Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

gaza blockade white house

One of our postcard actions in front of the White house

This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House.  The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.

The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip.  The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.

As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment.  Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid.  While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.

The blockade also affects life in Gaza in other terrible ways.  As we reported in 2012, “Israeli authorities hindered or prevented hundreds of patients from leaving Gaza to obtain medical treatment.”  And Gaza workers and students find it all but impossible to leave the territory to pursue jobs or education elsewhere, even in the West Bank.

Join the campaign by emailing the White House.

It is important to note that Israeli civilians have long endured the firing of indiscriminate rockets and mortars by armed Palestinian groups based in Gaza.  These indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks are war crimes, which Amnesty International has condemned repeatedly.  The continuing attacks on southern Israel, which killed 3 civilians last year, are one of the Israeli government’s stated justifications for continuing the blockade.

gaza children

More than half of Gaza’s population are children.

However, while Israel has the right to prevent weapons from entering Gaza, there is no justification for imposing blanket restrictions on the movement of people or goods in and out of the territory.  The blockade constitutes collective punishment – a breach of international law.  Under international law, you cannot blockade 1.6 million civilians because of the actions of a government or armed groups.

It is also worth noting that many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli military actions, some of which were war crimes.  During the 2008-2009 Israeli military offensive in Gaza, some 1,400 Palestinians were killed.  Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians — who took no part in the conflict — were among those killed. For these victims, there has been no accountability or reparations to date.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory, measuring 25 miles in length by an average of less than 6 miles in width.  Together with the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, these areas comprise the Occupied Palestinian Territories.   They remain under Israeli military occupation and effective control, though local Palestinian authorities with limited powers exercise governmental authority in the West Bank and Gaza.  They are recognized as one territory under international humanitarian law.

In the West Bank, the local governing body with limited powers is the Palestinian Authority, led by the political party Fatah.  Gaza meanwhile has been been under the Hamas de facto administration since June 2007.   Even though these are local Palestinian authorities, Israel remains the occupying power.  As a result, Israel bears foremost responsibility for ensuring the welfare of the inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian territories. To make matters even more complicated, Gaza also shares a border with Egypt.  This means that Egyptian authorities are also partly responsible for the suffering of Gaza civilians living under the blockade.

Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank experience a range of human rights violations – and not just from Israeli soldiers and officials.  In Gaza, for example, as I’ve previously written, human rights violations by the Hamas authorities include torture, unfair trials, and the death penalty.

But Israel’s blockade is a dominant factor when it comes to the quality of life in Gaza.  A new UN report (pdf / press release) puts it succinctly:

Gaza is an urban economy, heavily reliant on intensive trade, communication and movement of people.  The area has been essentially isolated since 2005, meaning that, in the longer term, its economy is fundamentally unviable under present circumstances.  Gaza is currently kept alive through external funding and the illegal tunnel economy.

The UN report predicts that the combination of population growth and continued hardship will lead to dramatic challenges by 2020:

There will be virtually no reliable access to sources of safe drinking water, standards of healthcare and education will have continued to decline, and the vision of affordable and reliable electricity for all will have become a distant memory for most.

Thousands of Amnesty International members and supporters are right to be concerned.  Israeli policy has cut off Palestinians in Gaza from the outside world.  It is time for President Obama to call on the Israeli government to end the Gaza blockade.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

18 thoughts on “Gaza Blockade: Still Operational, Still Violating Human Rights

  1. "To make matters even more complicated, Gaza also shares a border with Egypt. This means that Egyptian authorities are also partly responsible for the suffering of Gaza civilians living under the blockade."

    So after all the accusations against Israel we learn that Egypt shares a border too.

    • Israel is the oppressor though, Egypt just hasn't done anything to help the Palestinians.

      You can't ignore the facts- During the 2008-2009 Israeli military offensive in Gaza, some 1,400 Palestinians were killed. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians — who took no part in the conflict — were among those killed.
      The Israeli regime is murderous.

    • If you did not know that Egypt shares a border with Gaza, maybe you need to do some reading and look at a map of the area. Then, you may be able to take part in an intelligent discussion.

  2. The Jewish vote turned out to be a non event Obama you can tell the israel lobby where to go and stop the slaughter in PALESTINE

  3. Where-as all human beings have the right to pursue Happiness respective of others in regards to their own beliefs and cultures. We are more than a nation of one for all and all for one, we are now a world of all for one and one for all. Living is not dieing, living is sharing, loving and being prosperous as life is being the currency of exchange. Join others in our challenges to unite global peace and prosperity., please

  4. I think first, your priority campaign should be to get Hamas to re-write it's charter that calls for the destruction of Israel: "The charter states "our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories,[35] and the obliteration or dissolution of Israel." ~ This explains & justifies, without doubt, Israel's blockade on Gaza. The Palestinians in Gaza voted for Hamas, so they brought this on themselves. Perhaps they should have new elections and vote for a party that is not hell bent solely on the destruction of Israel.

  5. I am utterly appalled by this article. It is unbelievably biased and uncalled for. Just to give you some much-needed information on how Israelis and Hamas (and their supporters) actually treat each other, see the following links:

    • Even though Hamas has committed illegal operations, it is a logical fallacy to bring up Hamas just to distract attention from what Israel is doing. Bringing up what Hamas does does not change/justify what the Israeli government did. Hamas needs to stop its wrong doings just as Israel needs to stop its human rights abuses. This isnt about taking sides. Whats right is right and what is wrong is wrong. Both sides need to take accountability for their wrong doings.

      • Justice, Israel is so pro-human right it is ridiculous. The fact that you even think that Israel is any different just shows how ignorant you are on the subject. Do some research for yourself and you'll find that Israel sent flyers over Gaza telling Hamas exactly where they would be attacking just so that innocent Arab civilians would have a chance to get away from the Hamas leaders as well as the missile storage places, which are the directed places the IDF was targeting. You will also find that Israel has 27,000 non-profit organizations and that Israel gave food, water, and other needed supplies to the innocent citizens of Gaza during this war. Educate yourself before you make such accusations.

  6. After reading about Amnesty International bias, I will no longer consider contributing or supporting your organization, and will work to enlighten my colleagues so they can make an informed decision.

  7. I honestly think that this whole situation shouldn't even exist in the first place. We are all human beings, and we all reserve the right to have our own beliefs and customs. We are all apart of the same species whether we all have the same belief should not be any concern. We are all different, our differences should bring us together, we should learn from the differences not start nonsense.

  8. I think there should be a Law where killing an Innocent/unarmed in the name of war should be stated as a crime then i guess there will be atleast few changes on these issue !

  9. I don't know if e-mailing will do the job, but I applaud your commitment. Keep sending everything you can to the White House.

  10. The Jews are doing to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip what was done to them in the Warsaw Ghettos by the Nazi's. You would think that they would understand the sin of this kind of treatment of fellow human beings. Since it appears that nothing was learned from that tragedy we are all doomed to repeat it over and over again. I wonder if we will awaken in time to save ourselves from extinction

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