+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

The Gaza siege isn't about security. It's collective punishment, pure and simple

Israel shut down Gaza’s ability to conduct trade because of flaming balloons and kites that Palestinians have been floating over the border. There is no security justification, just collective punishment.

A truck is seen at the Israeli army controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the only commercial crossing where goods can enter and exit Gaza, March 22, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A truck is seen at the Israeli army controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, the only commercial crossing where goods can enter and exit Gaza, March 22, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Israeli authorities often claim that the siege on Gaza is about security. Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups must not be allowed to import weapons or materials to build weapons, they say. It is a necessary measure. It’s about security.

That is partly true, sometimes. That is, except when it’s not.

The Israeli political leadership announced this week that it is cshutting down Gaza’s only commercial connection to the outside world. Not that the people of Gaza were allowed to do much trade with anyone before the crossing was closed, but now Israel took away the little commerce it had allowed until now.

Surely there is a good reason. A security reason.

Perhaps Israel received solid intelligence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps was trying to sneak advanced weaponry into Gaza in a shipment of medical supplies? Or maybe the Shin Bet discovered a plot to place explosives in a furniture shipment destined for the West Bank?

Nope.

Either of those scenarios would have been a legitimate reason to temporarily halt commercial activity at the Israeli controlled crossing so that shipments could be more closely inspected and to mitigate the threat. That’s not what happened.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

SUBMIT

The decision to tighten the siege on Gaza was collective punishment, pure and simple. Nobody is hiding that.

Israel’s political and military leadership were very clear that its decision to stop all commerce between Gaza and the rest of the world was a response to kites and balloons, sent from Gaza into Israel carrying crude incendiary devices, which have caused considerable damage to Israeli agriculture in recent months.

A Palestinian youth in southern Gaza is seen preparing to send an incindiary kite toward the border with Israel, June 29, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Palestinian youth in southern Gaza is seen preparing to send an incindiary kite toward the border with Israel, June 29, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In other words, millions of people are being made to suffer because of the actions of a few. And the Israeli army has threatened to make things even worse if the kites and balloons continue. That is not a decision based on security considerations: it is a political decision — a political decision to destroy Gaza’s economy.

It is a political decision to ratchet up the suffering of a civilian population that Israel has been economically suffocating for over a decade. Businesses will go bankrupt. An economy with unemployment approaching 50 percent, where more than half of the population subsides on less than $4.60 a day, and where some 70 percent of the population receives UN food assistance, will lose even more jobs.

Israel has never made a secret of the fact that the siege itself is a form of collective punishment. One doesn’t cut millions of people’s electricity supply, ban the import of “luxury goods,” forbid all exports aside from flowers and strawberries, and limit food imports based on the minimum number of calories you think Gazans need to survive — for security reasons.

“With the blockade, Israel also hoped to turn Gazans against Hamas by contrasting Hamas rule with the better life of Palestinians in the West Bank,” the U.S. Congressional Research Service wrote in a 2010 report on the blockade. “Instead, the blockade isolated the territory and helped to strengthen Hamas’s control.”

Israel’s plan to starve the civilian population into revolting against their unelected leaders has done nothing other than make life for Gazans more miserable with each passing year. It has also not stopped Hamas from importing and producing thousands of rockets which it fired into Israeli population centers in the three wars since the siege began.

So if the siege isn’t providing security and it isn’t producing regime change, what is the logic behind the cruel policy?

According to one former cabinet minister, the only reason the siege remains in place is “inertia.”

It’s time to end the siege.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. itshak Gordin Halevy

      No, Israel can not receive a slap and hold the other cheek. Hundreds of kites and other incendiary devices sent from Gaza have caused huge damage to Israeli agriculture. The political entity that commands Gaza has done nothing to oppose it. It is normal for Israel to get angry and demand redress. The Israeli population can not admit that their government is weak.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Brian McDonough

      The breathtaking stupidity of the Gazans may be appreciated by how very well Hamas actually assists Israel in the destruction of Hamas by its own protests. Israel has a simple four word rule: “approach Border – get shot.” Anyone who stupidly chooses to approach the Border also stupidly chooses, by that stupid act, to be shot: cause = effect; stupid is as stupid does.

