Telling Interview with the Director of Amnesty Israel

Via Avi Bell, here’s a fascinating interview with Itai Epstein, Director of Amnesty International in Israel.

The interviewer asks some fairly sharp questions, and he gets answers filled with addled logic that amount to, “Whatever Israel does, Amnesty is still going to say it was acting illegally/violating human rights.” Here’s an excerpt (but read the whole thing), in which the interviewer asks Epstein what Israel needs to do before Amnesty will acknowledge that Israel is not “occupying” Gaza. The short answer is there’s nothing Israel can do, only steps Israel could take toward that goal, but whatever Israel does there will still be “other components related to agreements of the international community” whatever that means.

Q. What is required of Israel to stop it from being an occupying force under Amnesty’s definition?

A. That there will be another sovereign power and that the border crossings to Gaza not be under Israeli control. That’s the meaning of occupation, there’s no other sovereign power there, there’s no control over the border crossings for free movement of people and goods and that’s why Gaza is under occupation.

Q. Is an exit by the Navy from Gaza’s waters an end to the occupation?

A. No.

Q. Is opening the border crossings with Israel ending the occupation?

A. That’s a step towards ending the occupation….

Q. So what actions must Israel take? You say that the occupation ends if Israel opens the crossings, so if the occupation ends, Israel needs to close the borders since Gaza is defined as an enemy state. There’s a logical contradiction here.

A. I don’t understand where the contradiction is.

Q. The border between Israel and Lebanon is closed since Lebanon is an enemy state. You’re claiming that Israel needs to open the borders to Gaza and then the occupation will end. And then Israel will have to close the crossings.

A. I’ll ask you another question. Can Lebanon control the transfer of goods and people to Lebanon not opposite Israel but opposite other countries?

Q. So the problem is with the control by sea and air. If the seas are open there is no occupation?

A. Of course, had it been possible to enter Gaza freely through the air, by sea and land, that would certainly be one component of the occupation ending.

Q. What are all the components to end the occupation? Amnesty does not present a plan in which Israel stops the occupation. It says that Israel needs to stop the occupation and deepen the occupation by opening the borders. I don’t comprehend that.

A. Amnesty International does not deal with solving conflicts.

Q. It’s not conflict solving. It’s ending the occupation. Amnesty says that Gaza is under occupation. According to Amnesty, what actions must Israel take in order to stop the occupation?

A. One of the things which need to be done is to allow the passage of people and goods through the air, the sea and land. That’s one component. There are other components related to agreements of the international community since Amnesty International does not deal with solving conflicts.

Q. If Amnesty claims that there’s an occupation there should be a definition of when there’s no occupation. Amnesty claims that Israel needs to open all the crossings for free movement from Gaza to Israel and remove the sea and land siege on Gaza, meaning let Gaza be open to the entire world with no connection to Israel, but under those circumstances the occupation no longer exists. So why is there a need to transfer supplies to Gaza? Does Amnesty by the same logic demand the American forces in Afghanistan to help the Taliban? And take care of the sick among the Taliban? That’s the question, when does the occupation end?

A. I admit that I don’t understand the question. I’m unclear as to what kind of answer you expect.

Q. What are the necessary steps on which you can elaborate?

A. One, allow the Palestinians in Gaza free access to drinking water. Israel hasn’t done this in all the years of the occupation until now, and it has a responsibility to ensure that Gaza’s residents have access to water. The same thing goes for health services. For dozens of years the rights of those residents have been prevented and the formations of civil infrastructures were prevented and this became worse during the attacks of last year, and a large part of those infrastructures were destroyed and not rebuilt to this day. This is an obligation of which Israel cannot free itself.

Q. It’s an obligation of which Israel cannot free itself, but it has nothing to do with the occupation. Those are two different things.

A. It’s related to the situation of the continuing occupation.


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