Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Long, San Remo Justification: Israeli Government Sez Blockade is "Economic Warfare"

Well, well, well. Looks like we may have a better idea of why Gazans don't get margarine. From McClatchy:
Last week, after Israeli commandos killed nine volunteers on a Turkish-organized Gaza aid flotilla, Israel again said its aim was to stop the flow of terrorist arms into Gaza.

However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government said.

McClatchy obtained the government's written statement from Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which sued the government for information about the blockade. The Israeli high court upheld the suit, and the government delivered its statement earlier this year.

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, said the documents prove that Israel isn't imposing its blockade for its stated reasons, but rather as collective punishment for the Palestinian population of Gaza. Gisha focuses on Palestinian rights.

(A State Department spokesman, who wasn't authorized to speak for the record, said he hadn't seen the documents in question.)

The Israeli government took an additional step Wednesday and said the economic warfare is intended to achieve a political goal. A government spokesman, who couldn't be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but "could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control" of Gaza.
I will be honest: I'm not precisely confident in all this, considering that there's no link to the Gisha piece. But it's certainly likelier than not; likely enough to be able to take as a given until other sources arise.

Assuming that this IS a smoking gun about the blockade, a whole lot of the arguments about the blockade fall apart. It's officially no longer justifiable under San Remo, for example, because it violates the proportionality and humanitarian provisions of section 2, paragraph 102, subparagraph (b): "The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if...the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade". It was always fairly clear that the damage is excessive; what we now see is that it was always intended to be excessive.

That doesn't just mean that the blockade is now illegitimate. It means that the blockade  always was illegitimate. According to the same manual that the IDF used to justify its operation, it was created illegitimately.

The activists were justified.

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