      The constant orders by Hamas for Gazans to approach the Border ironically actually are helping Israel against Hamas because those stupid Gazans who choose to approach the Border are injured or killed and, therefore, are eliminated, not only as a possible present threat to Israel, but also eliminated as a possible future threat to Israel. Because they will continue to be eliminated as a present and future threat for as long as the protests continue, the continuation of the protests by Hamas will continue to help Israel reduce future threats since Hamas is slaughtering the ranks of its own alleged “army” by its pathetic protests. Israel does not have to check papers or computer information to determine the present and future threat potential of those Gazans who approach the Border. Israel only has to see which suicidal idiots approach the Border to know their present and future threat potential.

      Stupid is as stupid does, and stupid is Hamas and Gaza for a dozen reasons: (1) actually creating for Israel this Darwinian “Natural Selection” of the elimination of present and future Gazan terrorists by Hamas ordering the “Natural Selection” of where Gazans should walk, which enables Israel to eliminate them as future threats; (2) not one Israeli soldier has sustained even one small, shallow paper cut as a result of the protests; (3) in contrast, over 100 deaths and thousands and thousands of injuries to Gazans; (4) those few protesters who actually penetrate the Border (and always only a few meters) are either shot or caught or both, which completely destroys Hamas’ alleged great “March of Return” which truly is a “March of Turn Around and Around” in Gaza; (5) the protests have not changed the daily lives of Gazans in any way whatsoever; (6) the protests had no effect on the May 14 opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem to which no less than 32 countries accepted an invitation to attend; (7) the protests had no effect on the openings of the Guatemala Embassy and the Paraguay Embassy in Jerusalem; (8) the protests will have no effect on many other future Embassies in Jerusalem; (9) the protests attest to the completely destructive governance of Gaza by Hamas since it took power in 2006; (10) the protests corroborate the utterly failed policies and promises of Hamas to Gazans since Hamas was established in 1986; (11) the protests prove the terrible stupidity of the people of Gaza to follow Hamas; and (12) finally, there never ever shall be a “Return,” no matter how many suicide bombings, UN condemnations, car rammings, Ambassador withdrawals, stabbings, kite bombs, BDS boycotts, land mines, tunnel attacks, protests, rockets, bad media attention, drive by shootings, kidnappings, no matter how many anything – – there never ever shall be a “Return.” Why? The answer to that question is one word: MASADA.

      This recent article says it all: the stupid Gazans were conned by Hamas to be suicide victims for Hamas:

      http://nationalpost.com/news/world/israel-middle-east/they-deceived-us-gazans-say-protests-gained-less-than-zero-and-hamas-is-partly-to-blame

      Furthermore, one solitary Gazan recently set himself on fire, not to protest against Israel, but to PROTEST AGAINST Hamas. More Gazans slowly shall turn against Hamas and shall demand that the Palestine Authority have sole and exclusive authority in Gaza, thereby dismantling both Hamas and Islamic State:

      https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5265746,00.html

      https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/246223

      Stupid is – as stupid does.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @BrianMcDonough: Stupid is as stupid does? You don’t say. Here’s what you just did. You just proved, McDonough, in your items (2), (3) and (4), that Israeli snipers had absolutely no genuine “security” reason to shoot, maim and kill all those protesters. You proved that Israeli troops committed atrocities on a mass scale, using lethal force against protesters who posed no physical threat. Congratulations, genius. How stupid does that make you feel? To where should we ship your Darwin Award? Moron.

        Reply to Comment
    3. tom

      After deportation and denying their right of return during 70 years (75% of gazaouis are refugees).

