by Stephen Lendman
Gaza's blockade is illegal. Collective punishment is prohibited. Fourth Geneva's Article 33 states:
"No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."
"Pillage is prohibited."
"Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."
Israel spurns all international laws and its own. It commits crimes of war and against humanity with impunity.
Isolating Gaza is a war crime. June 14 marked the blockade's fifth anniversary. Around 50 international human rights and organizations, as well as six UN bodies called for immediately lifting it.
A joint appeal said:
"For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: 'end the blockade now."
"More than 80 percent of families in Gaza are dependent on humanitarian aid."
"This amounts to a collective punishment of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law."
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) marked the anniversary with a report titled "5 Years and Counting: International Organizations and Donors Continue to Fund Israel's Illegal Closure on the Gaza Strip."
In mid-June 2007, total isolation was illegally imposed. World leaders yawned and did nothing. They're still silent. They're complicit in crimes of war and against humanity.
Since 1991, Israel imposed severe hardships on Gaza. At issue was curtailing political and economic freedom. Free movement was also restricted.
Despite a November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, Israel enforced severe restrictions on people and goods movement.
Five years ago this month, total closure was imposed. Israel calls Gaza a "hostile entity." As a result, 1.7 million Palestinians are lawlessly collectively punished.
Free movement is denied. Imports and exports of goods are restricted. Essential food, fuel, medical supplies and construction materials are affected.
Virtually all essentials face severe shortages. Redeveloping Gaza is prevented. Unemployment and poverty grow. Without aid, survival is at issue. With it, humanitarian crisis conditions exist.
Unless closure is lifted, "it will be impossible for (Gazans) to rebuild their lives, and (be able) to secure their fundamental human rights."
By continuing to fund the closure, donors relieve Israel's responsibility as an occupying power to observe inviolable international law. Collective punishment continues to be policy.
Blockade conditions exist behind "a security apparatus consisting of a fence, concrete wall, and military installations...."
Israel controls Gaza's coast and air space. Fishermen are attacked at sea. Farmers are shot in their fields. So are children. Israeli border guards use them for target practice.
Pre-mid 2007, five border crossings operated. Karni provided 75% of Gaza imports. Around 600 truckloads got daily access. Another 400 carried exports.
In May 2012, two border crossings operated - Karm abu Salem for goods and Erez for pedestrians. Both face severe restrictions. Traffic is curtailed. Karm abu Salem operates at a fraction of its capacity.
About 570 truckloads daily are required to supply basic needs. In April, Israel allowed only 149 passage rights. Around one-fourth of what's needed got through.
Exports are greatly restricted. Amounts fluctuate monthly. In January, around 3% of pre-2007 levels were permitted. February, March, and April amounts dropped.
Longer waiting times were imposed for goods and pedestrians. Perishable goods are affected. Costs increase. Bureaucratic red tape harms humanitarian efforts.
Permit permission takes more time for approval. International organizations can't function properly. Costs are excessively high. The UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) said it's paying an extra $4 million.
Moreover, goods must be placed on pallets. Containers aren't allowed. Amounts shipped are affected. When emergencies arise, aid groups can't respond properly. Approvals take months to arrange.
Around 19% of UN projects wait on average 17 months for approval. Moreover, since September 2011, no UNOPS ones were approved. Humanitarian efforts are challenged.
The World Food Program also reported difficulties supplying Gaza's essential needs. Israel's closure policy bears full responsibility. Agencies say cost issues and inordinate delays impede them.
UNRWA saw its emergency aid budget increase from about $52 million in 2006 to around $64 million in 2010. OCHA is severely strapped. Its $2.8 million 2006 budget ballooned to $7 million in 2011.
Around 80% of Gazans are aid dependent. Over 40% are impoverished or severely so. Nearly two-thirds of Gazans are refugees. Over 80% of Gazan factories remain closed or operate at a fraction of full capacity.
With limited ability to import and severe export restrictions, Israel suffocates Gaza. Moreover, Its lawless buffer zone prohibits access to about 30% of total agriculture on land considered most arable.
Families can't support themselves. Fishermen can't make a living. The impact on civilian lives is scandalous. Virtually nothing is done to relieve it.
Occupying powers are responsible for the welfare of people they control. Article 43 of the Hague Regulations obligate them with regard to health, education, quality of life, public works, other essential infrastructure, and overall material conditions.
Fourth Geneva Articles 55 and 56 require occupying powers to provide food and health care. Under Article 69 of Additional Protocol I, provision for clothing, bedding and shelter must be provided.
In addition, progressive development of education, health systems, infrastructure, power, and telecommunications capability is required.
Israel spurns its obligations. Homes, factories, infrastructure, commercial and government buildings, and other facilities have been destroyed and not rebuilt.
Fundamental human rights are denied, including to life, health, and adequate food, clothing and housing. Health, of course, includes physical and mental well-being.
UN Charter Articles 55 and 56 require Israel to promote higher living standards, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.
Israel violates all its obligations under international law. Gazans suffer enormously. Blockade was imposed for political and economic reasons. Israel admitted it wasn't for security reasons.
It claimed justification for economic warfare, saying:
"(D)amaging the enemy's economy is in and of itself a legitimate means in warfare and a relevant consideration even while deciding to allow the entry of relief consignments."
International law prohibits collective punishment. Israeli aggression violates UN Charter provisions. Gaza's blockade was institutionalized. Doing so constitutes criminally assaulting a civilian population for purposes of control and denying it fundamental rights.
A new Save the Children Foundation/Medical Aid Foundation report called Gaza's water unfit for human consumption. It's contaminated with chemical manure and waste water.
Children are gravely impacted. Water related illness, including diarrhea and dysentery, doubled in the last five years. Israel bears full responsibility.
Israel bombed coastal area sewage systems and denies construction materials, equipment, and parts to rebuild them properly.
Israel promised to ease Gaza restrictions. No meaningful improvement of life followed. Fundamental rights are denied. Blockade conditions are enforced.
Air and ground assaults occur regularly. A new study said drone attacks terrorize Gazans. They patrol night and day. Their engine noise is audible on the ground.
Gazans call them "zanana" because of their distinctive buzz. They affect sleep. Children are traumatized. Gazans are attacked and killed. No one knows who next will be harmed.
A state of war exists. Crimes are committed. Civilians suffer. Nothing changes. Gazans blogger Rawan Yaghi explained her angst as follows:
"Hi droning drone,
you know what: you've become a real friend of mine. I swore at you. I spit at you. You keep me awake. You have actually been talking to me all day long."
"Well, to be honest my friend, I tried to ignore you by using my headphones and watching TV. But you wouldn't quit, would you? Well, congratulations you've broke the record you've made more than one million friends in less than two days. Take good buzz of yourself."
A Final Comment
On June 14, a Civil Peace Service Gaza press release said an Israeli warship attacked international observers, a journalist, and CPSGAZA's Palestinian Oliva vessel captain "in an attempt to harm the crew members and threaten them with arrest."
Italian observer Rosa Schiano said:
"We were behind the buoy that Israel put out at sea to mark the three mile limit and they attacked us with heavy water cannons for half an hour, chasing us towards the northen nautical border."
"Then they accused us of crossing the border, when they had forcibly chased us in that direction."
Oliva was within three nautical miles of Gaza's coast. Israel's warship circled, chased, and attacked it with heavy water cannon fire. The vessel filled dangerously. It could have sunk. The crew said it posed no danger. A soldier replied "(s)hut up."
Israelis ordered Oliva to shut its motor. Crew members were told to stand in the front of the boat. They asked if they were being arrested. In reply, they were told "(w)e'll take all of you."
Finally, they were allowed to leave with a warning, saying "(n)ext time we won't be as nice, if you know what I mean."
CPSGAZA's land team said Israel's navy attacked Palestinian fishermen at the same time Oliva was assaulted. They "were targeted with live gunfire and wake washed."
Israel does it regularly. Contempt for human rights and safety is policy. Life in Occupation Palestine is brutish, harsh and unsafe.
In Gaza, no one knows from day to day who'll live or die. Nothing is done to end human suffering. When will it end, people ask?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.