Leading article: An unlawful policy of collective punishment

Share
Related Topics

The siege of Gaza has reached a vicious new intensity. Last Thursday, Israel blocked the delivery of fuel oil supplies to the Strip. The result is that Gaza's only power station has not functioned since the weekend. Hundred of thousands of homes in the territory have been left without power. Hospitals have been forced to rely on diesel generators. Bakeries and petrol stations have closed. International aid organisations working in the Strip have warned of a threat to sewage and water supplies if the blockade continues.

The Israeli government denies it is creating a humanitarian crisis and calls the blackout a ploy by Hamas, the authority in Gaza, "to attract international sympathy". This is not a view shared by John Ging, the operations director for the United Nations refugee agency in Gaza. It is true that the power station normally supplies only a third of the Strip's electricity, but it is also clear that the Strip's energy infrastructure cannot cope with such a massive disruption to supplies. The suffering in Gaza is real, and is the result of Israel's embargo.

While Israel is reluctant to admit the effects of its blockade, it makes no bones about what the siege is intended to achieve: it is designed to pressure Hamas into putting a stop to the rocket attacks being launched against Israel from within Palestinian territory. Israel has a right to attempt to stop the attacks on its civilian population, but not by any means. International law specifically forbids collective punishment of occupied populations. The Geneva Conventions stipulate that occupying powers have an obligation to supply utilities such as water and power to occupied populations.

Israel has attempted to get around this by arguing that it is no longer bound by the law governing the administration of occupied territories because it withdrew its troops from Gaza in 2005. But that is thoroughly unconvincing. Israel still controls Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters. It may have begun referring to the Strip as a "hostile entity", but this is plainly an area still under Israeli control.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, and the European Union's External Affairs Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, have both declared the embargo unacceptable. But, as ever in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, events are being propelled by internal dynamics. There has been a rise in the number of rocket attacks from Gaza of late. More than 200 rockets and mortar bombs have pounded southern Israel in the past week. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, has been under domestic pressure to respond to the bombardment. The embargo is his answer, along with an escalation in targeted killings of suspected Palestinian militants in the Strip. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, claims the strategy is working because the number of rockets being fired has fallen. But it is far too early to come to such a judgement. The likelihood is that, in the absence of a negotiated ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the rockets will soon begin to fall again.

The cycle needs to be broken somehow. But Mr Olmert is not making decisions from a position of strength. The resignation of the hardline leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avigdor Lieberman, from Israel's coalition government, has left Mr Olmert with only a slim majority in the Knesset. There is a danger that he will stretch out the embargo to counter accusations of being "weak" in the face of Israel's enemies.

Israel is justified in taking the rocket attacks seriously. But collective punishment of 1.5 million Gazans is no way to deal with the threat. All this blockage will do is drive more Gazans into the arms of militants and entrench a hatred of Israel among them. Rather than making Israel safer, it will merely expose her to greater danger.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
Rebekah Brooks after her acquittal at the Old Bailey in June  

Rebekah Brooks to return? We all get those new-job jitters

John Mullin
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future