Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gaza report finds major powers complicit in Israel’s collective punishment

By Jean Shaoul    29 December 2009

To mark one year since Israel’s military assault on Gaza, a report by 16 aid agencies has strongly condemned the major powers for failing to end Israel’s illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza.

While the report holds Israel primarily responsible for the appalling conditions under which the Palestinian people are living (see “Aid report details social devastation in Gaza), it holds the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations (known collectively as the Quartet) responsible for allowing the situation to continue.

Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s director and one of the sponsors of the report, Failing Gaza: no rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses, said, “World powers have failed. They have betrayed Gaza’s ordinary citizens.”

After years of closing Gaza’s borders and restricting the movement of people and goods, Israel began blockading Gaza in June 2007. This was after Hamas, which won the parliamentary elections against Fatah in January 2006, took control of Gaza in order to pre-empt a Fatah coup backed by Israel, the US, Jordan and Egypt.

Tel Aviv allowed in only the most basic foodstuffs and some medical provisions. It justified the blockade as its response to Qassem rockets fired into Israel. These are crude, home-made rockets that, since 2000, have killed 13 Israeli civilians, including three children. Defence Minister Ehud Barak said, “Our aim right now is the weakening of Hamas and the strengthening of [Palestinian Authority prime minister] Salam Fayyad”.

At the end of last December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day aerial bombardment of Gaza and a large-scale ground invasion of its tanks killing 1,393 Palestinians, 347 of them children, and pulverising much of Gaza’s civilian and public infrastructure.

Not only has it been impossible to repair the damage, but even the rubble remains, due to Israel’s refusal to allow in bulldozers, building materials and equipment. Unable to rebuild their lives, the overwhelming majority of Gazans are living in conditions of utter poverty, penned in and denied access to the basic needs of everyday life.

As the report points out, “This not an accident: this is a matter of policy.”

Israel’s blockade, backed by Washington, is a collective punishment of the entire population and is prohibited under international law. It is in flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860, passed at the height of the hostilities earlier this year, calling for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and the sustained reopening of the crossings. It also breaches the Agreement on Movement and Access signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2005…