Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the need for New Zealand to condemn the Gaza blockade

June 1st, 2010

The Israeli attack on the Turkish aid convoy to Gaza, and its subsequent slaughter of the civilians on board is being condemned around the world. That the commando raid was mounted in order to prevent the delivery of medical aid, building supplies and other humanitarian assistance to the inhabitants of Gaza is particularly repulsive. The Israeli blockade in the wake of its late 2008/early 2009 military offensive has caused the Gazan economy to collapse – leaving some 70% of Gazans to subsist, as the Guardian reports, on less than $1 a day, with 75% now reliant on food aid and 60% having no daily access to water.

Some 10% of the population – many of them children – are estimated by the World Health Organisation to have been stunted by malnutrition. The Gaza blockade was denounced in December 2009 in this article written by a budding UK politician called Nick Clegg, whose response to this latest outrage will be keenly awaited.

There can be no doubt that the aid flotilla’s attempts to break the blockade were justified, on humanitarian grounds. The justification offered for the blockade by the Israelis has been the rocket attacks emanating from Gaza – these rockets have, by the best estimate I can find, have killed about 20 people inside Israel since 2001, at a rate of just over 2 a year. These indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians were roundly condemned by the Goldstone Report to the UN last year.

However, the Israeli response has not only been disproportionate – over 1100 Palestinians were killed in its Gaza military offensive, a third of them children – but the subsequent use of collective punishment against the Gaza population, as the Goldstone Report also said, could well be held by a competent court to constitute a crime against humanity.

The attack on the aid flotilla is consistent with such brutality. The use of live ammunition by Israeli commandos against people armed at best, with iron bars – to an extent where 19 people have been killed – is also disproportionate. So far, the New Zealand response has been to condemn the use of violence and especially to decry the loss of life in the incident.

“I am taking immediate steps to communicate the government’s concerns over this incident to the government of Israel,… We support the calls made by other countries for a full investigation into the incident.” Foreign Minister McCully has said.

All well and good. In the circumstances though, it would also be appropriate for New Zealand to call on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade. If the siege can now be lifted, the loss of life among the aid flotilla might not have been entirely in vain. Anything less than condemning the blockade would seem to make us complicit by our silence, in the collective punishment of the people of Gaza.

The situation was set out by Justice Goldstone in the covering letter to his report to the UN last year :

The Mission decided that in order to understand the effect of the Israeli military operations on the infrastructure and economy of Gaza, and especially its food supplies, it was necessary to have regard to the effects of the blockade that Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip for some years and has been tightened since Hamas became the controlling authority of Gaza.

The Mission found that the attack on the only remaining flour producing factory, the destruction of a large part of the Gaza egg production, the bulldozing of huge tracts of agricultural land, and the bombing of some two hundred industrial facilities, could not on any basis be justified on military grounds. Those attacks had nothing whatever to do with the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel.

The Mission looked closely and sets out in the Report statements made by Israeli political and military leaders in which they stated in clear terms that they would hit at the “Hamas infrastructure”.

If “infrastructure” were to be understood in that way and become a justifiable military objective, it would completely subvert the whole purpose of IHL built up over the last 100 years and more. It would make civilians and civilian buildings justifiable targets.

These attacks amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to ask – does New Zealand support the Gaza blockade, or condemn it? Does it agree with the government of Turkey that the attempts by the flotilla to break the siege of Gaza were appropriate, and justified? Given our links to Turkey in the wake of our Anzac Day commemorations, a statement of support from New Zealand would be widely appreciated, and well publicised in that part of the world.

Footnote. In last week’s Scoop report on the aid flotilla, I mistyped the first name of the captured Israeli soldier as Gideon Shalit when he is, of course, Gilad Shalit.

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    1. 10 Responses to “On the need for New Zealand to condemn the Gaza blockade”

    2. By Nadine on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      Thank you Gordon, for responding so quickly to this outrage.
      Enough “investigations into the circumstances of the incident’, enough of Israel saying it acts in self defence, enough of USA government (taxpayer) funding Israeli brutality.

      This, from Jewish Voice for Peace:

      Jewish Voice for Peace condemns Israel’s attack and killing of members of the Freedom Flotilla aiming to bring much needed aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.

      Before the flotilla was attacked, Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said,

      “If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes.”

      Israel has more than egg on its face. Israel has blood on its hands. At least 10 passengers have been killed by Israel and about 30 wounded in international waters. This is just another deadly escalation of Israel’s harsh repression of nonviolent protests against the occupation, paid with American tax-dollars.

