Palmer Report Did Not Find Gaza Blockade Legal, Despite Media Headlines

gaza turkey flotillaThe media has gone crazy these past couple of days announcing that the UN-appointed panel of inquiry into the flotilla raid last summer, known as the Palmer Commission, found that the Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza is legal and that Israel used excessive force during the raid.

From the Jerusalem Post to the BBC, headlines scream that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal.  This is not only completely false, it distracts from the main point of the inquiry which was to determine if excessive use of force was used by Israeli forces during the raid on the flotilla in international waters and how to avoid a similar incident like this from happening again.

The contents of the Palmer Report were made public Thursday by the New York Times.  The report itself, which was completed last February, was being delayed at the UN while Turkey and Israel negotiated over language and played behind-the-scenes politics.


Help a student from Gaza not miss another day of school

Want to help a student who has worked hard both academically and in his community?  Someone who has gone through the madness of applying and being accepted at a university in the United States even earning a partial scholarship?  (Not an easy task.)  Want to help someone that has already had to miss fall semester and is in danger of missing spring semester and losing his scholarship?

Abed earns his degree in 2008.

Abed Al Hadi Basheer is 24 years old and trying to better himself so he can continue to help children in his community and better care for his blind father and family.  He has been accepted into Washington State University’s College of Education Cultural Studies and Social Thought program in Pullman, WA with a partial scholarship and has received letters of support from professors who live in Pullman that met Abed when they travelled to the Gaza Strip on a Fulbright-Hays project.  He also has letters on his behalf from both Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington state.

What is wrong with him?  Or, what has he done wrong?  Nothing.  Well, he was born in the Gaza Strip.

Due to Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, there are stringent restrictions on all movement of people into and out of Gaza.


Daily Life in Gaza: Loss, Despair, and Hopelessness

The New York Times today published a major front page story on the daily life in Gaza. The story chronicles the adversity, disunity, and sheer loss that dominates daily life in Gaza, and the Times’ website includes some very powerful images and video footage. Civilians in Gaza suffer from a complete lack of opportunities, high unemployment, and scarce resources, including water and electricity, the article concludes.

Video "Growing Up in Gaza". Screenshot taken from

The article also claims that the root of the current suffering is the loss of opportunity and the inability of Palestinians in Gaza to produce for themselves. Since these options do not exist for Gazans, men stay home throughout the day, some taking sedatives to numb their loss, and women struggle to ease their husband’s pain and fill their children’s bellies. Despite international criticism over the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the international concern over the May 31 flotilla incident, the blockade has continued uninterrupted for three years, and the daily struggles and overwhelming despair of the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza have been largely overlooked and misrepresented internationally.

We have repeatedly urged the U.S. government and international community to pressure Israel to lift the blockade. In fact, the recent “easing” of the blockade is not sufficient in adequately addressing the daily plight of Gazans. Israel’s blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, four in five of which are dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law. The blockade does not target armed groups – who in the past have repeatedly launched indiscriminate attacks against civilians in southern Israel – but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials. Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza’s people: children, the elderly and the sick. To end the suffering and restore opportunity and hope to the people of Gaza, a full lifting of the blockade is imperative.

Don’t forget to watch the New York Times video from inside Gaza.

Then, urge the Obama Administration to advocate for a lifting of the blockade!

Troubled Waters: Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water

Israel is denying Palestinians their right to access to adequate water by using discriminatory and restrictive policies.

Donatella Rovera, senior researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories said,

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse.”

The report, “Troubled Waters: Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water,” says Israel uses more than 80 per cent of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the OPT, while restricting Palestinian access to 20 per cent.  Israel takes all the water from the Jordan River,  the Palestinians get none.


Israeli Naval Force Blocks Humanitarian Aid from Entering Gaza

The Israeli navy intercepted, boarded, and took control of a Greek cargo ship carrying foreign peace activists, including former US congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel prize winner Mairead Maguire. Their ship was carrying humanitarian aid cargo for the residents of Gaza.

