Rashid Khalidi · The Siege of Gaza
It has become a pattern. Israel takes shocking action, as in Lebanon in 2006 where it killed 1000, Gaza in 2008-9 where 1400 people died (mostly civilians in both cases), and now its act of state terrorism on the high seas against a humanitarian mission to relieve the siege of Gaza. Then Israeli leaders complain that those who criticise their actions are 'delegitimising' the state of Israel. A real friend of Israel would tell its leaders that it is mainly their own actions that are undermining Israel’s standing in the world – actions that are not legitimate by any standard of international law, morality or even common sense.
The deeper story here is the illegal blockade by Israel (with the connivance of Egypt) of the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million inhabitants who live in the world’s largest open-air prison. Despite Israeli spin that portrays Gaza as flowing with fresh produce, it is in fact the scene of a severe humanitarian crisis. As international organisations charged with monitoring the situation have consistently verified, tons of sewage pour into the Mediterranean for lack of treatment because spare parts for the sewage plant cannot get through the blockade; 90 per cent of Gaza’s people drink polluted water because the water supply system cannot be repaired; the electrical system, smashed by Israeli bombers, can only supply current intermittently. Israel’s attack on the flotilla has proved that it is still the occupying power in Gaza. As such it has an obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to allow the people under its control a decent life. This the imprisoned Gazans manifestly do not have.
So where does this latest crisis leave the world? There is a pressing mandate for the powers that support Israel to end the siege of Gaza once and for all. This could be done with a Nato naval convoy to break the blockade, or a fresh resolution with real teeth (such as sanctions). If ever there was a time for action to end the inhumane siege, which is a blot on the record of the entire international community, then this is it.