      After putting them in a jail during 20 years, with a terrorist group as the only gardian

      After the humnaitarians crisis in one of the highest density area in the world

      After so many wars, deaths and pains

      Don’t be surprised if gazaouis people have some anthipaty against Israel. I’m not sure than reiforcing the blocus will help the peace process… after so many years of failure, maybe it’s time to change the approach ?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      By now everyone knows the story of how Israel refused to let Gaza students who had won a Fulbright scholarship travel abroad (2008) – this is perhaps the best example of how the blockade is punitive:

      https://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=4964329&page=1

      Seven Palestinian scholars may lose their prized Fulbright scholarships to attend American universities because Israel won’t let them out of the Gaza Strip.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Yeah, Right

      Here are some things that I believe to be incontrovertible:
      1) Israel established its authority over the Gaza Strip in June 1967 (IDF Military Order Number 1) which under international law made the IDF the “occupying power”.
      2) The IDF unquestionably did exercise that authority from June 1967 onwards i.e. it unquestionably did exercise the authority of an “occupying power”.
      3) In August 2005 the IDF under orders from PM Sharon completed a redeployment of forces to the edge of the Gaza Strip (not a “withdrawal”, because the exact words Sharon used was “and will redeploy outside the Strip”).
      4) Sharon insisted that he can send the IDF back into the Gaza Strip for any reason he cared to name (“The State of Israel reserves its fundamental right of self-defense, both preventive and reactive, including where necessary the use of force, in respect of threats emanating from the Gaza Strip”)

      So, to sum up, Israel *did* establish its authority over the Gaza Strip in June 1967, and *did* exercise that authority between June 1967 and August 2005, whereafter Israel insisted that it *can* exercise that authority whenever and wherever it wanted, so long as the Israelis claimed they felt “threatened”.

      I will now quote the dictionary-definition of a military occupation: Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.

      Note the wording: HAS BEEN established and CAN BE exercised
      (not “is being”, which is a totally different proposition).

      Which rather means that disengagement did not end the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, precisely because Israel is claiming an authority over the strip that CAN BE exercised any time the Israeli PM of the day orders it to be.

      And mull this idea: an occupying power is not entitled to lay siege to an occupied territory – even if it currently DOESN’T choose to exercise its authority – for the very simple reason that this results in a legal absurdity i.e. the authority that it is laying siege to is…. itself.

      Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        The IDF left Gaza in 2005.
        Everything else is a veneer of BS !

        Reply to Comment
        • Yeah, Right

          Lewis, let me start from the end this time, so you can appreciate my argument.

          First principle is this: it is not legal for an occupying power to lay siege to the territory that it is occupying. The very idea is patently absurd, since it amounts to that occupying power imposing a military siege upon its own authority.

          Agreed?

          So the second issue is this: did “disengagement” end the IDF’s authority over the Gaza Strip?

          If the answer is “yes” then the occupation ended with disengagement, if the answer is “no” then the occupation continued even if Israel insisted on pretending otherwise.

          Agreed?

          Now, you said this: “The IDF left Gaza in 2005.”

          As statements go that is worthless, since what does the word “left” actually mean in that sentence?

          Did the IDF “withdraw” to the border, thereby handing the authority that it had possessed since 1967 to someone else?

          Or did the IDF merely “redeploy” to the border, in which case it keeps possession of that authority because it can (obviously) always “re-redeploy” whenever it wants?

          Which one?

          Well, let’s ask the Israeli PM at the time: “and will redeploy outside the Strip”

          I’m sorry, while I agree that one of us is polishing a turd it isn’t me that’s doing it. It’s you.

          A military occupation ends when the authority that is held by the occupying power is passed on to Someone Else. It doesn’t end when that occupying power merely redeploys itself to the periphery, all the better to make life a misery for those who are left to fend for themselves within that ring of firepower.

          If you don’t believe that then, please, please explain the Warsaw Ghetto to me.

