Aid group bashes Støre over Gaza

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Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is being bashed by both aid workers and even some of his own Labour Party colleagues, after he refused to say whether Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal. Several Norwegians are on board vessels that are keen on breaking the blockade but remain stuck in Greece.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (left) and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been heavily involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through their work with the Mid-East Quartet. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

Humanitarian organization Norsk Folkehjelp (Norwegian People’s Aid) is among those reacting to the foreign ministry’s refusal just before the weekend to say whether the blockade violates international law.

“The blockade is a collective punishment directed at all the people of Gaza, which goes against international law,” insists Orrvar Dalby, secretary general of the aid group. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he’s disappointed by the foreign ministry’s attitude. A law professor at the University of Oslo also has concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is illegal.

Neither Støre nor his ministry colleagues, though, would answer “yes” or “no” when asked whether the blockade is illegal. “We believe a blockade that leads to suffering and humanitarian crisis … is a violation of international law, but it’s a question of whether that’s the situation today,” Støre told NRK. He noted that deliveries of goods to Gaza have increased “and the situation has become better,” but added that he does believe the blockade is “still unacceptable.”

Stine Renate Håheim, a member of the Norwegian Parliament who’s taking part in this year’s fleet of ships hoping to reach Gaza by sea with needed supplies, told newspaper Klassekampen that she can’t understand why Norway’s foreign ministry doubts the illegality of the blockade. Håheim is a fellow member of Støre’s own party, Labour.

Håheim and others on board the 10 vessels in the fleet bound for Gaza remained stuck in Greece on Monday after Greek officials refused to let them leave. Last year’s relief effort for Gaza ended in fatalities when Israeli forces stormed the boats and opened fire.

The international activists on board the vessels were told on Monday that Greek vessels would offer to transport their supplies instead, and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seemed to support the proposal. The seven Norwegian activists taking part were unclear whether they’d remain on the vessels if they can’t sail for Gaza.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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