The Goldstone Report has rightly focused
international attention on the crimes committed during Israel’s
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
But it doesn’t 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.
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 week’s 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.
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
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
And the Palestinians of Gaza suffer under Israel’s 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
Enthusiasm for the march in Gaza is understandably high, given the Strip’s 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 women’s groups are also aiming to mobilize their
All of these international volunteers have been speaking
out when they get back home and pushing for change in their own
government’s 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
Guest Commentator. Nadia Hijab, is a Senior Fellow at the Institute
for Palestine Studies. This commentary was syndicated
and distributed by Agence Global. The Institute has produced authoritative studies
on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1963.
Its flagship Journal of Palestine Studies is published by the University
Press. Click here
to contact Nadia Hijab.