Israel Falling Short on the Gaza Blockade

June 18, 2010

The international community has been expected Israel to take steps to loosen the Gaza blockade ever since an attack on a flotilla resulted in the death of nine protestors.

The Israel response came today, and it wasn’t impressive.

More than half of Gaza's population are children.

Amnesty International believes the Gaza blockade imposes a collective punishment on 1.4 million Palestinians in clear violation of international law.  It must be completely lifted without delay.

The Israeli proposal fell far short of that.

“Any step that will help reduce the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza is to be welcomed, but Israel must now comply with its obligations as the occupying power under international law and immediately lift the blockade,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“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.”

The Israel announcement offered few details but stated that it promised to “liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza” and to expand entrance of construction materials for civilian use.

As always, the Israelis cited an ever-changing number of excuses to justify this violation of international law.  One cited today was the continued holding of captured Israeli solider Gilad Shalit, and indeed the Israelis are right to insist on Shalit’s safe return.  AI has repeatedly pressed Hamas authorities in Gaza to free him.

And Amnesty International has strongly condemned the firing of indiscriminate weapons by Palestinian armed groups into southern Israel as a violation of international law.  But the Israeli blockade, which limits goods, the movement of people, threatens appropriate medical treatment of the sick and injured and virtually banning exports, target the civilian population as a whole not the armed groups in particular.

“Any restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods into or out of Gaza must be proportionate and non-discriminatory,” Smart said.

The full Amnesty statement can be found here. A statement earlier this week criticizing shortcomings in Israel panel that will investigate the flotilla attack can be found here.