Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 6: Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal

examples

North Korea, 42nd Session

“The ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip is a flagrant violation of international law…”

Nicaragua, 41st Session

“The illegal blockade imposed against the Gaza Strip is a systematic violation.”

Libya, 40th Session

“The occupying power is still practising an unjust blockade on Gaza Strip and imposing collective punishment on citizens…”

Our Response

UN Watch

The United Nations itself, in the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry report of 2011 concerning the Mavi Marmara incident from the previous year, found that Israel’s Gaza blockade is legal under international law. “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza,” determined the UN inquiry, headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand. “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”[1] (See ¶ 82)

The UN inquiry’s additional specific findings, which belie the accusation by Libya, Nicaragua and North Korea that the Gaza blockade is illegal, include:

  • The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is an international armed conflict for the purposes of the law of blockade. (See ¶ 73).
  • Israel had intercepted ships smuggling weapons into Gaza, and it faced a real security threat from thousands of Gaza rocket and mortar attacks targeting civilians, the purpose of which was (and remains) “to do damage to the population of Israel.” (See ¶ 72).
  • The blockade was declared and notified, and it is implemented in an impartial manner. (See ¶¶ 75-76).
  • The blockade was imposed pursuant to a valid military objective. It is not collective punishment against the people of Gaza for having elected Hamas, as Israel’s earliest maritime interceptions to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza predated the Hamas take-over, and the blockade itself was instituted more than one year after the take-over. (See ¶ 77).
  • The blockade is not disproportionate, as Gaza’s port is too small to handle large shipments of goods, which are instead transferred to Gaza through land crossings. Thus, the impact of the blockade on the delivery of supplies to Gaza is “slight in the overall humanitarian situation.” (See ¶ 78).

Significantly, the UN inquiry reviewed the reports of the detailed national investigations into the Mavi Marmara incident conducted by both Turkey and Israel (Turkel Commission Report).[2] On the issue of the legality of Israel’s blockade, the UN inquiry agreed with Israel’s legal analysis. For a summary of Israel’s conclusions, see ¶ 112 of the Turkel Commission Report.

For more information on the UN inquiry’s Palmer Report, see analysis by legal expert Tervor S. Norwitz.[3]

Moreover, while Israel has maintained a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and restrictions on land crossings due to Hamas’s control of the Strip and its ongoing terrorism against Israel, there has always been significant traffic in goods and services between Israel and Gaza. Israel administers two crossing points, Kerem Shalom, which is the main crossing point for goods, and the Erez crossing for people, including Gazans in need of medical treatment, foreign officials, journalists and Palestinians from Israel and the West Bank.

Contrary to the images conjured up by the “illegal blockade” accusation, every day an average of 800 trucks enter the Gaza Strip carrying food, medical equipment, fuel, building materials, agricultural inputs, textile products and more, according to Israel’s Office of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which publishes weekly data about humanitarian traffic in and out of Gaza. In the first week of May 2020, 260 tons of medical supplies were transferred to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, in addition to 12,500 tons of food, 100 tanks of fuel and 355 tons of agricultural products.[4] Also, on May 7, 2020, Israel facilitated the transfer to Gaza of a Watergen water machine that can create 600 liters of water per day from air.[5]

This movement of goods and services continues even during closures due to Hamas rocket attacks. For example, despite hundreds of rockets fired against Israel from Gaza in the summer of 2018, Israel continued to allow food and medical supplies into Gaza. On August 13, 2018, the day before Israel reopened the crossings, COGAT reported the transfer of 3,889 tons of goods in 156 trucks, which entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom Crossing.[6]

Notably, trade conducted through the Egyptian side of the Gaza border (which began only in February 2018) is only 10% of the trade passing through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Critics of Israel tend to overlook Egypt’s role in sealing off Gaza.[7] Egypt administers the Rafah Crossing which has been effectively closed since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, opened only intermittently to allow limited movement of medical cases, students with visas to study abroad, and holders of foreign passports or residency permits.[8] In February 2020, Egypt commenced work on a concrete barrier along its border with Gaza.[9]

[1] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident (September 2011), https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_2235.pdf.

[2] The Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010 report Part I, The Turkel Commission (January 2010), http://www.turkel-committee.gov.il/files/wordocs/8808report-eng.pdf.

[3] Trevor S. Norwitz, The Importance of the Palmer Report, UN Watch (2011), https://unwatch.org/issue-315-importance-palmer-report/.

[4] @cogatonline, Twitter (May 10, 2020, 4:54 PM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1259481844019531777.

[5] @cogatonline, Twitter (May 7, 2020, 7:59 PM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1258441249532624896.

[6] Judah Ari Gross, Key Gaza crossing reopens as calm along border holds, Times of Israel (August 15, 2018), https://www.timesofisrael.com/key-gaza-crossing-set-to-fully-reopen-as-calm-along-border-holds/#gs.gd5o16; @cogatonline, Twitter (August 13, 2018, 11:55 AM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1028927903491403776.

[7] Neri Zilber, New Gaza Crossing Raises Questions About Blockade Policies, The Washington Institute (October 23, 2019), https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/new-gaza-crossing-raises-questions-about-blockade-policies.

[8] Khaled Abu Toameh, Why Egypt Does Not Want to Help Gaza, Gatestone Institute (September 11, 2019), https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/14859/egypt-gaza-help.

[9] AFP and TOI staff, Egypt begins building concrete wall along Gaza border, Times of Israel (February 19, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/egypt-begins-building-concrete-wall-along-gaza-border/#gs.gd5xz3.

UN Watch

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