“Deplorable!” – The ‘Quartet’ Comments on Gaza

bostonteaparty

Provided always, That if any goods, wares or merchandise, shall be laden or put off from, or discharged or landed upon, any other place than the quays, wharfs, or places, so to be appointed, the same, together with the ships, boats, and other vessels employed therein, and the horses, or other cattle and carriages used to convey the same, and the person or persons concerned or assisting therein, or to whose hands the same shall knowingly come, shall suffer all the forfeitures and penalties imposed by this or any other Act on the illegal shipping or landing of goods.

- Boston Port Act of 1774 (14 Geo. III. c. 19)

On March 30, 1774, in response to the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament enacted the Boston Port Act, effectively shutting down all commerce and travel in and out of Massachusetts colony. The law, known as one of the Intolerable Acts, was enforced by a British naval blockade of Boston harbor. These punitive acts, which collectively punished an entire colony for the acts of resistance and frustration of a few, served to unite the disparate colonies in their fight for self-determination, sovereignty, and natural and constitutional rights. Colonies as far away as South Carolina sent relief supplies to their compatriots in Massachusetts. As a result of British imperial overreach, the First Continental Congress was convened on September 5, 1774. The Congress, in turn, established the Continental Association, a solidarity pact between the colonies to boycott all British goods and, in the event of continued British aggression, to stand as one in their fight for independence.

237 years later…

boat us gaza

The so-called “Middle East Quartet” – that is, the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia – has issued a “Statement on the Situation in Gaza” today.

It is a brief and unsurprising document.  No mention of a “siege” or “blockade,” of course.  While it states that the “conditions facing the civilian population in Gaza” are “unsustainable,” it provides absolutely no indication of the extent of the humanitarian crisis (i.e. 80% aid dependency, 95% of water is undrinkable, a mere 20% is food secure, 36% unemployment – 47% among Gaza’s youth – and 38% living below the poverty line).

The statement ignores all of this.  Instead, it “notes that efforts have improved conditions over the last year, including a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza, an increase in international project activity, and the facilitation of some exports.”

Yet, these “improved conditions” are illusory.  For instance, a recent report found that while, since June 2010, there has been “improved access to formerly restricted goods, including some raw materials, the increased imports of construction materials (cement, gravel and steel bar) through the tunnels from Egypt, and the improved volume of imports of construction materials for PA-approved projects implemented by international and UN organizations helped reactivate the local economy in Gaza,” this ”[e]conomic growth has not translated into poverty reduction.”

More importantly, “Israeli restrictions on access to markets (imports on a range of raw materials and exports) and access to natural resources (land and water), as well as the increasing transport costs due the closure of Karni crossing” make it virtually impossible for real economic sustainability – through private sector growth – to occur.  Furthermore,

The recent decrease in unemployment in the Gaza Strip is mainly linked to the construction and agricultural sectors which have some of the lowest wages and employ mainly unskilled/casual laborers. The new access regime allowed for an increasing number of construction projects under the UN or international umbrella, but failed to trickle down the benefits to the private sector. The latter is still relying on tunnels for the supply of construction materials. The agricultural sector is  seasonal and more than half of the labor force is composed of unpaid family members.

[...]

Ongoing restrictions on the movement of goods and artificially-inflated food prices and transport costs continue to impact the economy even after the new access regime, and thereby the June 2010 decision failed to impact the viability of the tunnel economy.

[...]

The new access regime did not translate into a tangible relaxation of exports despite the 8 December 2010 cabinet decision by the GoI, and the consecutive agreement with the Quartet Representative in February 2011. The blockade is still in place. Apart from a very low rate of cash crops exported, no other goods have been exported out of the Gaza Strip under the new access regime. The unpredictability of the crossing, frequent power cuts, as well as increased transportation costs do not ensure sustained exports of agricultural goods. Moreover, the exports are cut from their market of origin.

Nevertheless, the Quartet Statement commends Israel for the recent approval of $100 million in construction material to be allowed into Gaza and used to build 18 schools and 1,200 houses.  Distraction accomplished.

But then things get even more ridiculous.

The statement reads:

The Quartet recognizes that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded. Members of the Quartet are committed to working with Israel, Egypt and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza and believe efforts to maintain security while enabling movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical.

Naturally, Palestinians in Gaza – y’know, the ones that keep getting murdered by Israeli bullets, tank shells, mortars, missiles, cluster bombs and flechettes – are not entitled to the same kind of security guarantees.  While the U.S. continues to supply the occupying power with the latest killing machines and heavy-duty artillery, the occupied are denied their own right to resist brutality and slaughter.  One wonders, if “illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza” is to be avoided, what channels are available for the legal transfer of weaponry and mechanisms for self-defense?  Oh right, there are none.  Something about barrels, fish, and white phosphorous comes to mind.

The Quartet Statement then goes on to voice its opposition to the 2011 Flotilla – without mentioning its stance on international law and whether or not the blockade is legal (hint: it’s not) and blah blah blah “established channels” blah blah “established land crossings.”

The disconnect is staggering.  While the Quartet condemns the Flotilla, it has already acknowledged the slight benefits of Israel’s “new access regime” implemented in June 2010 as a direct consequence of the 2010 Flotilla.  So, while calling for an end to that tactic, they already understand full well that it is the only thing that has worked so far to bring attention to the blockade and to force Israel to act (even meagerly) on its obligations.

And then the kicker:

The Quartet regrets the injury and deaths caused by the 2010 flotilla, urges restraint and calls on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas, which risk the safety of their participants and carry the potential for escalation.

Read that again.  ”Injury and death caused by the 2010 flotilla.”  Not by the heavily-armed and armored Israeli commandos who illegally stormed the ships in international waters and shot nine innocent people to death.  No no, the “flotilla” is to blame.  Just for the record, here’s what the United Nations – a member of the Quartet! – had to say about last year’s Mavi Marmara massacre:

The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.

It also found “clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” and stated that Israel had seriously violated its obligations under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the “right to life…torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention…right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person…[and] freedom of expression.”

Based upon “forensic and firearm evidence,” the UN fact-finding panel concluded that the killing of Turkish-American citizen Furkan Dogan and that of five Turkish citizens by the Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara “can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.”

Also, from whom is the Quartet “urg[ing] restraint”?  They never say.  Clearly not Israel!  That would be anti-Semitic.  Maybe they’re wishing 86-year-old Hedy Epstein should calm the hell down.  Maybe Alice Walker should chill out.  But Israeli soldiers executing civilians on the high seas?  Whatever.

The statement concludes with a single sentence: “The Quartet also calls for an end to the deplorable five-year detention of Gilad Shalit.”  Deplorable.  The capture and detention of a single Israeli Occupation soldier receives the deepest condemnation of the entire document.  But, what were the “conditions facing the civilian population in Gaza” – 1.6 million people – again? Oh right, “unsustainable.”  Obviously, were the siege simply more sustainable and less of a burden, it wouldn’t be an issue.  But since it’s “unsustainable,” it should probably be addressed somehow since the Quartet is “concerned.”

But does the Quartet call for an end to the four-year naval blockade or the five-year siege or the 44-year occupation or the airstrikes or kidnappings or buffer zone sniper shootings or drone attacks or collective punishment?  Nope.  But they sure do “call for an end to the deplorable five-year detention of Gilad Shalit.”

Because, after all, it’s clear that the life of one Israeli soldier is more important than a million and a half Palestinians any day of the week…and especially over July 4th weekend?

*****

About Nima Shirazi

Nima Shirazi is co-editor of the Iran, Iraq and Turkey pages for the online magazine Muftah. His political analysis can be found on his blog, WideAsleepinAmerica.com, where this post first appeared. Follow him on Twitter @WideAsleepNima.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine

{ 11 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    The name of the game is power
    And if you ain’t playing power
    you are in the wrong place

    • White might makes right!

