A year after the easing of the closure and days before the expected flotilla: Israel may stop ships but must allow passage of civilian goods and people

Thursday, June 23, 2011 – Days before another flotilla is expected to set sail to the Gaza Strip, Gisha notes that in order to respect Gaza residents’ right to freedom of movement, Israel must allow travel between Gaza and the West Bank, the entry of building materials into Gaza and the export of goods from the Strip – subject to individual security screening. Below are a number of questions and answers to help clarify the current closure policy:

Has the Gaza closure been lifted?

In June 2010, Israel implemented a much needed easing of the closure and ended the ban on the entry of consumer goods and raw materials into the Gaza Strip. It also increased the number of permits granted to merchants to exit Gaza in order to conduct business in Israel and the West Bank. However:
• Israel continues to prevent the entry of building materials, allowing exceptions for international organizations that amount to 7% of the need.
• Export of goods from Gaza has been subject to a total ban since May (During the winter season, which ended in April, Israel allowed an average of two truckloads a day to leave Gaza, as opposed to its 2005 commitment to allow 400 truckloads a day).
• Sweeping restricts remain on travel between Gaza and the West Bank, with no security justification, but rather as a continuing attempt to exert pressure on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
• Under international law, Israel is obligated to allow the free passage of people and goods to and from Gaza, subject to individual security screening.
• For up-to-date information on the Gaza closure, see Gisha’s Gaza Cheat Sheet

Does Israel have the right to intercept the expected flotilla?

As an occupying power in the Gaza Strip, Israel may prevent ships from reaching the Gaza shoreline. However, exercising this power imposes on Israel an obligation to allow the passage of goods and people through other means, in order to respect the rights of Gaza residents to a normal life, including the right to engage in dignified, productive work and economic, educational and cultural development. The overall closure policy, of which the maritime closure is part, is unlawful due to the restrictions it places on civilians.

Do Gaza residents require humanitarian aid brought by ships?

More than 70% of Gaza’s residents rely on humanitarian aid which enters the Gaza Strip through the crossings with Israel, funded by international organizations, and Gisha is not aware of a shortage of food in Gaza. However, Gaza residents have a right not just to receive humanitarian assistance but also to export goods, import building materials and travel between Gaza and the West Bank – all of which are prohibited by Israel. A flotilla will not resolve these issues; only a change in Israeli policy will.

For Gisha’s new animated film about Israel’s continued control of the Gaza Strip, click here.
For a position paper on the maritime closure, click here.
For up-to-date information on the Gaza closure, see Gisha’s Gaza Cheat Sheet.