The Israeli military instilled a blockade June 2007 in Gaza; a response to the rise in power of Hamas. Since then, the sanctions have made it incredibly difficult to get the bare essentials to the population, such as food, fuel, and medicine.

This is not the first time Israel has blocked humanitarian aid—similar ships have been turned back after attempting to deliver basic goods like food and medicine.

This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip,” said Cynthia McKinney in a statement shortly after she and the other activists were turned over to immigration authorities in Ashdod.

Samah Choudhury contributed to this post

Great animated short on blockade of Gaza

Gisha, Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement, an Israeli non-profit organization, produced this powerful animated short, ‘Closed Zone’.   They tapped the talent of Yoni Goodman, the animator of the award winning animated film ‘Waltz with Bashir’:

You can also watch the short video on the making of ‘Closed Zone’.

In the meantime, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is in the Middle East committing $900 million in aid to the Palestinians.  The issue remains how the aid being purchased is to make it into the Gaza Strip to the people that need it.  Secretary Clinton urged the Israeli government to allow more aid into the strip, but stopped short of asking for full, unhindered access.  Israel, as a gesture, has agreed to let more aid in.  Over 80% of the 1.5 million depend on aid from outside sources and the 100+/day trucks being allowed in are simply not enough to deal with the incredibly dire humanitarian situation.

A Humanitarian Truce or Farce?

After thirteen days of shelling Gaza in attacks that have killed over 683 Palestinians, the Israeli government has agreed to a daily three hour truce to allow for humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza.

But is this sufficient? Consider the following:

1. Historical blockade of Gaza

Avi Shlaim, a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and a former Israeli soldier, writes in his Guardian article, How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of a humanitarian crisis:  “Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip.  With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza’s prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development.”

Since the Hamas electoral victory in 2007, Israel has gradually blockaded humanitarian assistance from entering Gaza, creating unlivable conditions.  I blogged about the effect of this in an earlier posting called “Gaza by the Numbers.”

2. Recent Violence Wrecking Havoc on Civilians in Gaza

In the bloodiest day of fighting since the violence broke out on December 27, 2008, the Israeli government fired at a UN sponsored school, killing 40, including an entire family of seven with young children.  In an article in Time magazine, UN investigators found that no Hamas fighters were present at the school at the time of the attack.

The Israeli government has yet to apologize.

Often Israeli leaders say civilians are properly warned and that leaflets dropped by Israeli aircraft over Gaza have warned residents to leave the area.  However Gazans are physically prevented from doing so, causing panic and confusion among the population.  One Gaza resident, a supporter of the Fatah party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Amnesty International: “My children see the leaflets and go crazy with fear, they want to leave home; but we have nowhere to go.  My family and my wife’s family live close to the border, in even more dangerous areas; and we can’t just stay outside, it is equally dangerous, children have been killed walking or playing in the street.  There is no electricity, we can’t even find food, and we are not safe even in our homes.  We have nothing to do with Hamas, I’ve been detained and harassed by Hamas, but the Israeli bombardments are indiscriminate. No one is safe.”

Speaking of the recent violence, John Ging, a UN official, said: “I want to tell the world’s leaders something: You are not to sleep, eat or drink until you stop the killing of innocent people in the Gaza Strip.  There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone is terrorized and traumatized.” He added that 1 million Palestinians were without electricity and 700,000 were without water.

3. Three hour time frame for truce not enough

A statement released by Amnesty International on Friday said that “in the absence of a ceasefire, an immediate humanitarian truce is urgently needed to protect the civilian population. The fighting must stop long enough so that humanitarian assistance can reach those in need and so that those who want to leave can be evacuated.”

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN relief agency Unwra, said given the scale of the crisis, more time is needed: “When you are trying to feed 750,000 people a day in Gaza as we are, you need a permanent ceasefire. You can’t do that in a three-hour window.”