First Published: 2009-10-19

The Siege on Gaza Continues

The siege against Gaza, which began years ago, tightened to an almost total lockdown in June 2007 and continues to this day. And though the United States, Egypt, the EU and the UN move slowly - if at all - international groups and activists are working to end it, says Nadia Hijab.


Middle East Online

The Goldstone Report has rightly focused international attention on the crimes committed during Israels offensive against Gaza in December-January this year. Even if the United States quashes it at the United Nations Security Council -- where it is likely to go now that the Human Rights Council has adopted it -- the report will make human rights violators think twice.

But it doesnt end the Israeli siege of Gaza. The siege, which began years ago, tightened to an almost total lockdown in June 2007 and continues to this day. It is not just a war crime. As the Goldstone Report put it, depriving the Gaza Palestinians of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, freedom of movement, and access to a court of law and an effective remedy, could amount to persecution, and a competent court could find that crimes against humanity have been committed.

And yet, the siege continues.

While Israel bears direct responsibility for the persecution of the Gaza Palestinians, many others are complicit. Most complicit is the Obama Administration, which has done nothing to end the siege, and has no visible plans to do so -- notwithstanding this weeks remarks by National Security Advisor Jim Jones that we do not accept the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Alongside the United States, European and other governments have a responsibility to uphold the Geneva Conventions and their inaction makes them complicit. Indeed, former British minister Clare Short and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza have recently taken legal action against the European Union for not suspending its trade agreement with Israel, as required by the human rights provisions of Article 2.

Other accomplices: The Palestinian Authority, transfixed by its feud with Hamas, turns a deaf ear to repeated United Nations alarms about the malnutrition of Palestinian children, dying patients, erupting sewage facilities, and eroding water systems.

And Egypt, which briefly opens and then shuts its Rafah border with Gaza, partly because of its agreements with Israel and the international community and partly for political considerations that include keeping up the pressure on Hamas.

And Hamas, which remains determined to maintain its hold on authority -- because it won a majority in parliamentary elections, to uphold the spirit of Palestinian resistance, and for political gain.

Egypt, which is brokering Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks, may reopen the Rafah border once a deal is cemented and the P.A. can staff the border under the aegis of international observers. However, although the reconciliation document has been signed by Fatah and agreed by Hamas according to some of its senior representatives, the process has hit a snag, partly due to the fallout from Mahmoud Abbas initial decision to postpone consideration of the Goldstone Report.

And the Palestinians of Gaza suffer under Israels siege.

This has left it to people from around the world to try to break the siege themselves. Three separate initiatives are scheduled to converge on Gaza in the next few months: the Free Gaza Movement, the Viva Palestina convoy, and the Gaza Freedom March.

The Free Gaza Movement, launched in 2006 by Palestinian and international volunteers, has challenged the siege by sea. In 2008, lawyers, journalists, academics, and others sailed five times to Gaza carrying medical and other supplies. But Israel rammed the sixth ship and kidnapped and briefly imprisoned the passengers on the eighth. Undeterred, the Free Gaza Movement is raising money for a flotilla of passenger and cargo ships to set sail soon.

Viva Palestina volunteers have challenged the siege by land, organizing two convoys of humanitarian goods in February and July. Another convoy sets off on December 5, picking up volunteers in London and Istanbul.

The Gaza Freedom March involves hundreds of international activists who plan to cross the border at Rafah and to march alongside the Gaza Palestinians on December 31st, aiming to reach the border with Israel.

Enthusiasm for the march in Gaza is understandably high, given the Strips isolation, with thousands reportedly planning to march with the internationals. Among other things, youth groups from around Gaza are planning dance, theatre and music shows to welcome the visitors. University student unions hope to strike for the day to bring out the numbers, and womens groups are also aiming to mobilize their members.

All of these international volunteers have been speaking out when they get back home and pushing for change in their own governments policies that allow Israel to keep its siege in place. Perhaps their sustained efforts will finally shame their leaders into action to end the persecution of the Palestinians.

Nadia Hijab is an independent analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Copyright 2009 Nadia Hijab

(Distributed by Agence Global)


Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions