An official document obtained by McClatchy reveals the Israeli blockade of Gaza is not about weapons, but instead "economic warfare" meant to collectively punish the Gazan civilians for having the audacity to vote in a free and fair election in a way Israel doesn't like. This is a crime.
The Geneva Convention, in which Israel is a signatory, expressly prohibits targeting civilians for "collective punishment." This fact apparently has made little impression on the Israeli leadership.
As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as "economic warfare" against the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory.
Israel imposed severe restrictions on Gaza in June 2007, after Hamas won elections and took control of the coastal enclave after winning elections there the previous year, and the government has long said that the aim of the blockade is to stem the flow of weapons to militants in Gaza.
According to an official government spokesman, "A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare."
Of course, anyone using a modicum of rational thought understands the difference between a country choosing to avoid economic engagement or giving economic assistance with actively preventing OTHERS from choosing to undertake those activities.
Israel has no intention of ceasing with this monumental and willful humanitarian crime.
Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn't imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.
(A State Department spokesman, who wasn't authorized to speak for the record, said he hadn't seen the documents in question.)
The Israeli government took an additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn't be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but "could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control" of Gaza.
If these blatant admissions aren't enough to prove Israel's criminal intent, one need only look at other actions, with similar admissions.
Glenn Greenwald documented the official Israeli policy in early 2009:
According to The Jerusalem Post, Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke to an AIPAC mission in Israel and said that "Israel's aim [in attacking Gaza] was to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel." If that really is Israel's principal aim -- to deal "a strong blow to the people of Gaza" -- then it's easy to understand why Peres is so happy with how things have proceeded: "Implementation of the current operation had gone 90 percent according to plan, he said."
In October of this year, Haaretz published a report regarding the strategies the IDF intended to use to fight "the next war." The article's title: "IDF plans to use disproportionate force in next war":
In an interview Friday with the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, [GOC Northern Command Gadi] Eisenkot presented his "Dahiyah Doctrine," under which the IDF would expand its destructive power beyond what it demonstrated two years ago against the Beirut suburb of Dahiyah, considered a Hezbollah stronghold.
"We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases," he said. "This isn't a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized" . . . .
Major General (Res.) Giora Eiland, formerly head of the National Security Council, belongs to a similar school of thought, and even goes a step further.
He believes Israel failed in the Second Lebanon War and is liable to fail in a third such war, because it is fighting the wrong enemy: Hezbollah, instead of the state of Lebanon itself. . . .
Eiland recommends preemptive action: that Israel pass a clear message to the Lebanese government, as soon as possible, stating that in the next war, the Lebanese army will be destroyed, as will the civilian infrastructure.
Writing in The New York Times, Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi noted:
This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
Human Rights Watch adds further documented admissions from high Israeli officials:
"There is no justification for demanding we allow residents of Gaza to live normal lives while shells and rockets are fired from their streets and courtyards at Sderot and other communities in the south," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on January 23, 2008. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said on January 18, 2008: "If Palestinians don't stop the violence, I have a feeling the life of people in Gaza is not going to be easy."
The logic used by Olmert here is the exact same logic used by Hamas in defense of their HIGHLY CONDEMNED illegal rocket fire into southern Israel.
There is no argument that can be made, on legal terms, to mitigate this flagrant and unapologetic admission of war crimes. Perverse human beings will no doubt attempt to defend these practices, but the case, on legal grounds, cannot be made. These attacks are war crimes. Period.
UPDATE: THE HISTORY OF THE BLOCKADE
In response to a question in the comment section, her is a brief history of the blockade.
"The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 - in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon's senior advisor Dov Weisglass was unequivocal about this, explaining: "The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians... Effectively, this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely."
Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders - so they voted for Hamas. ... It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 percent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 percent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.
Rather than seize this opportunity and test their sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. They announced they were blockading the Gaza Strip in order to "pressure" its people to reverse the democratic process. They surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine - but not enough for survival."
PART I: THE BLOCKADE AND WHO BROKEN THE 2008 CEASE FIRE
The common perception, perpetuated by overwhelmingly pro-Israeli media coverage of the current crisis in Gaza, finds that Israel is defending itself against the attacks of Hamas, who broke the cease-fire, which was reached in June of 2008. But is this perception accurate?
