News / Middle East

Israeli Group Calls for Lifting of Gaza Blockade

Demonstrators hold a sign against the blockade of the Gaza Strip near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, 31 May 2010
Demonstrators hold a sign against the blockade of the Gaza Strip near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, 31 May 2010

Multimedia

Audio

As the United Nations considers investigating this week's Israeli ship raid Arab leaders are calling for end to the Gaza blockade which was at the core of this week's conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended his military's actions and says lifting the blockade would only open Gaza to Iranian-backed terrorism. Sari Bashi is Executive Director, of the Israeli nonprofit organization GISHA or the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement. The group is comprised of Arabs and Jews who offer legal assistance and public advocacy to Palestinians in occupied territories. Reporter Cecily Hilleary asked her about the history of the blockade and whether it has achieved its goal of ensuring security in Gaza.

Listen to the full interview with Sari Bashi:

A: We actually call what Israel is doing in Gaza a "closure" and not a "blockade." Our position is that Gaza is occupied territory, and Israel is the occupying power, already controlled the borders prior to June 2007, and after Hamas took over internal control of the Gaza Strip, Israel closed Gaza's borders nearly hermetically, allowing just a trickle of humanitarian goods to enter Gaza and blocking travel of persons almost entirely. At the time, Israel declared its intention to put pressure on Hamas by imposing measures against the civilian population. They call it "economic warfare." The policy is designed to cripple Gaza's economy by blocking the flow of goods necessary for economic or productive activity and also to prevent people from travelling as a means of pressure. Israel calls it "economic sanctions;" we call it "collective punishment."

Q: Where does one draw the line between sanctions, security concerns and collective punishment?

A: An economic sanction is something you impose on somebody who's [over there]. An economic sanction means you withhold something that is your sovereign right. You choose not to trade, and if you're good enough, you can get a whole bunch of countries to choose not to trade. For example, the U.S. now is trying to persuade a whole bunch of countries to choose not to trade with Iran.

Gaza is different. Israel controls Gaza's borders, so Israel is unilaterally preventing every country in the world from trading with Gaza and then it, itself, is limiting what goes into Gaza to just a trickle. International law imposes responsibility in cases where Israel exercises control. So as the occupying power, Israel has the right to inspect goods coming into Gaza for security reasons. What it doesn't have the right to do is to prevent completely civilian goods from entering Gaza.

Q: What are Israel's obligations to Gazans?

A: Under the Geneva Convention, Israel has an obligation to allow normal life to take place in the Gaza Strip. In effect, wherever Israel exercises control, it must take responsibility for the effects of that control. So that means if Israel controls the borders and controls who comes in and out, it must make sure that control is commensurate with the rights of people in Gaza to access schools, to access jobs, to engage in productive, dignified work.

Q: The United States government and relief organizations pledged billions of dollars to help reconstruct Gaza after the military incursions by Israel. Has any of this money got through and been spent?

A: Very little of it. The U.N. has been trying to negotiate with the Israeli government to bring building materials to repair the damage from the 2008-2009 war. It has taken them nine months to negotiate a couple of truckloads that would allow them to complete a project that was already in the works. It's been extremely, extremely slow. Nine months for 151 housing units, and it stops there.

On the other hand, other people, including folks associated with the Hamas regime or just wealthy private actors, are able to bring in construction materials via underground tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. International organizations can't do that because they need receipts, and the only way to get receipts is to bring them in through the overland crossings, and Israel has banned construction materials.

Q: If so much stuff is coming through the tunnels and presumably weapons can come through the tunnels - why bother with the closures then?

A: Well, I think that points out the illogic of the policy from a security point of view. It's very clear to everybody, including Israel and Egypt, that so long as the Israeli restrictions on goods coming in through the overland crossings are so tight, it's impossible to close the tunnels because Gaza would simply starve. Gaza would simply die.

Q: So what is your organization asking for?

A: We are asking Israel to change the closure policy and allow in the free passage of goods and people into and out of Gaza, subject only to legitimate security concerns. So, check - make sure that no weapons are coming in. Check for exports and make sure no bombs are coming out. But that's all.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs