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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home