05 February '10
I received an e-mail circular from B’Tselem today about Israel’s policies towards Gaza. The first substantial argument offered is this:
“The siege of Gaza is causing enormous suffering among innocents, and it’s hard to see how that deprivation can be justified,” said Uri Zaki, B’Tselem’s USA Director. “International law, as well as basic human and Israeli values, demands that Israel do its utmost to address its legitimate security concerns without inflicting unnecessary harm to the civilians of Gaza. The current policy doesn’t come close to meeting that standard.” Gazans’ rights to minimal standards of food security, shelter, health, education and to travel are protected under international law. These needs should not be held hostage to security and political issues.
I could quibble about the adjective “enormous” but I won’t. The argument is basically sound. To respond to it, the government of Israel would have to accept its premises, that is, it would have to say that the harm it’s causing to Gazans is not unnecessary and/or that it’s exaggerated and that in any case it’s the only viable option for protecting its security. I’m not saying that any of this is true or false, just that the way B’Tselem sets out its arguments obliges the government of Israel to put its case in terms of human rights.
Now let’s turn to the next set of arguments:
Israel’s closure policy is designed to weaken Hamas’ hostile leadership, to persuade Hamas to cease firing rockets at civilian targets in Israel, and to release Corporal Gilad Shalit. However, the closure has instead harmed Israel’s security by strengthening Hamas and adding to tensions that threaten renewed violence.
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