Israel asserts that it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip after it evacuated 9000 Jewish settlers, dismantled 21 settlements, and removed all of its soldiers in August 2005 from this 360 square mile territory; but even without their boots on the ground it’s difficult to understand how Israeli officials can keep a straight face when they make that claim.
Just try to enter the Gaza Strip by air (Israel controls the air space over Gaza and destroyed Gaza’s only airport in December 2001); or by sea (Israel controls the sea and murdered 9 Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara trying to reach Gaza by sea in May 2010); or by land. Israel controls the border and the 5 crossings into the Gaza Strip (Erez, Karni, Sufa, Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom). Farmers in Gaza know very well that their lives are at risk if they venture into the buffer zone near the border with Israel.
From the Nov. 21 cease-fire to the end of May, four Palestinian civilians have been killed and 123 injured in the buffer zone by Israeli forces, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, up from 3 deaths and 80 injuries in the same period the previous year. (Maan, the Palestinian news agency, reported that another man was shot in the thigh while picking watermelons on Sunday.)
Lawyer Noura Erakat makes a good argument that Israel maintains “effective control” over Gaza.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk managed to enter the Gaza Strip (probably through the Rafah crossing with Egypt) last December for a short visit. What he found did not please him.
Today Falk, an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, told a meeting of the Human Rights Council (both Israel and the United States boycotted the debate) that Israel is imposing collective punishment on 1.75 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the enclave’s viability is at stake.
That actually is not new news. Last August, the UN issued a report that predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020. But who is listening?
Falk’s June 2013 report is available here and his recommendations include:
- The International Committee of the Red Cross or a commission of inquiry composed of relevant international law experts should convene to examine issues particular to prolonged occupation and move toward a convention to address such occupations;
- Israel must allow Palestinians to make use of their maritime area, up to 20 nautical miles in line with its commitments under the Oslo Agreements;
- Israel should lift its illegal blockade of Gaza and clearly demarcate access restricted areas (ARAs). ARAs can only be established in line with applicable international legal standards and commitments undertaken by the State of Israel;
- The international community, with Israel’s full cooperation, should finance the construction of a major desalination facility in Gaza; install solar networks for heat and electricity; and urgently improve sewage treatment to avoid further polluting of the Mediterranean Sea;
- The international community, with Israel’s full cooperation and in direct consultation with farmers in Gaza, should support a shift in agricultural production in Gaza to less water-intensive crops, including by facilitating improved access to seeds; should support the improvement of irrigation networks; and should ensure that farmers can utilize their farmland;
- The international community, with Israel’s full cooperation, should create a private patients’ fund that could be drawn upon to support medical treatment outside of Gaza as needed;
- The international community should establish a commission of inquiry into the situation of Palestinians detained or imprisoned by Israel. This inquiry should have a broad mandate, to examine Israel’s track record of impunity for prison officials and others who interrogate Palestinians;
- The international community should investigate the activities of businesses that profit from Israel’s settlements, and take appropriate action to end any activities in occupied Palestine and ensure appropriate reparation for affected Palestinians;
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the support of the Human Rights Council, should establish a mechanism to support Special Rapporteurs who are subject to defamatory attacks, especially those that divert attention from the substantive human rights concerns relevant to their respective mandates.
I wonder if we’ll hear a peep about this debate at the United Nations on the Nightly News. I doubt it.