I begin with this because I consider the information important. This is with regard to the so-called “blockade” we maintain at our border with Gaza. The charges against us, which include defiance of international law and levying of “collective punishment,” are seriously off base. This is an instance in which it is tremendously important to set the record straight.
I recommend, first, an article written for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) on the issue by Dr. Avi Bell, who is a member of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University, and Director of the International Law Forum at the JCPA. (With thanks to my friend who called my attention to this.)
While this article addressed the situation two years ago, Bell nonetheless clarifies the issues significantly:
“International officials are entitled to object on political grounds to Israel imposing even limited economic sanctions in response to Palestinian terrorism. However, they err in insinuating that international law forbids Israel’s actions. International law does not require Israel to supply Gaza with fuel or electricity or, indeed, with any other materials, goods, or services.
“Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention requires parties to certain conflicts to permit transit to enemy civilian populations of a limited number of items under a limited set of conditions. However, the fighting in and around the Gaza Strip is not a conflict covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention: the conflict is not one between state parties to the Convention, and Gaza is not occupied territory. Therefore, Israel is free to ignore the injunctions of Article 23.”
However, as Dr. Bell notes:
“Even if it were bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel would be acting in full compliance with international law. Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention permits states like Israel to cut off fuel supplies and electricity to territories like Gaza. Article 23 only requires a party to permit passage of food, clothing, and medicines intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. Were Article 23 to apply, Israel would still be under no obligation to permit passage of electricity or fuel or any items other than food, clothing or medicine. (emphasis added)
“Moreover, under Article 23, Israel would be under no obligation to provide anything itself; Israel would only be required not to interfere with consignments of food, etc. sent by others. Article 23 does not require unfettered passage of food, clothing, and medicine to the entire civilian population of enemy territory; if the article applied, Israel would be required only to permit passage for the benefit of Palestinian children, mothers of newborns, and pregnant women.
“… the Israeli Justice Ministry has acknowledged a duty under customary international law not to interfere with the supply of basic humanitarian items such as food and medicine, and the Israeli Supreme Court has enforced this duty in several decisions…
“…Israel is not required by its customary general humanitarian duties to provide required items itself, only not to interfere with their passage. And fuel and electricity are almost certainly not items that Israel or other warring parties are required to supply. Additionally, Israel is not the sole available source of fuel and electricity to Gaza and, therefore…Israel would not be required to permit passage of fuel and electricity. Moreover, given the likelihood of Hamas diversion of assistance, even the customary rule permits Israel to interfere with the passage of humanitarian items to ensure that they do not reach the wrong hands or benefit the military efforts or economy of the enemy.”
With this as background, let us then look at what is actually going into Gaza via Israel by way of a number of crossings. I have been in touch with the spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and have learned that goods go into Gaza via two different avenues.
Some goods go under the auspices of humanitarian organizations — UNRWA, World Food Plan, etc. Israel makes every effort to allow through all humanitarian supplies (food and medicines, etc. ) that these organizations seek to bring in — although sometimes there are items that are questioned or prevented from going in. Israel has had serious issues with UNRWA with regard to allowing in building materials, for example, because Hamas might co-opt them and use them for constructing bunkers.
And then, totally aside from the goods transported by humanitarian organizations — which are distributed to those in greatest need — are those permitted in commercially. The PA cooperates here in determining what the needs of local merchants are, and those goods are shipped by truck. On an average week, roughly 500 trucks will go into Gaza with such merchandise. Products allowed in include meat, fish and chicken; grains; staples such as sugar, salt, flour and yeast; spices; dairy products; legumes; fresh fruits and vegetables; cooking oil, a variety of other foodstuffs; animal feed; medicines; clothing; and hygienic supplies.
What is not permitted in, in the way of foodstuff, are gourmet items, as it is felt that only Hamas people have the sort of ready cash that would allow them to purchase this.
In addition, cooking gas and heavy duty diesel fuel for the power station go in.
Then there are “specialty” items:
 Last November:
12 new transformers and other pieces of electrical equipment were allowed in for the power plant in Gaza.
7,000 heads of cattle were imported for the Eid al-Adha holiday.
 In December:
6 advanced water desalination systems were transferred to the Gaza Strip.
Glass was brought in for home repairs before the onset of winter.
750 tons of aggregate were transferred for maintenance of the North Gaza Wastewater Treatment plant.
Over the course of 2009, some 4,000 people were permitted to cross out of Gaza to receive medical care in Israel or elsewhere.
As well, commercial products such as carnations and strawberries were exported through the crossing out of Gaza for sale elsewhere. (I believe these products largely go to Ashdod for shipments to other places.)
See this and more for yourself:
And, I should mention, via the electric grid into Gaza, Israel supplies 70% of Gaza’s electric power. (This is supposed to be paid for by the PA, which is being uncooperative at the moment.)
This speaks for itself. SOME BLOCKADE!
Having introduced the most important information first, I now bounce back for a housekeeping note: This time it was not my goof. In my last posting, I alluded to a Dry Bones cartoon (which I said you would see below) and I then put it into my posting. For reasons unknown to me, it did not transmit — even though I’ve done this before.
At any rate, the cartoon said: “Recent reports about J Street are totally false. J Street is NOT dropping its label as ‘pro-Israel.’ J Street is simply expanding its definition of being ‘pro-Israel’…. To include being ‘anti-Israel.'”