          Take your time, I’ll wait.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            The authority was passed on to the Fakestinyan Authority who were subsequently murdered by the Hamastani bastards.
            So Hamas controls Gaza.
            They are the ones now lobbing missiles at Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim.
            Mass expulsion of the fascists back to Egypt is the only sane solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            “The authority was passed on to the Fakestinyan Authority who were subsequently murdered by the Hamastani bastards”

            That statement is simply untrue. Israel did not hand over any authority to the Palestinian Authority when it unilaterally “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip.

            All that the Israelis did was to refuse to carry out the obligations that come with being an occupying power, which is a very, very different thing to claiming that the Israelis “passed on” that authority to someone else.

            An analogy: a prison warden can order his guards to the watch towers, and from there to shoot at any prisoner who approaches the prison gate. Doing so does *not* mean that his authority has been “passed on” to the inmates, it merely means that he is being criminally negligent w.r.t. his legal duty towards those who are under his care.

            “So Hamas controls Gaza.”

            Again, you are simply using words as loose-bowel-movements.

            It is crazy – absolutely crazy – to argue that when an authority refuses to carry out its legal duties that anyone should allow anarchy to rule. Of course they will attempt to organize themselves into some semblance of order, but that attempt does *not* mean that authority has passed to them.

            Again, think of the analogy of a prison where the warden has ordered his guards up into the watchtowers, there to shoot at anyone approaching the gate. OF COURSE the prisoners will attempt to organize themselves, but that does not mean that this has now ceased to be a prison, or that the prison warden has relinquished his legal role as the official with authority over that prison.

            It means only what it means, which is this: the authorities are forcing them to fend for themselves, which they will – of necessity – do to the best of their ability.

            “They are the ones now lobbing missiles at Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim.”

            Oh, please, and rockets weren’t being fired into Israeli towns prior to August 2005? Israeli soldiers and settlers weren’t being targeted prior to disengagement?

            Honestly, you really should step back and listen to yourself.

            I’ll ask again, because you appear unable to address this last time I asked: please, please explain the Warsaw Ghetto to me.

            Because I’m saying here and now that if we use YOUR login then we would have to conclude that the Warsaw Ghetto wasn’t under German military occupation.

            Which is, obviously, a manifestly absurd argument.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        I appreciate the succinct, sophisticated legal analysis of ‘Yeah, Right,’ which I agree is incontrovertible. In the legal absurdity delineated is contained all the having-it-both-ways dishonesty of the ongoing occupation of Gaza.

        Lewis, Israel gets to deny Gaza’s Fulbright Scholars their travel? But Gaza is not occupied you say? Yeah, right.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Gaza’s Fulbright Scholars are free to leave through EGYPT.
          Simce Israel left Gaza, it does not control the Gaza- EGypt border.
          So I recommend to Ben that he needs to contact the Egyptian Government to complian about the Fulbtight Scholars.

          Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            “Gaza’s Fulbright Scholars are free to leave through EGYPT.”

            That statement is untrue. Egypt still recognizes Israel as the occupying power, which means that Egypt recognizes that Israel has the authority to determine who can enter and who can leave the Gaza Strip.

            So if Israel decides that Fulbright Scholars are banned from leaving the Gaza Strip then Egypt is obliged to recognize that decision and therefore deny those students transit through the Rafah crossing.

            “Simce Israel left Gaza, it does not control the Gaza- EGypt border.”

            Again, that statement is untrue.

            Israel does not have a physical presence at the Rafah border crossing, but Egypt is obliged by agreement to inform Israel of the identity of every person who is seeking to either enter or leave the Gaza Strip, and Egypt is obliged by agreement to ban any individual from transit if the Israelis object.

            You didn’t know that? Really?

            Look it up: it is called the Agreement on Movement and Access, and is freely available on the Internet.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Hamas and Egypt control the Gaza – Egypt border.
            Its all very simple really.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            “Hamas and Egypt control the Gaza – Egypt border.”

