Hebrew University - Feminist Professor Frances Raday (Dept of
Law) insists it is illegal for Israel to Defend itself if Gaza
Palestinians are Denied Free Importing Powers
"That is correct, because according to
international law - and the committee relates to this - if the
suffering that is caused the civilian population is excessive, as
opposed to the direct military and concrete advantages that are
accrued, then the embargo is illegal.... t is possible that if the
committee had had a woman or man with a feminist outlook among its
members, that person would have attached greater seriousness to the
significances of the blockade, the prevention of educational
materials from entering Gaza, the entry of building materials for
constructing schools and apartments, the prevention of entry of
toys. A person with a feminist approach would have understood that a
prolonged blockade on a scope like that leads to suffering that is
perhaps not proportional to the military advantage it embodies."
Hey Frances - is shooting rockets into homes of
Sderot women illegal?
Prof. Frances Raday, were you surprised by
the Turkel committee's conclusions?
By Tomer Zarchin
Prof. Frances Raday heads the Concord Research Institute for
Integration of International Law in Israel at the College of
Management. The center, which seeks to encourage the local
assimilation of norms of international law, counts among its members
some of the leading researchers in Israel in the field, including
Profs. Ruth Lapidoth, Orna Ben-Naftali and Yuval Shany, as well as
the former member of the International Court of Justice at The
Hague, Thomas Buergenthal.
A few months ago, the center sent a report to the Turkel
committee with its own analysis of the flotilla events last May, in
which it stated, among other things, that imposing an embargo on
Gaza did not conform to international humanitarian law from the
point of view of both length and scope.
Raday is also one of the leading figures in the feminist struggle
Prof. Raday, were you surprised the Turkel committee gave legal
approval to Israel's blockade on Gaza and to its military actions
during the events surrounding the Turkish flotilla?
No, I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased that the Israeli
government understood that it was necessary to hold a serious and
independent probe into the claims that international humanitarian
law had been violated. We also thought, even before the Goldstone
report, that Israel should begin an independent investigation into
complaints about violations of international law with regard to
(Operation) Cast Lead, beyond the internal investigation of the
Israel Defense Forces.
Did the committee achieve its aims in this respect?
In this respect, yes, but also in terms of the fact that the
international observers serving on the committee agreed that they
had no doubt that the Turkel committee was an independent body that
carried out an in-depth probe of what it was charged with dealing
But at the same time, you don't agree with one of the central
components of the report, which approves of the blockade of Gaza on
the basis of international law?
That is correct, because according to international law - and the
committee relates to this - if the suffering that is caused the
civilian population is excessive, as opposed to the direct military
and concrete advantages that are accrued, then the embargo is
illegal. According to the report, the committee reached the
conclusion that the State of Israel acted in accordance with the law
in imposing the blockade. But my problem is that the committee, in
effect, sees that if there is no hunger and no damage is done to the
basic essentials of life in Gaza, then no illegal damage has been
done to the civilian population. In my opinion, this statement is in
dubious in terms of international humanitarian law. It is possible
also that a maritime blockade which begins in a non-excessive
manner, becomes excessive in time - as we felt happened here.
We are of the opinion that the length of time of the blockade, as
well as the conditions it imposed, did not meet the demands of
proportionality vis-a-vis the military advantage of the blockade,
because after three years we saw that the Hamas government had not
fallen and we also did not see a change in the policy of Hamas as a
result of the blockade.
In which way do you think, contrary to the Turkel report, that
the blockade has not met the rules of international humanitarian
It would have been possible to allow the organizations that
wanted to build educational institutions to bring building materials
into Gaza. It would have been possible to make it easier for food
products to enter, and toys for children...
Does the committee's report not relate to this?
Turkel is of the opinion that the change in the government's
policy, in the direction of alleviating the blockade after the
flotilla events, was welcome. I ask why this change would not have
been welcome even earlier, before those events? If loosening up on
the blockade did not affect our advantage or our military needs
negatively before the flotilla incident - then why was it not done
It is clear that it was necessary to be strict about preventing
the entry of weapons into Gaza, but why prevent the entry of
equipment for everyday, essential needs? Why not prevent daily
suffering from the population in Gaza? Years of blockade on a scope
like this are questionable from the point of view of military
advantage and, therefore, unlike what Turkel stated, it does not
accord with the rules of international humanitarian law, in our
opinion. Again, Turkel doesn't explain in the report why the welcome
change brought about by alleviating the blockade after the flotilla
events would not have been welcome if it had taken place beforehand.
From the point of view of international law, do you think,
contrary to Turkel, that the blockade should have been shorter and
more restricted in scope?
They should have decided very soon that its aim was to prevent
the entry of weapons to Gaza, as something that harms us from the
military point of view, and then our position in the international
arena would have been different; there would not have been a pretext
for the claim that it was necessary to bring humanitarian aid to the
residents of Gaza.
So how will such declarations stand the test of the international
I think that what will work in Israel's favor is that there was
no unambiguous resolution on the part of the international community
about the legality of the blockade before the flotilla event. Before
the event, the international community had not established that the
blockade was contrary to the rules of international law. Even though
there was criticism about basic commodities not being supplied -
there was no explicit condemnation of the blockade. Therefore, I
think the Turkel committee's statement with reference to the
blockade gives Israel the chance to claim that its action was not a
flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, even though in
my eyes there is a flaw in the committee's conclusions since the
blockade was too widespread, unfocused. Plus, there are complaints
that its objective was not merely military, but also political.
Do you accept the committee's conclusions about the soldiers'
actions on the ship?
I think that in this respect the committee's work constitutes a
strong statement vis-a-vis the conclusions of the UN Human Rights
Council, which issued a decision saying that the military response
on the ship was disproportionate.
Do you think that the panel's conclusions would have been
different if there had been a woman member?
It is possible that if the committee had had a woman or man with
a feminist outlook among its members, that person would have
attached greater seriousness to the significances of the blockade,
the prevention of educational materials from entering Gaza, the
entry of building materials for constructing schools and apartments,
the prevention of entry of toys. A person with a feminist approach
would have understood that a prolonged blockade on a scope like that
leads to suffering that is perhaps not proportional to the military
advantage it embodies.
How do you relate to the shouts of joy in the military and
political echelons in Israel following the approval granted by the
(Laughing). Look, I don't like the demonization of Israel, but I
think we have a responsibility to behave at a high level. I think we
don't see the difficulty in the lives of our neighbors, for which we
are partly to blame. I think we must restrict the harm done to the
Palestinians in any way possible. I think it's preferable for us to
direct our steps in a humanistic way, while taking care of our
security needs so as not to reach situations of the kind that
occurred here. As the Turkel committee stated, it would have been
possible to reduce the scope of the blockade and I think that it
would have been worthwhile for that to have happened a few minutes
Prof. Raday heads the Concord Research
Institute for Integration of International Law in Israel at the
College of Management. The center seeks to encourage the local
assimilation of norms of international law.