June 18, 2008:
Israel has approved a ceasefire to end months of bitter clashes with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed. Under the terms of the truce, which is set to begin Thursday (June 19), Israel will ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip. At the same time, talks to release an Israeli soldier [Gilad Shalit] held by Hamas would intensify, an Israeli official said. Hamas, which controls Gaza, says it is confident that all militants will abide by the truce [by not firing rockets into southern Israel]. The agreement is supposed to last six months. ("Israel Agrees to Gaza Ceasefire," BBC, June 18, 2008)
More on the Shalit kidnapping
“In the U.S. corporate media, the timeline leading to the assault on Lebanon always begins with this kidnapping. The rest of the world gets the rest of the story, which includes perhaps the most critical information, summarily ignored by the U.S. media. The day before, Israeli forces kidnapped two Gaza civilians, a doctor and his brother, and sent them to the Israeli prison system where they can join innumerable other Palestinians, many held without charges -- hence kidnapped. Kidnapping of civilians, which Israel has done in both Lebanon and the Palestinian territories repeatedly and with virtual impunity, is a far worse crime than capture of soldiers. The Western response was quite revealing: a few casual comments, otherwise silence. The major media did not even bother reporting it. That fact alone demonstrates, with brutal clarity, that there is no moral justification for the sharp escalation of attacks in Gaza or the destruction of Lebanon, and that the Western show of outrage about kidnapping is cynical fraud.”
July 4th, 2008:
A ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups came into force on 19 June and at the time of writing it looked uncertain. Israeli officials, however, insist that Gaza's borders remain sealed so long as Hamas does not release the Israeli soldier they are holding. Some 8,500 Palestinians are detained in Israeli jails. Of these, 900 are from the Gaza Strip, all of whom have been denied visits by their families since June 2007. ("Gaza Blockage: Collective Punishment," Amnesty International, July 4, 2008)
Considering the primary obligation of the truce was Israel easing the blockade, the fact that Israel did not ease the blockade at any point, inherently means that Israel did not comply with the terms at all.
CNN aired a clip of the liberal Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti saying: "The world press community or media community is overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative, which is incorrect. The Israeli spokespersons have been spreading lies all over. The reality and the truth is that the side that broke this truce and this ceasefire was Israel. Two months before it ended, Israel started attacking Rafah, started attacking Hamas and never lifted the blockade on Gaza." Anchor Rick Sanchez endeavored to find out who was right.
"And you know what we did? I've checked with some of the folks here at our international desk, and I went to them and asked: 'What was he talking about, and do we have any information on that?'" said Sanchez. And he reported that his sources confirmed that Barghouti was right.
What does this mean in regard to Israel's stated justifications for the massive and ongoing onslaught of Gaza? Can they still claim "self-defense" when it was they who broke the truce in the first place? If the United States public supported Israel based on the idea that they had to defend themselves, then wouldn't this clarification mean, in fairness, that Hamas was defending themselves when they fired their rockets in response to Israel's failure to abide by the terms of the cease-fire? In either case, neither entity is justified in committing war crimes. But the overwhelming support of Israel's crimes needs to be looked at in a new light, based on the facts and not merely pro-Israeli propaganda.
We should not defend war crimes in any case, but especially when those crimes are being committed by the entity that broke the cease-fire to begin with.
UPDATE II: WHAT IS TERRORISM?
The United States has defined terrorism under the Federal Criminal Code. Chapter 113B of Part I of Title 18 of the United States Code defines terrorism and lists the crimes associated with terrorism. In Section 2331 of Chapter 113b, terrorism is defined as:
“… activities that involve violent… or life-threatening acts… that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and… appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping"
UPDATE III: PROHIBITED ITEMS
As per Haaret'z:
Gaza merchants are forbidden to import canned goods, plastic sheeting, toys and books, although the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other aid organizations are permitted to bring them into the strip.
The few items merchants are allowed to trade in are divided into three categories: food, medicine and detergent. Everything else is forbidden - including building materials (which are necessary to rehabilitate Gaza's ruins and rebuild its infrastructure), electric appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, spare machine and car parts, fabrics, threads, needles, light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses and animals. Many of the banned products are imported through the tunnels and can be found in Gaza's markets.
It takes an enormous level of self-delusion to continue the charade that the intent of the blockade is about weapons.