Israeli flotilla inquiry cannot authorize the collective punishment of Gaza
In response to the publication of the interim report of the Turkel Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May, 2010, and its conclusion that the naval closure of the Gaza Strip, as well as the actions Israel took to enforce it, are consistent with the provisions of international law, Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement) notes:
No commission of inquiry can authorize the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza, of which the maritime closure was an integral part. Gisha notes that a primary goal of the restrictions, as declared by Israel, was to paralyze the economy in Gaza and prevent its residents from leading normal lives. International law forbids using civilians to advance “strategic” goals, under circumstances in which Israel controls their ability to transfer goods. Although some of the restrictions were removed following the flotilla incident, Israel continues to restrict the movement of persons, the entrance of building materials and the transfer of goods for sale outside Gaza – with no valid security justification.
International law permits restricting movement for purposes of security, so long as Israel protects the rights of residents in Gaza to engage in normal life. However, imposing a closure for purposes of punishment is forbidden, as the International Committee of the Red Cross stated in reference to the maritime incident. According to official documents obtained by Gisha under the Freedom of Information Act, Israel prevented the passage of civilian goods such as spices, raw materials and consumer items and even set limitations for the amount of food it would permit residents of Gaza to purchase. We disagree with the Commission’s conclusion that the restrictions were justified for military or “strategic” reasons. It is unclear how preventing the transfer into Gaza of industrial margarine, paper, and coriander contributed to a legitimate military goal.
So long as Israel controls central elements of life in Gaza, including movement via the crossings, it must take responsibility for the effects of its control on the 1.5 million human beings living in the Gaza Strip. Gisha expresses hope that Israel will cancel the many remaining restrictions that are not related to concrete security risks and will allow the free movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza, subject only to individual security checks.
For a position paper on the maritime closure and the Turkel Commission, click here.
For a position paper on the continuing restrictions on access into and out of Gaza, click here.