Marilyn Garson's 'Are we really aiding Gaza?' article (vol 45, no 1) was emotive, myopic and deeply flawed. Garson may have lived in Gaza, but she has failed to understand some basic realities and omits fundamental truths that suggest a very wilful blindness underpinning her recommendations.
In this article, we will address the most egregious errors in Garson's article and provide a more rational and balanced set of recommendations that would bring New Zealand's approach to Gaza in line with our values and with our approach to other humanitarian efforts.
One of the repeated assertions Garson makes is that Gaza is occupied; she uses the term 27 times in her article. Her assertion seems based on the use of the term 'Occupied Palestinian Territories' by the United Nations. However, terminology does not make law. No reasonable person, for example, would claim that North Korea is democratic because it is referred to as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The only legal definition of occupation is given by the Hague Conventions (Article 42), as 'when [territory] is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.'
Incredulously, Garson failed to mention that Israel withdrew all soldiers and Jewish families from Gaza in 2005 and transferred all jurisdiction for the area over to the Palestinian Authority. Garson reminds readers, however, in the same article that Israel does not even have authority to collect the rubbish or provide education in the Gaza Strip.
It was Prime Minister Sharon's expectation that the unilateral withdrawal would lead to a peaceful relationship between Israel and Gaza. If this policy had succeeded, it would have been an excellent example of what could be done on the West Bank. Unfortunately, Hamas staged a violent 'coup d'etat' and took over power in Gaza. This started repeated missile attacks on southern Israeli towns and kibbutzim. Given this example, it is very unlikely that the Israeli government will attempt to try this failed policy in the West Bank without a significant change in Palestinian Authority rhetoric and action.
Only four times in her article does Garson refer to the group in charge of the Gaza Strip, Hamas, and once euphemistically as a 'military employer'. Hamas is recognised as a terror group by the United Kingdom, United States and Canada; and the 'military wing' of Hamas is recognised as a terror group by Australia, New Zealand and others. (1)
Hamas, an Arabic acronym for 'Islamic Resistance Movement', took control of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and defines itself as the 'Palestinian offshoot' of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Their charter states that 'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it', 'the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise.... "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews) ...'" and explicitly rejects 'so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences'.
Hamas has enacted this charter with multiple terror attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings, thousands of rocket attacks and terror tunnels, and they orchestrate the violent 'March of Return' riots.2 It was the terror attacks and thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately into Israel that led to increased border security by Israel and Egypt and the imposition of a defensive maritime blockade in 2009.
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