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War Crimes

Monday 5 November 2007, by Michel Warshavski

A few years ago, Ariel Sharon’s former adviser, Dov Weisglass, threatened to impose “a diet” on the Palestinians, i.e. to organize a siege aimed at making them hungry, while not completely starving them, thereby creating distress while avoiding an outright humanitarian crisis that would be likely provoke international intervention. The reaction of the international community, however, obliged the Israeli government to back off.

Yet four years later, what was considered by the international community as a major war crime, now seems to be accepted as completely legitimate.

“We are declaring Gaza a hostile entity,” announced the Israeli cabinet, while ordering a full embargo on an area where more than one and a half million human beings reside. In other words, one and a half million men, women, children, ill people, and elders are not considered as human beings, protected by international humanitarian law, but merely a hostile “entity.” In addition to an embargo on fuel, food and medicines, electricity and water supplies are cut several times a day. The Israeli leaders do not hide the fact that they are targeting the civilian population: "Gaza will return to the Middle Ages. Of course, basic products will continue to reach the [Gaza] Strip, in order not to provoke a humanitarian crisis. But our goal is to force the population to feel the pressure in order to reduce the number of Qassam missile,” said a senior Israeli officer (Israel Today, October 25, 2007).

Collective punishment and the targeting of civilians are considered as severe breaches of international law and therefore war crimes. By defining the population as a “hostile entity,” the Israeli Cabinet members have opened the way that must bring them, sooner or later, to the International Criminal Court. But the international community remains silent, and calms its conscience by providing emergency humanitarian assistance to the residents of Gaza. The international solidarity movement must increase its mobilization in support for and demand from its governments and the United Nations to impose sanctions on the State of Israel as long as it will not respect international law and lift completely the siege on and its population.

All of us must endorse the call of the (Palestinian) National Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza which states: “People in Gaza are deprived of the simplest requirements for a decent life. We are determined to move hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder with all people who believe in freedom, human dignity and peace. It is a genuine call to rescue people […] Gaza is meant to be the city of death where everything is destroyed. It is our duty to rescue life.”

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