You might also want to see Lenny Ben-David’s latest on J Street:
Just what we need: A number of Secretary of State Clinton’s top aides are coming to town to set things up for the “proximity” talks — otherwise known as shuttle diplomacy — to take place.
Douglas Bloomfield, who writes from Washington, and whom I don’t usually feel motivated to quote, had it right in a recent column with regard to these “proximity” talks:
“That [indirect talks] would mean turning the clock back on 16 years of direct negotiations, but the fact that all three parties are happy to go along suggests prospects for progress are dim….”
It should be noted as well that on Friday, Secretary of State Clinton announced that the partnership of special Quartet envoy Tony Blair with US special envoy George Mitchell would be “intensified.” This means he will support efforts to get the negotiations going.
One of the things the various officials coming here on behalf of the Secretary of State will be considering is how the project headed by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton to train PA security forces is progressing.
Which leads back to the subject of the PA policeman who killed one of our soldiers last week. Turns out this terrorist — please take note! — wasn’t just in the PA police, he was an aide to the police chief of Ramallah. According to some reports he had been trained via an EU program, but the EU denies this.
One Israeli government source quoted by the Post last week said that while the PA security apparatus has made several improvements, “they still have serious challenges, one of them being the ability to deal with their own Fatah people.” They are hesitant to go after extremists in their own security apparatus.
Will this information make its way to Clinton’s people? What good is a security apparatus that has “extremists” (aka terrorists) inside its organization and is reluctant to deal with them?
Before we leave the subject of the PA, I wanted to return to this, as well: At the end of January, Khaled Abu Toameh did an exclusive interview — which ran in the Post — with Fahmi Shabaneh, who had served as head of the Anti-Corruption Department of the PA’s General Intelligence Service. Shabaneh exposed both financial improprieties and sexual shenanigans that had taken place in the PA, and later confessed that he knew his life was at risk because of what he had said. “I bought my cemetery plot,” he declared at one point.
Now Abu Toameh informs us that the PA has issued a warrant for Shabaneh’s arrest on charges of undermining the PA and (are you ready?) corruption. This warrant followed an ultimatum to Abbas by Shabaneh to remove corrupt officials within two weeks, or he would expose further corruption in the PA far worse than what he has already spoken about: information that “would seriously embarrass the PA and even harm its relations with Arab and Muslim countries as well as donors.”
Well, Shabaneh lives in Jerusalem, where the PA has no authority to arrest him. That being the case, my first impulse was to say that it’s more likely he’ll be killed than arrested. But it also occurs to me that he may be too high profile for the PA to seriously consider taking him out.
In the meantime, footage of Abbas’s bureau chief Rafiq Husseini — showing him getting into bed naked and beckoning to a Palestinian Arab woman with whom he allegedly intended to trade sex for influence — was provided by Shabaneh to Israeli TV. The film was apparently made covertly when the woman complained to PA Intelligence about Husseini’s attempts to seduce her when she applied for a job.
Of course the PA is claiming the entire thing is an Israeli hoax. Abbas has now suspended Husseini, pending an investigation that is supposed to be completed by a commission within three weeks. This is not likely to go down well within the Palestinian Arab society, or enhance international respect for the PA.
Iran. Iran. Iran. No subject carries the urgency of Iranian nuclear development.
At long last the US and the Western world more broadly are growing impatient with Iranian intransigence, defiance and game playing. The US has instituted some sanctions that are aimed at the Revolutionary Guard and are not supposed to harm the populace. Whether this is possible or how effective this will be are questions I cannot answer. There are questions, as well, regarding whether a weakening of the Guard will help a regime change to come about, and whether that new regime would truly have different goals.
A great many people are pontificating on all of this, offering a great many divergent views. Does anyone truly know? Take your choice:
Haaretz journalists say that sanctions are our only hope:
The executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writing in Foreign Policy, says sanctions are working:
Researchers at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, writing in Haaretz, say sanctions will be ineffective:
Der Speigel in Germany agrees that sanctions will not move Teheran:
(With a nod to Daily Alert here.)
Prime Minister Netanyahu flew off to Russia today, and the first subject on the agenda is Iran.
US Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen is here and will meet with the Defense Minister and top IDF officials. Surely, for him, as well, the first item on the agenda is Iran. He talks about the disastrous consequences that may follow from an attack on Iran, but leaves unspoken what consequences would follow from a nuclear Iran unchallenged.
I — with thousands or millions of others — hold my breath as I wait to see if Israel in the end will decide there is no choice but to bomb Iran. There is no definitive information I can offer on this — even if those on the inside have made up their minds themselves, which is questionable.
“The Good News Corner”
An Israeli start-up, WeCu, has developed a system that will help weed out terrorists at airports and checkpoints.
“The company’s device – which was six years in the making – flashes stimuli, such as photos, a symbol, or a code word, relating to the information authorities are most interested in (whether it’s terrorism, drug smuggling or other crimes), to passengers as they pass through terminal checkpoints.
“Hidden biometric sensors then detect the subjects’ physical reactions and subtle behavioral changes remotely or during random contact. Based on their reactions, the authorities determine whether further investigation or questioning is warranted.”
Research done by Dr. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University indicates that it may be possible to prevent full-blown schizophrenia. If patients in the early stages, before the disease is fully manifest, are treated with drugs for schizophrenia, then it may never develop.
The Israeli company MS Tech, located in Herzliya, has developed a hand-held device, FoodScan 3000, that in three seconds, in the field, can detect the presence of dangerous bacteria and contaminants, in food.