Arab News (Editorial)
October 1, 2007 - 12:00am§ion=0&article=101931&d=1&m=10&y=2007

Israel's rejection of family unification files pertaining to residents of Gaza is one more example of the collective punishment meted out by the occupying power to the Palestinians. The Israeli step comes after Tel Aviv declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity.” Israeli officials justify their decision on the grounds that, since Israel disengaged from Gaza two years ago, it could no longer be considered an occupying power, responsible under international law for the welfare of the people under its occupation. Gaza can, however, be considered “hostile” on the grounds of continued missile bombardment of Israel since that time.

Yet international law continues to treat the Gaza Strip, like the West Bank, as occupied territory, and thus places responsibility on the occupying power for all the basic humanitarian needs of Palestinians in both areas. In addition, collective punishment is forbidden under international law.

The Israeli government’s decision to consider Gaza a hostile entity does not release Israel from its obligations as an occupying power. Despite its 2005 pullout, Israel retains the keys to all ports of entry as well as the right to mount military forays deep into Gaza. Since the beginning of this year alone, such operations have resulted in the deaths of 251 Palestinians. Israel will probably cut off electricity to Gaza, with the exception of a supply to hospitals; sharply reduce fuel supplies, again to a level sufficient only to power vital services; block the flow of monetary payments to unspecified recipients; keep entries into Gaza shut, apart from allowing food supplies in twice a week; and restrict visits to Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. It probably will not cut off or even reduce water supplies in view of the violent reactions such a measure would produce.

If the Israeli strategy since the Hamas takeover has essentially been to put the squeeze on Gaza, it has become apparent that it is not achieving Tel Aviv’s desire to topple Hamas. But perhaps this is exactly what Israel wants; to solidify the wedge between the West Bank and Gaza and to keep Hamas isolated within its Gaza confines.

On the other hand, the imposition of collective punishment, rather than targeting Hamas, will only recruit more Palestinians to take part in the struggle against Israeli injustice.

Undoubtedly, Israeli decision-makers are currently computing the existing political situation and the likely political fallout from each of the possible scenarios. Much will depend on how Hamas comports itself between now and the forthcoming summit meeting in Washington. For example, will it risk sabotaging the meeting in advance by triggering a confrontation in Gaza, or will it back down in the face of Israel’s tightening stranglehold? And of course, we should not rule out the possibility of Israel itself making the first move to forestall the autumn meeting by pushing the situation in Gaza to its breaking point.


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