      • seafoid says:

        How do regimes self destruct and walk straight into the combine harvester of history?

        link to promisedlandblog.com

        “Haaretz quoted yesterday an Israeli diplomat saying that Netanyahu “Netanyahu has become Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union.” Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou returned the favor yesterday: As the American boat “Audacity of Hope” was about to leave the port of Athens, the authorities issued an order prohibiting all flotilla vessels from sailing. It is very unlikely that the Greeks would have dared stopping a Canadian or American ship without permission from their respective governments, so one could speculate that other administrations–and most notably, Washington—stood by Netanyahu’s side. For a politician often portrayed as hated and despised by world leaders, this is no small thing.
        The Israeli morning papers are likely to praise the Prime Minister tomorrow. Netanyahu’s numbers are will go up again, and his coalition will become safer than ever before. “

  2. gazacalling says:

    That’s a really depressing post!

  3. eljay says:

    I hear that it’s all Hamas’ fault.

    • Kris says:

      That’s what I hear, too. If only Hamas, after defeating the corrupt PA in free and fair elections, had followed Al Gore’s example and just let the losers continue to govern.

      Unfortunately, Hamas has the audacity to hope for, and believe in, justice, which means that they are forcing Israel to continue stealing from, murdering, and starving the Palestinians, and this causes Israelis to experience existential discomfort. Shame on Hamas!!!!!

  4. Does everyone here realize the UN Human Rights Council just last year specifically addressed the legality of this naval blockade and determined it was an illegal naval blockade?

    It is a 56 page report.

    www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/…

    53. In evaluating the evidence submitted to the Misson, including by OCHA oPT, confirming the severe humanitarian situation in Gaza, the destruction of the economy and the prevention of reconstruction (as detailed above), the Mission is satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza strip and that as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal.

    54. Moreover, the Mission emphasizes that according to article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, collective punishment of civilians under occupation is prohibited. “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she hs not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all meaures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law. In this connection, the Mission supports the findings of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk,” the report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and most recently the ICRC that the blockade amounts to collective punishment in violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law.”

    • MHughes976 says:

      It has seemed fairly easy to get the UN HR agencies dismissed in the public mind as anti-Semitic.
      There are many rumours to the effect that the Palmer Report on the MMarmora will declare the blockade legal and the use of force reasonable or so near reasonable that no one need really worry. I guess the legal reasoning will be open to much questioning, indeed it will probably be pretty trashy. But it will stick in that good old democratic public mind just like the Goldstone Retraction. Some people will make sure it does.

  5. Citizen says:

    Stuart Littlewood answers Dick Witty & his hasbara-rendering friends, including the US, Brit, & Canadian regimes–including their respective MSM (all point the finger at Hamas as THE problem):
    “I am here to encourage the Israeli government and the Palestinians to get back around the table.” Hasn’t he heard? Everyone’s done with time-wasting “negotiations”. The path to justice and peace is already set down in law and UN resolutions. It’s time to pursue that path and enforce those laws. link to veteranstoday.com

  6. eljay says:

    >> Citizen: Stuart Littlewood answers Dick Witty & his hasbara-rendering friends …
    >> SL: Indeed, the international community seems prepared to let Israel carry on with its dirty work, its defiance of all laws and codes and its crimes against humanity.

    The international community – and RW – will “hold their noses” while Israel does its dirty work. After all, it’s about “peace, not ‘justice’”.

  7. Les says:

    Explosion hits Egypt gas pipeline

    AP
    Monday, 4 July 2011

    Masked assailants blew up the Egyptian pipeline that carries gas to Israel and Jordan today, starting a fire that burned for hours and disrupting the flow of gas, security officials said.

    The blast targeted a pumping station about 65 miles south of the Mediterranean coastal city of El-Arish, in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

    El-Arish is 30 miles west of Israel’s border.

    The officials said the attackers, armed with assault rifles, arrived in two pickup trucks without number plates and forced the three security guards on duty to leave before placing the explosives and shooting the pipeline’s valves to release gas.

    The explosion triggered a blaze that took firefighters at least seven hours to extinguish, they said.

    The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said there were no casualties.

    Today’s blast was the third to hit the strategic pipeline since an uprising overthrew Egypt’s long-term leader Hosni Mubarak in February.

    No one has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion. Disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen in the area have been blamed for attacking the pipeline in the past. Islamists opposed to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel have also been suspected.

    link to independent.co.uk