshore, into international waters. There, they attacked a civilian vessel flagged to an allied state — a NATO member — and killed and wounded some yet unclarified number of activists whose journey was motivated by their opposition to the blockade.

It was not an act of “piracy,” because the Israeli troops were operating under the flag of a nation-state. Because the blockade violates international law, and Israel had no military justification for boarding her with special forces troops, it rather constituted an “illegal act of war.” Craig Murray, a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, called the legal situation “very plain”:

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean … that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

After perpetrating an act of war on Turkey, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, among the most extreme figures to serve in any Israeli government, said of the attack: “We didn’t start this provocation, we did not send bullies with knives and metal rods to Turkey… In this case, the entire blame, all of it, from beginning to end, is that of Turkey.”

They didn’t in fact  send “bullies” to Turkey armed with “knives and metal rods”; according to Craig Murray, they sent a heavily armed special forces team to Turkey — the deck of that ship represented Turkish “soil.”

A final point. Israeli leaders say they have no animosity towards the people of Gaza. Some of Israel’s defenders have suggested that it’s relatively easy to get goods in and out of the territory; that Israel simply wants to “inspect shipments for arms.” So it’s important to note just how deeply damaging the blockade has been for the people of Gaza.

Foreign Policy Magazine compiled a large volume of information from reports issued by the United Nations and various NGOs working in Gaza. Just a few highlights:

  • Electricity: In 2006, Israel carried out an attack on Gaza’s only power plant and never permitted the rebuilding to its pre-attack capacity…. The majority of houses have power cuts at least eight hours per day. Some have no electricity for long as 12 hours a day. The lack of electricity has led to reliance on generators, many of which have exploded from overwork, killing and maiming civilians.
  • Water: Israel has not permitted supplies into the Gaza Strip to rebuild the sewage system. Amnesty International reports that 90-95 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated and unfit for consumption.
  • Health: According to UN OCHA, infrastructure for 15 of 27 of Gaza’s hospitals, 43 of 110 of its primary care facilities, and 29 of its 148 ambulances were damaged or destroyed during the war. Without rebuilding materials like cement and glass due to Israeli restrictions, the vast majority of the destroyed health infrastructure has not been rebuilt.
  • Food: A 2010 World Health Organization report stated that “chronic malnutrition in the Gaza Strip has risen over the past few years and has now reached 10.2%. … According to UN OCHA: “Over 60 percent of households are now food insecure …
  • Industry:  A World Health Organization report from this year states: “In the Gaza Strip, private enterprise is practically at a standstill as a consequence of the blockade. Almost all (98%) industrial operations have been shut down.

Israeli officials are correct that the state has a right to defend itself. Every nation does. But it has no right to commit war crimes in mounting that defense. The European Union has condemned the blockade of Gaza as a form of  “collective punishment,”  a serious violation of international law. Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia’s summary of the Fourth Geneva Convention:

By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and World War II… In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance… The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility.

Israeli officials often invoke the image of rockets reining down on Israel from Gaza as justification for their aggressive policies. While they represent a modest threat — fewer people died in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in all of 2008 than perished in a few hours during the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla — they are terrifying and constitute a war crime. Yet punishing the population rather than the militants who fired those rockets is a war crime as well. Approximately half of the population of Gaza are under 18 years of age.

Matt Yglesias noted that Israel’s defenders have described the blockade “as some kind of narrow effort to prevent arms smuggling,” but adds: “this simply isn’t what’s going on.” “The objective,” he wrote, “is to make life in Gaza miserable.”

Yglesias linked to Peter Beinart arguing that, as far as Israel’s government is concerned, “the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.”

This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch.

Beinart concluded that the deaths on the Freedom Flotilla were not the fault of the Israeli commandos who boarded those ships in the dead of night (a position I’m not necessarily endorsing), but of “the Israeli leaders who oversee the Gaza embargo, and with Israel’s American supporters, who have averted their eyes.”

Israeli troops slaughter 19 aid activists to Gaza

May 31, 2010

Israeli commandoes have stormed a flotilla of ships carrying activists and aid supplies to the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing as many as 16 [latest number: 19] of those on board.

By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent and Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem
Telegraph/UK, May 31, 2010

Link to this video

Fighting broke out between the activists and the masked Israeli troops, who rappelled on to deck from helicopters before dawn.

A spokeswoman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin, said she had been told ten people had been killed and dozens wounded, accusing Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. But an Israeli radio station said that between 14 and 16 were dead in a continuing operation.

“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?

“We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”

The Israeli government’s handling of the confrontation was under intense international pressure even as it continued. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Anakara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.

One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio.

But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.

Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.

“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” they were quoted by a news website as saying.

The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from northern, or Turkish, Cyprus. Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, which carried 600 activists from around the world, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976.

It came under almost immediate monitoring from Israeli drones and the navy, with two vessels flanking it in international waters. The flotilla, which had been warned that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to slow and change course, hoping to prevent a confrontation until daylight, when the Israeli military action could be better filmed.

But in the early hours of this morning local time commandoes boarded from helicopters.

The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish television channels show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets striking commandoes with sticks.

The Israeli army said its troops were assaulted with axes and knives.

The television footage did not show firing but shots could be heard in the background. One man was shown lying unconscious on the deck, while another man was helped away.

A woman wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf, was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood.

