Although President Obama acknowledges that the situation in Gaza is “unsustainable”, he refuses to draw the obvious conclusion and insist that Israel’s siege must end. But if it can’t continue, it must end, right?
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN are happy to adopt Obama’s term (unsustainable) but are less willing to equivocate. Indeed, the Red Cross has gone even further and accuses Israel of breaking international law through its use of collective punishment.
As the ICRC has stressed repeatedly, the dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid. The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is about to enter its fourth year, choking off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s health care system has reached an all-time low.
The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.
“The closure is having a devastating impact on the 1.5 million people living in Gaza”, said Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East. “That is why we are urging Israel to put an end to this closure and call upon all those who have an influence on the situation, including Hamas, to do their utmost to help Gaza’s civilian population. Israel’s right to deal with its legitimate security concerns must be balanced against the Palestinians’ right to live normal, dignified lives.”
The international community has to do its part to ensure that repeated appeals by States and international organizations to lift the closure are finally heeded.
Likewise, the UN is pushing for the blockade not merely to be “eased” or — to use Tony Blair’s language — made “softer” (suggestive of a more compassionate collective punishment?). No, the siege must end.
[T]he UN said Tuesday that an international consensus has emerged demanding that Israel lift the blockade of Gaza Strip and replace it with a “different and more positive strategy.”
“The flotilla crisis is the latest symptom of a failed policy,” said Robert Serry, the UN special envoy for Middle East peace process.
“The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and the current policy is unacceptable and counter-productive, and requires a different, more positive strategy,” Serry said during a UN Security Council session on the Middle East.
“The closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to come to an end,” he said. “There is now a welcome international consensus on Gaza.”