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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs