Palmer Report Did Not Find Gaza Blockade Legal, Despite Media Headlines
I hereby recommend an alternate title for the blog post that you can read if you click the above link: “Amnesty USA Blogger Confuses Self and Readers.”
The media has gone crazy these past couple of days announcing that the UN-appointed panel of inquiry into the flotilla raid last summer, known as the Palmer Commission, found that the Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza is legal and that Israel used excessive force during the raid.
From the Jerusalem Post to the BBC, headlines scream that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip is legal. This is not only completely false, it distracts from the main point of the inquiry which was to determine if excessive use of force was used by Israeli forces during the raid on the flotilla in international waters and how to avoid a similar incident like this from happening again.
The report also found the naval blockade of Gaza by Israel legal.
As the occupying power over the Gaza Strip, Israel has the right to determine where and how goods and people should enter the territory it occupies so the maritime blockade as a tactic is legal. The report did not make a ruling on the entire closure regime or blockade on the Gaza strip.
The Palmer report’s finding that the naval blockade is lawful should NOT be interpreted to mean that the entire closure regime imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip is legal.
To sum up, then, the naval blockade of Gaza was found to be lawful by the authors of the UN report. But Amnesty International USA’s blogger Edith Garwood takes this to mean that the blockade of Gaza was not found to be lawful … because there’s more to the blockade than simply the naval blockade and the report didn’t address any other aspect of the blockade. This means, apparently, that the other aspects of the blockade might not be lawful … even though Garwood explicitly argues that “As the occupying power over the Gaza Strip, Israel has the right to determine where and how goods and people should enter the territory.”
For my own part, I have long argued that the Gaza blockade is a bad policy and that the Israeli government ought to abandon it. With the regime change in Egypt, and the subsequent opening of the crossing at the Egyptian border, I think it’s hard to make an argument that the blockade remains in effect in the same way that it was when Egypt and Israel were jointly enforcing it. That’s not the same thing as saying that the people living in Gaza are now living carefree lives with all of the same opportunities and advantages as people who live elsewhere; it’s simply to note that circumstances have changed and, one can hope, will continue to change for Gazans.
I think Amnesty International USA ought to do a far better job explaining the Palmer Report, the Gaza blockade, and the international legal implications of both; a great many people turn to Amnesty for rigorous and careful analysis of the human rights implications of intra- and inter-state conflict … but that’s not what they’re getting here.