On the anniversary of Israel's attack on Gaza, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Palestinians, Richard Falk, is urging an end to the blockade of the Gaza strip. Mr. Falk told UN Radio's Reem Abaza that only a credible threat of economic sanctions could move Israel to lift the blockade, which is preventing the return to normalcy for 1.5 million residents of Gaza.
Falk: Obviously Israel does not respond to language of diplomacy, which has encouraged the lifting of the blockade and so what I am suggesting is that it has to be reinforced by a threat of adverse economic consequences for Israel. That probably is something that is politically unlikely to happen, but unless it happens, it really does suggest that the United States and the Quartet and the EU don't take these calls for lifting the blockade very seriously and are unaffected by Israel's continuing defiance of those calls.
Abaza: What do you think about the wall that's being built right now on the borders between Gaza and Egypt?
Falk: I'm very distressed by that, because it is both an expression of complicity on the part of the government of Egypt and the United States, which apparently is assisting through its corps of engineers with the construction of this underground steel impenetrable wall that's designed to interfere with the tunnels that have been bringing some food and material relief to the Gaza population. And of course, the underground tunnel complex itself is an expression of the desperation created in Gaza as a result of this blockade that's going on now for two and a half years, something that no people since the end of World War II have experienced in such a severe and continuing form.
Abaza: We're approaching a new year - how do you see the situation in the region, in Gaza in particular in the new year?
Falk: The one thing that could have an effect are these rumors of an imminent prisoner exchange. There might be a corresponding easing if not lifting of the blockade. That's the only positive indication that 2010, at least in its early months, will bring any kind of relief to the people of Gaza.
Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories speaking to Reem Abaza.