      The White House has stated that it “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.” This is not enough.

      We should not lose sight of the original intent of the flotilla: to bring aid and relief to the Gaza Strip, still under siege.
      Join local activist in your area
      EMERGENCY PROTESTS TODAY
      NY: 3 PM TODAY, Times Square. Assemble at 47th St. and 7th Ave. Look for the JVP banner to join our contingent.

      SAN FRANCISCO: 12noon TODAY. Israeli Consulate (456 Montgomery St.) and march to Union Square, Memorial Day. Please be there! Bring your own sign! 1 pm at Market and Powell.

      DC: 3pm TODAY: Assemble at the Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive NW (Van Ness Metro Stop), moving to the White House at 5pm.
      SEATTLE: 1:00 pm TODAY. 5th Avenue and Broad St, Seattle Center near the Experience Music Project.
      MIAMI: 5pm-7pm TODAY, at Torch of Friendship (Downtown)
      Additional protests here: http://gazafreedommarch.org/cms/en/flotilla/protest.aspx

    3. By Stuart Munro on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      I think perhaps things need to go a little further Gordon. Forcibly boarding an unarmed vessel in international waters… sounds a lot like piracy.

      What actions are being taken against Somali pirates? Israel seems to merit the same treatment. And perhaps trade sanctions would be productive as well.

    4. By ben thompson on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      Gordon,

      What are the chances of our government showing any courage that is based on human justice? Feeling faint from holding your breath?

      As for isreal, every year it becomes more ironic with that country, where they look more and more like their WW2 tormentors. How long can we continue showing compassion and patience to this country? when will enough be enough, where we can close the door on the past and name them or judge them on their current actions?

      Shame on you isreal.

    5. By Godfrey Larsen on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      If the roles were reversed the US would not be “working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. The drones would be on their way. NZ must stand up and be counted amongst those who demand respect for international law, the resolutions of the United Nations by all parties, and the recognition of legitimately elected governments.

    6. By Pamela on Jun 1, 2010 | Reply

      The fascist reaction of Israel to a flotilla of aid is good enough reason to enforce Israel to join the NPT. A country that will do this will let off a nuke anytime. Israel also is becoming more and more fundamentalist as the settlers take over.

    7. By Paula Morrison on Jun 2, 2010 | Reply

      It is naive of your commentators to believe that purpose of the aid convoy was to deliver a few boxes of tools and medicine. Its purpose was to protest, to draw attention to the blockade. And (as per today’s excellent NY Times headline) Israel took the bait. So this is not a story about a failed aid convoy, but of a protest that has succeeded beyond its organisers’ wildest dreams. And all made possible by a conservative Israeli govt that has done more harm to their own ’cause-most-dear’ in the past 5 years than any blunders of the past 50 years combined.

    8. By one palestinian state solution on Jun 7, 2010 | Reply

      israel has no legitimacy
      http://www.redress.cc/palestine/cking20100606

    9. By Mark on Jun 15, 2010 | Reply

      The Gaza blockade (so called) looks more like piracy with a license to me.

      However Iran is about to make the game interesting by sending it’s own ships along with appropriate threats.

      Whoosh-bang! This could light the sky for continents…..wonder if we’ll see the need to send in Kiwi’s with guns?

    10. By Tina on Jun 21, 2010 | Reply

      Well the Palestinian ‘aid’ flotilla media fest suceeded beyond anything which they could have dreamed. Why? Because the Western media have an intense dislike for the Israeli government, ad it’s PC these days to take sides. I am appalled that you have not given any kind of balanced viewpoint here – what about the fact that he road to Gaza is open and many convoys go down that road regularly, and several ships got through that week because they obeyed the rules? What about the fact that Gaza, while inhabited by Israelis until it was given to the Arabs, was exporting millions of dollars worth of fruit and vegetables to Europe and was self sustaining? The Arabs BEING AID DEPENDENT & too lazy to grow their own stuff, went in and wrecked the Gaza economy,crying poor, but have enough it seems to arm their young men and train kids in warfare against the very nation that offered to help them. DO NOT TRUST THE MEDIA ON THIS ONE – IT’S A SET-UP!

    11. By Rhys Phillips on Jul 3, 2010 | Reply

      Food Aids are badly needed by third world countries like in Africa in Asia.*;”

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