The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has repudiated claims by various international organizations and pundits that Israel is under any kind of legal or moral obligation to supply goods and services to Hamas-run Gaza. The New York Times and Human Rights Watch (HRW)s Joel Stork, to name two prominent examples, have both claimed that Israel has been collectively punishing Gazans when in fact Israel has not cut electrical power at all and only reduced fuel supplies. Stork has also claimed that Israel is an occupier of Gaza and such responsible for the welfare of its people.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, It is absurd to suggest that Israel is either legally or morally obligated to supply Gaza with goods and services. Israel has been assaulted continuously from this territory, which is run by Hamas, an organization committed in its Charter to the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7). It is also absurd to suggest that withholding supplies from Gaza is a form of collective punishment. The only people who are being targeted collectively are Israeli civilians in Sderot and other neighboring towns near Gaza who are subject to incessant rocket barrages.
In contrast, Gazan Palestinians largely support Hamas which is, and declares itself repeatedly to be, in a state of war with Israel. By what logic, then, can Gazans expect to be insulated from the consequences of a war being waged by Hamas on their behalf? Gazan Palestinians in particular voted Hamas into office in Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. Similarly, Hamas could not have seized Gaza last year without at least the tacit support of a large segment of the local population. These Gazan Palestinians were well aware of the content of Hamas political platform. Presumably, they would have expected that a Hamas ascendancy would lead to more, not less, of the terror attacks on Israel which inevitably result in the closures and military strikes that sometimes harm them.
It is simply a false, flat-earth statement to say that Israel is an occupier of Gaza. First, even if Israeli forces were in control of Gaza, this territory is part of the biblical land of Israel and the British Mandate in which the rights of Jews to build a national home was internationally recognized. Second, the territory is unallocated under international law, has not been annexed by any country and did not belong to any other country. Third, Article 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War states that a foreign power is only considered an occupier to the extent that such Power exercises the functions of government in such territory. Fourth, Israel withdrew from 80% of Gaza in 1994, and the remaining 20% in 2005. It does not rule Gaza, its writ does not run there and it does not maintain law and order there. By no stretch of the imagination can Israel be said to be occupying this territory.
Palestinians have been the highest per capita recipients of international aid for years. Why have failed to build an infrastructure and functioning economy? Why did they destroy the farms and greenhouses purchased and left intact for them when Israel withdrew from the remainder of Gaza it controlled in 2005? These enterprises could and should have been providing food, employment and income for Palestinians. Why should Israel be responsible for the welfare of Gazan Palestinians just because Palestinians elected leaders, Fatah in the past and Hamas today, have been too extreme and corrupt to devote themselves to building up the Palestinian infrastructure and economy?
Gazan Palestinians are not starving. Any shortages they are experiencing are the direct result of the policies of its leadership and the terrorist groups who, successive polls have shown, Palestinians support. Why should the Israelis or Western countries put right their problems? In particular, why should Israel be obliged, as the New York Times claims, to provide supplies to Gazans? Did the United States supply electricity and other goods and services to Germans, North Koreans and North Vietnamese when we were at war with those peoples?
In fact, in these instances, Germany, North Korea and north Vietnam were fighting U.S. military forces. They were not targeting American civilians. Palestinians, in contrast, have gone out of their way to murder and maim as many Israeli civilians as possible. They celebrate each bloody suicide bombing with cheers, parties and the handing out of sweets.
Israel is fully entitled under law and morality to use military measures to target terrorists in Gaza, even if civilians may be inadvertently harmed in the process. Hamas is responsible for any Gazan Arab harmed by Israels attempts to stop the continuing rocket fire into Israeli towns and cities. It is also fully within its rights to impose economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip, including more wide-ranging measures than those it has actually adopted. Since Israel is under no legal obligation to engage in trade of fuel or anything else with Gaza, or to maintain open borders, it may withhold commercial items and seal its borders at its discretion. Without Americans being shelled or bombed by Cubans, the United States has maintained a decades-long embargo on Cuba. Israel surely has at least as much right to maintain an embargo on trade with Gaza as the United States has with Cuba.
The criticisms that are leveled against Israel for cutting off supplies to Gaza are both false and absurd. Israel and its allies should categorically reject them, but this will only happen when Palestinians are actually held accountable for their deeds and choices, not treated as people with a permanent claim on everyone elses purse and sympathy regardless of what they do.