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Questions & Answers about War on Gaza

Posted on: Saturday, January 10, 2009

Keywords: Israel, Palestine, Middle East

Questions & Answers about War on Gaza

As Israel’s war on Gaza continues into its 13th day,  MADRE responds some of the questions that we’re hearing from MADRE members about the crisis.

Q. Doesn’t Israel have a right to defend its population from rockets?

Yes. Every country has a right, even an obligation, to protect its people from armed violence. The rocket attacks by Hamas are acts of aggression against Israeli civilians. As such, they are war crimes.

Israel needs to end the attacks on its population. The question is, what’s the best way to do that?  

The answer: an effective ceasefire with Hamas. How do we know this? Because during the five-month ceasefire of 2008, Hamas rocket-fire decreased by 98%. As for the other two percent, it's impossible to know for sure who fired those rockets. We do know that Hamas arrested militants from other groups who launched rockets during the ceasefire.

That’s why one of the central demands of the Israeli peace movement, and even of some Israelis in the towns being hit by mortars and rockets from Gaza, is for a ceasefire.

Q. Why are people saying that Israel is committing war crimes when the country is acting in self-defense?

Any military response, even self-defense, must be proportional to the threat that justifies the attack, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel’s attack on Gaza is more destructive by orders of magnitude than the rockets fired—also illegally—by Hamas into Israel. As one Israeli writer put it, “The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive agaisnt Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash.”

In addition, the Israeli assault violates the Fourth Geneva Convention by targeting civilians. Entire families are among the dead. Gaza’s hospitals are full of mothers and children, not Hamas fighters.

Finally, the attack constitutes collective punishment by gravely harming all residents of Gaza, in retaliation for the violence of a small group of militants.

Q. Didn’t Israel end its occupation of Gaza in 2005?

No. Israel evacuated its soldiers and settlers from inside the territory. That was a welcome development, but only a first step towards ending the occupation. Since August 2005, Israel has continued to control Gaza's borders, coastline, airspace, telecommunications, water and electricity. Because Israel still exerts effective control over Gaza, it remains the occupying power there according to international law.

Moreover, as the occupying power, Israel is obligated by the Hague Convention to safeguard the welfare of people in Gaza.

After Israel’s unilateral “disengagement” from Gaza, it imposed an economic blockade on the territory. The UN and the World Bank say the blockade has driven a full 80 percent of Gazans into poverty and is the main reason for the collapse of the Palestinian economy.

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