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“Smoking Gun” Proves Israeli Siege of Gaza Isn’t About Security

Posted by alanmirs on June 12, 2010

Posted by Joshua Holland at 9:50 am
11, 2010

“Smoking Gun”
Proves Israeli Siege of Gaza Isn’t About Security

I’ve tried to hammer home the point that the brutal
siege of Gaza has nothing to do with Israel’s “right to defend herself.”
On Monday, I

For supporters of the siege, the value of
the defense argument is simple to grasp. Intercepting weapons is a
military objective. In international law, an occupying power has broad
leeway in the use of force to accomplish military objectives. The siege
of Gaza is, and always was, meant to crush Gaza’s economy, impose severe
suffering on the population and ultimately make it impossible for Hamas
to govern. The Israeli government has not hidden this fact.  As J
Street put it, “Israeli officials have repeatedly characterized their
blockade policy in the following terms: ‘No prosperity, no development,
no humanitarian crisis.’” When the siege was first imposed, Dov
Weisglass, an adviser to then Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert, explained,
“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them
die of hunger.”

The blockade’s
objective is political, not military. It’s a collective punishment of
the entire population of Gaza (approximately half of whom are under 18
years of age). It is a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. It’s a
serious crime. And the world is calling for Israel to bring it to an
end, not to stop intercepting weapons.

Last week, I
explained why it’s a serious crime here.
When we published those pieces, we got the usual flurry of outraged
feedback — accusations of hopeless bias, running ridiculously skewed
analyses and delegitimizing Israel out of sheer, irrational animosity.

on Wednesday, McClatchy reported that it had obtained an Israeli
government document that leaves no further doubt about  the true goals
of the Gaza blockade. It is, as I have said, collective punishment for
electing Hamas, a gradual strangulation of the people of Gaza — young
and old, innocent and guilty– under an intentional man-made humanitarian


As Israel ordered a slight easing of its
blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli
government document that describes the blockade not as a security
measure but as “economic warfare” against the Islamist group Hamas,
which rules the Palestinian territory.

Israel imposed severe
restrictions on Gaza in June 2007, after Hamas won elections and took
control of the coastal enclave after winning elections there the
previous year, and the government has long said that the aim of the
blockade is to stem the flow of weapons to militants in Gaza.


in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the
Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of
economic warfare.

“A country has the right to decide that it
chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic
assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to
operate using ‘economic warfare,’” the government said.

obtained the government’s written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center
for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information
about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the
government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi,
the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn’t
imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective
punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on
Palestinian rights.


The Israeli government took an
additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to
achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn’t be named
as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to
ease the blockade but “could not lift the embargo altogether as long as
Hamas remains in control” of Gaza.


Israel’s blockade
of Gaza includes a complex and ever-changing list of goods that are
allowed in. Items such as cement or metal are barred because they can be
used for military purposes, Israeli officials say.

According to
figures published by Gisha in coordination with the United Nations,
Israel allows in 25 percent of the goods it had permitted into Gaza
before the Hamas takeover. In the years prior to the closure, Israel
allowed an average of 10,400 trucks to enter Gaza with goods each month.
Israel now allows approximately 2,500 trucks a month.

The figures
show that Israel also has limited the goods allowed to enter Gaza to 40
types of items, while before June 2007 approximately 4,000 types of
goods were listed as entering Gaza.

As I wrote
earlier this week,

The Israeli government is an
occupying power that exercises “effective control” over Gaza. Some have
argued that Gaza is an independent entity at war with Israel, and the
Israeli Supreme Court agreed, ruling that Israel “had no commitment ‘to
deal with the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip or to allow
unlimited amounts of goods and merchandise’ to pass through, but only
vital and humanitarian goods.”

But outside of Israel it’s not a
serious claim. According to the United Nations, “Gaza, the West Bank and
East Jerusalem [are designated] as Occupied Palestinian Territory… that
definition hasn’t changed.” The United States government, Israel’s
closest ally, says unambiguously: “West Bank and Gaza Strip are
Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian
Interim Agreement… permanent status to be determined through further
negotiation; Israel removed settlers and military personnel from the
Gaza Strip in August 2005.”

If you you like it wonky,
you can check out three legal analyses here,
and here (PDF).


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