The al-Jazeera broadcast stopped with a voice shouting in Hebrew: “Everyone shut up”.

Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the strip was taken over by the militant group Hamas in 2007. It has allowed some food and medical supplies through, but has prevented large-scale rebuilding following the bombardment and invasion of 2008-9.

The flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break through the blockade. The boats were carrying food and building supplies.

Activists said at least two of the other boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded from Israeli naval vessels. Activists said two of the other boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.

The confrontation took place in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast.

It was attacked by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

“We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza,” he said.

Turkish television meanwhile showed hundreds of protesters trying to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with what had been seen as its closest ally in the Muslim world.

“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.

“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.”

Egypt’s shameful ban on freedom marchers

January 6, 2010
Laura Durkay reports from Cairo on the efforts of the Gaza Freedom Marchers to show their solidarity with Palestine—and the crackdown by Egyptian authorities.

Socialist Worker, January 4, 2010

Participants in the Gaza Freedom March call for an end to the siege at a Cairo protest (Mike Connolly)Participants in the Gaza Freedom March call for an end to the siege at a Cairo protest (Mike Connolly)

IN THE last week of 2009, 1,360 activists from 43 countries converged on Cairo for the Gaza Freedom March. We intended to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, controlled by Egypt, for a display of mass international solidarity with the Palestinian people on the one-year anniversary of Israel’s punishing attack that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands more.

Organizers in the U.S., Gaza and around the world spent the past six months planning a December 31 march of Palestinians and internationals to the Eretz crossing with Israel, in the north of the Gaza Strip–plus two days of meetings and trips to the areas of Gaza most heavily damaged by Israel’s attack. Many people were calling it the largest-ever gathering of international solidarity activists in Palestine.

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Egyptian police, activists clash over Gaza relief

January 6, 2010
Middle East Online, First Published 2010-01-06


British MP George Galloway


55 people injured as activists try to get relief convoy into Israeli-besieged Gaza via Egypt.

EL-ARISH, Egypt – About 55 people were injured late Tuesday in clashes between Egyptian police and pro-Palestinian activists trying to get a relief convoy into the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip, medics said.

Some 520 activists belonging to the convoy — led by charismatic and outspoken British MP George Galloway — broke down the gate at the port in El-Arish to protest an Egyptian decision to ship some of the goods through Israel.

They blocked the two entrances to the Sinai port with vehicles, and clashed with police. Forty activists were injured, a source close to them said, while medical sources said 15 policemen were also hurt.

The protests were sparked by an Egyptian decision to allow 139 vehicles to enter Gaza through the Rafah bordering crossing, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) from El-Arish, but requiring a remaining 59 vehicles to pass via Israel.

Talks in which Galloway and a delegation of Turkish MPs sought to change the Egyptian’s minds proved unsuccessful.

Early Wednesday the activists were entrenched in the port surrounded by hundreds of police, one media correspondent said.

The convoy of nearly 200 vehicles arrived in the Mediterranean town on Monday after a dispute with Cairo on the route.

But the convoy’s arrival came after a bitter dispute between its organisers and the government, which banned the convoy from entering Egypt’s Sinai from Jordan by ferry, forcing it to drive north to the Syrian port of Lattakia.

Cairo accused the convoy organisers of trying to embarrass Egypt, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, due to US-Israeli pressure.

According to international law, Gaza is still under illegal Israeli occupation.

International protesters beaten in Cairo

December 31, 2009

Middle East Online, Dec 31, 2009

Protest organizers say Gaza Freedom March activists, including women, kicked, beaten to ground by Egypt’s police.

CAIRO – Police punched and kicked international activists during scuffles in the Egyptian capital on Thursday which left one person with broken ribs, protest organisers said.

“Members of the Gaza Freedom March are being forcibly detained in hotels around (Cairo) as well as violently forced into pens in Tahrir Square by Egyptian police and additional security forces,” a statement from the organisers said.

Scuffles erupted between the police and the protesters which saw “women being kicked, beaten to the ground and dragged into pens, at least one confirmed account of broken ribs and many left bloody,” they said.

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Barghouthi: Negotiations doomed to fail

November 20, 2009

Maan News, November 19, 2009

300barghouti_ap.jpg

Marwan Barghouti

Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Negotiations with Israel will achieve nothing, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi told Reuters in an interview published on Thursday.

Through written messages passed from the prison via his lawyer, Bargouthi urged Palestinians to embark on popular and diplomatic campaigns to achieve statehood, the news agency reported.

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The Gaza Chronicles: Part 2 – What a Siege Looks Like

November 3, 2009

By: Aditya Ganapathiraju, Palestine Monitor, October 31, 2009

“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution,” Sara Roy wrote in July. It has led to “mass suffering, created largely by Israel,” and aided by the active participation of the United States, European Union, and Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. [1]

The Israeli policy of isolating Gaza from the West Bank has been a gradual process that started in the early 1990s. It tightened soon after Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006, and turned even more devastating after Hamas’s 2007 takeover, degrading the society to the point where 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.5 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic survival. [2]

This “perverse” situation is unique in international affairs in that humanitarian groups are sustaining the Israeli occupation by providing care for a civilian population and territory whose humanitarian needs and economy are being deliberately decimated for political reasons, with full backing of the Israeli High Court, Roy explained. [3]

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