September 26, 2006
Editor’s note: See also Finkelstein’s UNPUBLISHED OP-ED ON GAZA WITHDRAWAL from September 17, 2005:
In a recent study entitled One Big Prison, B’Tselem (report, summary) observes that the crippling economic arrangements Israel has imposed on Gaza will remain in effect. In addition, Israel will continue to maintain absolute control over Gaza’s land borders, coastline and airspace, and the Israeli army will continue to operate in Gaza. “So long as these methods of control remain in Israeli hands,” it concludes, “Israel’s claim of an ‘end of the occupation’ is questionable.”
UN human rights envoy says Gaza a prison for Palestinians
Last update – 21:10 26/09/2006 | Ha’aretz
Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians where life is “intolerable, appalling, tragic” and the Jewish state appears to have thrown away the key, a UN human rights envoy said on Tuesday.
Special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territory John Dugard said that the suffering of the Palestinians was a test of the readiness of the international community to protect human rights.
“If … the international community cannot … take some action, [it] must not be surprised if the people of the planet disbelieve that they are seriously committed to the promotion of human rights,” he said in a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The South African lawyer, who has been a special UN investigator since 2001, repeated earlier accusations that Israel is breaking international humanitarian law with security measures which amount to “collective punishment.”
Israel says its security restrictions, which include the construction of a steel and concrete barrier in the West Bank, are designed to stop suicide bombers entering Israel. Bombings have declined since the barrier was built.
It also maintains tight restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza also due to security measures.
Dugard also attacked the United States, the European Union and Canada for withdrawing funding for the Palestinian Authority in protest at the governing party Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, a militant Islamic group that came to power after elections in January, is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
“Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished. But the Palestinian people are punished for having democratically elected a regime unacceptable to Israel, the U.S. and the EU,” Dugard said.
There was no immediate comment from either Israel or its main ally the United States, but the Palestinian question was due to be debated by the Human Rights Council later on Tuesday.
Past criticism, however, has been strongly rejected by Israel and the United States, which say that the current crisis has been provoked by attacks by Palestinian militants.
Dugard said that three-quarters of Gaza’s 1.4 million people were dependent on food aid. Bombing raids by Israel since the June 25 capture of an army corporal by Palestinian militants had destroyed houses and the territory’s only power plant.
“Gaza is a prison and Israel seems to have thrown away the key,” he said.
The West Bank also faced a humanitarian crisis, albeit not as extreme as Gaza, in part due to the barrier, which Dugard alleged was no longer being justified by Israel on security grounds but was part of a move to annex more land.
Palestinians living between the barrier and the Green Line, the frontier at the end of the 1967 Six Day War, could no longer freely access schools and places of work and many had abandoned local farms, he said.
“In other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing but political correctness forbids such language where Israel is concerned,” Dugard said.