February 29, 2008

Is Israel Bound by International Law to Supply Utilities, Goods, and Services to Gaza?

More data and definitions for you to use in the TalkSpeak and NewSpeak war against Israel and the manufactured accusations of her "violation of International Law". From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Development Secretary Douglas Alexander recently alleged that Israel's decision to respond to ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks by limiting the supply of fuel to Gaza violated international law. The new UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert H. Serry, also asserted: "Israeli measures amounting to collective punishment are not acceptable. We call on Israel to meet its obligations toward the civilian population of Gaza under international law." Yet international law does not require Israel to supply Gaza with fuel or electricity, or, indeed, with any other materials, goods, or services.

Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention permits states like Israel to cut off fuel supplies and electricity to territories like Gaza. It only requires Israel to permit passage of food, clothing, and medicines intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. Moreover, Israel would be under no obligation to provide anything itself, just not to interfere with such consignments sent by others. Article 70 of the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 creates a slightly broader duty regarding the provision of essential supplies, but it does not list fuel and electricity as items for which passage must be permitted.

Dependence on foreign supply - whether it be Gazan dependence on Israeli electricity or European dependence on Arab oil - does not create a legal duty to continue the supply. Absent specific treaty requirements, countries may cut off oil sales to other countries at any time. In addition, neither Israel nor any other country is required to supply goods in response to its foes' resource mismanagement or lack of natural bounty.

There is no precedent that creates legal duties on the basis of a former military administration. For instance, no one has ever argued that Egypt has legal duties to supply goods to Gaza due to its former military occupation of the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, control of airspace does not create a legal duty to supply goods either. For instance, UN Security Council-ordered no-fly zones in Iraq and Libya were not seen as the source of any legal duty to supply those countries with electricity, water, or other goods.