As the Palestinian factions prepare for peace, the Israeli military has continued to commit grave breaches of international law and inflict further suffering against the civilian population of the OPT.
For the past three and a half years Israel has worked to isolate the Palestinian people by refusing to recognise their legitimate representatives (the PLO) as partners for peace. This strategy of unilateralism has taken place while very positive developments have taken place on the Palestinian side. In the past week these developments have included:
Accordingly the only remaining obstacle to full implementation of the internationally accepted desire to see a Palestinian state are the Israeli authorities, who have continued their attacks on the Gaza Strip since implementation of the unilateral Disengagement Plan in September 2005. One of the most notable of these attacks was the recent killing of seven member of the same family on a beach in the northern Gaza Strip. The constant Israeli assaults on civilians in the Gaza Strip, has provoked a response from the Palestinian resistance, such as the military operation at Kerem Shalom on the border between Gaza and Israel. During this operation one Israeli soldier was captured and taken prisoner
Upon the capture of the Israeli soldier, Israel did not seek to engage with the Palestinians, preferring instead to unilaterally take military action to recover the captured soldier.
When undertaking military action, Israel is obliged to act within the confines of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to apply the principles of proportionality and distinction. Instead the Israeli military has inflicted a policy of collective punishment against the impoverished civilian population of the OPT:
The scale and type of the Israeli military operations indicate that this operation was premeditated, and must have been planned for some time. On a number of occasions, in the run-up and aftermath of the redeployment fromGaza, the Israeli military threatened to initiate a full-scale ground operation similar to Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002.
In the past number of months Israel has employed a number of measures to bring down the HAMAS government: the economic blackmail and sanctions against the Palestinian Authority as punishment for the Palestinians’ exercise of their democratic rights; the ongoing isolation imposed on the Gaza Strip since the Israeli ‘disengagement’ in 2005; the withholding of Palestinian tax revenues by the Israeli authorities; the international political boycott of the legitimately elected HAMAS government. Fuelled by the failure of these measures to bring about the desired result,Israel chose a military option.
The US has continued to offer protection to Israel for these ongoing activities while the EU has steadfastly maintained its conspiracy of silence against the Palestinian people – both continue to maintain economic blackmail and sanctions against the Palestinian people.
Palestinians can not be expected to become “good victims” and to remain silent or inactive in the face of these provocations and the grave breaches of international law. Since 1967 Palestinians have called for an immediate end to this belligerent occupation and the comprehensive implementation of international humanitarian law.
By continuing to support Israel the EU/USA are creating an environment conducive to the rule of jungle not the rule of law. They have brought the rules of Bin Laden – not the rules of international humanitarian law. Thus, anyone who qualifies as a protected person under international humanitarian law is at a serious risk in the current environment.
Accordingly Israel’s so-called “Operation Summer Rain” won’t see clean water falling on the Gaza Strip but will swell the river of mud flowing through the area. Israel’s operation will therefore perpetuate the violence to produce a long, hot, filthy summer of human rights violations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Raji Sourani, is one of the Gaza Strip’s foremost human rights lawyers. He is the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, an organization that monitors the human rights practices of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.