Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes, including the possible murder of unarmed civilians waving white flags. On Nov. 5, 2009, the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the Goldstone report, a U.N. investigation which found both Israel and Palestinians militants guilty of war crimes. The investigation was headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew whose daughter lives in Israel, and a former war crimes prosecutor at the U.N. tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The 575-page report accused Israel of committing war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity. It also accused Hamas of war crimes for its indiscriminate rocket attacks, but the brunt of the criticism was reserved for Israel whose war crimes were far more extensive and destructive.
Little has changed in Gaza since the war’s end. Israel refuses to allow much of anything to pass through. Egypt also enforces a blockade in the South of the strip at the behest of the Israelis and the Americans, and to contain Hamas which the Egyptian government sees as a threat.
The earth beneath Egypt’s border is crisscrossed with tunnels that Israel periodically bombs. Reconstruction materials have not been allowed through so many Gazans still live in tents next to the rubble of their homes. The unemployment rate in the Gaza strip was above 45 percent before the start of the war, the highest in the world. Now Gaza has no functioning economy to speak of. Gaza’s fishermen are not even allowed to cast their nets more than three miles from shore without being harassed or attacked by the Israeli navy.
The material damages to Gaza are calculable, the psychological trauma is not. Many school children are too afraid to go to school. Men search in despair for ways to provide for their families. Gaza’s people have been turned into beggars and smugglers. If food does not come through the tunnels then it likely comes from the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
International activists have attempted to sail to Gaza from Cyprus laden with humanitarian supplies and toys for Gaza’s children. They have been stopped and arrested by the Israelis. In the 1940s it was the British who intercepted ships of European Jews attempting to reach Palestine. Now it is the Israelis who want to prevent any immigration to Gaza.
This month, despite the pernicious siege, hundreds of people from around the world, including authors, students, politicians, artists and a holocaust survivor, will cross the Sinai together and attempt to enter Gaza.
In 1930, thousands of Indians marched on the Dharasana Salt Works. They were viciously beaten, but British colonial policy in India was shown to be unsustainable. The Gaza Freedom March is a part of a larger peaceful protest movement for Palestinian rights. Its adherents hope their methods will attract the world’s attention to the Palestinian struggle for independence, and render Israeli bullets as impotent as British guns were made by Ghandi and his supporters.