On Sunday, 4 July 2010 the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs published two lists, detailing items not permitted to enter the Gaza Strip and those used for construction, which may only be imported and utilized under the supervision of the United Nations. The response from the international community and diplomatic representatives, including the Quartet’s Envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair, to the Israeli decision has been overwhelmingly positive.
The Israeli government’s switch from a list detailing only the items that are allowed for import to the Gaza Strip to a list of items that are not permitted has been perceived as a positive step, the assumption being that all items not on the list will be allowed to enter Gaza.
In this context, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) wishes to reaffirm its position on the illegal Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Israel has subjected the occupied Palestinian territory, including the Gaza Strip, to strict closures for more than two decades. Israel has continuously tightened the closure on the Gaza Strip following the Hamas takeover of the Strip in June 2007.
For more than three years now Israel has applied the most extreme form of closure to the Gaza Strip, declaring its territory to be a ‘hostile entity’, effectively cutting off the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza from the outside world.
Palestinian civilians are deliberately and systematically denied access to the most basic needs, such as food, medicine, electricity and other necessary commodities.
Palestinians are not allowed to leave Gaza, and only a miniscule number of foreigners are permitted to visit Gaza.
Goods are not allowed to be exported, and imports have been reduced to a very limited number of items, entirely incapable of fulfilling the population’s needs. Palestinian civilians in Gaza are deliberately deprived of their fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of movement and the right to health, education, and access to work.
The recent decision to ‘ease’ the closure by permitting more commercial and humanitarian goods to enter the Gaza Strip — a decision which was only taken in response to increased international pressure — does not in any way alter the basic situation.
Palestinians in Gaza are denied numerous fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to freedom of movement of persons and goods, the right to adequate shelter. At the most basic level, the closure continues to violate the right of the people of Gaza to live in human dignity.
The recently published lists, which have been effectively sanctioned by the international community through statements welcoming the Israeli decision, represent and institutionalization of the siege of Gaza, which is a form of collective punishment, a policy illegal under international law, as recently reaffirmed by the ICRC. PCHR is gravely concerned that Israeli policy concerning Gaza is simply shifting to another form of an illegal blockade, one that may become internationally accepted and institutionalized, as Palestinians in Gaza may no longer suffer from the same shortage of goods, but will remain economically dependent and unable to care for their own population as well as socially, culturally and academically isolated from the rest of the world.
PCHR calls for an immediate end to the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, by way of opening unconditionally all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, to ensure the freedom of movement of all Palestinians.
This opening must also apply to the import of goods necessary for restarting the economy and the export of goods. In order to achieve this, the international community must act decisively to ensure the full lifting of the illegal closure. As High Contracting Parties to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, individual States are under an obligation to ‘ensure respect’ for the Geneva Conventions ‘in all circumstances’.
The closure policy itself is illegal: any proposal must be based solely on the requirements of international law.
The root cause of Israel’s illegal closure is the impunity that it has been granted by the international community. Israel cannot continue to be allowed to act as a state above the law. All those responsible for the commission of international crimes must be held accountable.
In this regard it is essential that the recommendations contained in the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone Report) are implemented; they offer a concrete procedure through which the rule of law can be restored.