Gaza: no news is bad news

SteveB pretty much said it all yesterday – the situation in Gaza is hugely depressing and a terrible start to the year.

I’ve just come back from Italy where the national television channel Canale 5  always started every evening’s news (telegiornale) with five minutes of horror from Gaza before moving on to 25 minutes of Italian news – murder, robberies, New Year’s sales, the icy weather (“il tempo gelato e pericoloso nel nord”), a film launch/other celebrity activity. Same pattern every day. Dismal and depressing.

Like the Italian news, it’s the bleak predictability of the crisis in Gaza that is so depressing.

There’s been a lively debate elsewhere on the Amnesty blog platform about the precise nature of Israel’s military offensive and whether it’s been “excessive” under international law. This is important and well worth reading. (No question that Hamas rockets into southern Israel are indiscriminate and “excessive” by the way).

However, to me, a fairly narrow debate about whether a particular military operation is legally justifiable in terms of the ratio between “military advantage” and civilian casualties while necessary and understandable – how else could you ever determine the lawfulness of war situations? – also misses some key points.

The long Israeli blockade of Gaza has never been justified in military/legal terms and now even more than ever it is shocking that humanitarian aid/basic necessities  (medicines, food, emergency materials for shelter etc) are not allowed through to the 1.5 million Gazans at risk.

On top of calling for a UN Security Council resolution that condemns attacks against civilians by both Israel and Hamas, Amnesty has written to the UN calling for it to urge Israel to allow aid, human rights workers and journalists into Gaza.

It’s disturbing that journalists are being prevented from reporting from Gaza – see this short report in the Guardian with some highly questionable justifications for keeping them out from Danny Seaman, the Israeli government’s head of press.

After all, how are we supposed to try to make an assessment of whether war crimes are taking place if international journalists (and human rights experts etc) are barred from Gaza during this critical time?

Or is it a case of: no information, no crime?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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