            Again, you are using words very imprecisely. Almost as if on purpose.
            The issue under int’l law isn’t whether the occupying power *is* exercising its authority.

            No. Under int’l law the issue is whether it *has* established that authority and *can* exercise that authority.

            Now, go look at the Agreement on Movement and Access and you will see…..
            “Israel with permit”…..
            “Israel will permit”….
            “Israel also undertakes to”….
            “Israel will allow”….

            And the kicker: “Rafah will be operated by the Palestinian Authority on its side, and Egypt on its side, according to international standards, in accordance with Palestinian law and subject to the terms of this agreement.”

            Subject. To. The. Terms. Of. This. Agreement. i.e. the two parties man the Rafah crossing On Israel’s behalf and with Israel’s permission.

            That they would need to have that permission would be an absurd proposition *if* Israel were no longer the occupying power following its “disengagement”.

            However, that proposition makes perfect sense if Israel *is* still the occupying power even after disengagement: Israel would still have authority over the crossing even if it subcontracted the manning of that facility to the Palestinians and the Egyptians.

            There is nothing unusual about that: for example, here in my country India has “outsourced” the processing of VISA applications to local 3rd parties. But those 3rd parties are merely acting as agents, nothing more.

            “Its all very simple really.”

            There is “simple”, and there is “simplistic”.

            You have mistaken the latter for the former.

            A “simple” way to understand the difference is to apply your argument to other situations and see if you get the same result.

            You know, like the Warsaw Ghetto……

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            What “agreement” between Hamas and Israel ?
            What planet are you living on ?
            Did Israel agree to have its farms being set on fire by hundreds of Hamas terror balloons & kites ?
            Did Israel agree to have its border communities being bombed for the last 12 years by Hamastani rockets ?
            No, mass expulsion of the Hamastanis back to Sinai is the only acceptable resolution. After they lose everything, they will surrender unconditionally.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, Right

            “What “agreement” between Hamas and Israel ?”

            OK, I’m going to finally accept that I am talking to a bigoted dimwit.

            The existence of the Agreement on Movement and Access is proof-positive that Israel was not giving up “effective control” over the Gaza Strip following disengagement, and “effective control” is the universally-accepted legal yardstick for determining who possesses “authority” over a territory.

            The wording of that document is quite clear: Israel was giving its permission for the Palestinians and the Egyptians to man those border crossings.

            Now this is a simple concept: if the occupation had ended with disengagement then nobody – not Egypt, not the PA, not anyone – would need to seek Israel’s permission to man the Rafah crossing.

            Is that really so hard to comprehend?

            “What “agreement” between Hamas and Israel ?”

            You are raising an irrelevance, and here is why:

            International Humanitarian Law is quite clear that what matters is whether the occupier *can* exercise his authority over an occupied territory, it matters not one bit whether the occupier *is* or *isn’t* currently exercising that authority.

            The Agreement on Movement and Access makes clear that Israel was merely giving its permission for two subcontractors to man the Rafah crossing on its behalf.

            Soooooo, one of those subcontractors was run out of town by Hamas and Israel did nothing about it?

            Yeah…. and?????
            Your point being….?????

            Repeat after me: it doesn’t matter if the occupying power chooses *not* to exercise its authority. What matters is that the occupying power *can* exercise its authority if and when it chooses to do so.

            The Agreement on Movement and Access has Israel clearly putting down markers that regardless of disengagement is *does* still have authority over the Gaza Strip and *can* exercise that authority if/when it chooses to do so.

            Hamas gets all argy-bargy, and Israel doesn’t exercise its authority!?!?!?!
            Gotcha!!!!!! yells Lewis.
            Yawn, says I.

            You really don’t understand any of this, do you?

            Reply to Comment

The stories that matter.
The missing context.
All in one weekly email.

Subscribe to +972's newsletter