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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.