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Israel's blockade of Gaza is collective punishment


Mitchell Bard, "Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict," AICE, 2023.


Critics of Israel’s blockade of Gaza sometimes refer to it as “collective punishment;” however, the term refers to the “imposition of criminal-type penalties to individuals or groups on the basis of another’s guilt.” Israel has done no such thing.

Israel has no obligation to maintain open borders with a hostile territory. The suspension of trade relations or embargoes is a frequent tool of international diplomacy. It has never been regarded as “collective punishment.”4

In 2011, the UN Palmer Committee concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip is consistent with customary international law, is legitimate due to the security threat posed by Hamas, and does not constitute collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.

International law requires that Israel permit the passage of food, clothing, and medicines for children under 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. If Israel believes Hamas will intercept these goods and the enemy will benefit, even these provisions may be prohibited. Israel also need not provide these supplies; it is obligated only to allow others to transfer provisions.

Furthermore, the law does not prohibit Israel from cutting off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza, withholding commercial items, or sealing its border. Israel is also not obligated to provide minimum supplies to prevent a “humanitarian crisis.”

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