GAZA: Israhell´s “humanitarian” siege of Gaza “How is the disclosure that Israel forbids the entry of sage and ginger, yet allows in cinnamon, related to security needs?

For a partial list of the permitted and prohibited goods, click here.


Gisha responds to a State submission in its Freedom of Information Act petition: How Will Disclosing Whether Coriander Is or Isn’t Allowed into the Gaza Strip Harm Israel’s National Security?

Thursday, May 6, 2010 – After 12 months of unsuccessful attempts by Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement to obtain documentation from the Israeli authorities about Israel’s policy concerning the entry of food and other goods into the Gaza Strip, and after claiming for many months that no such documents exist, Israel has finally admitted that it does indeed possess the information requested by Gisha, including a list of goods whose admission into the Gaza Strip is permitted. Following a petition submitted by Gisha under the Freedom of Information Act, and as a result of the Tel Aviv District Court’s rejection of the State’s claim that it had already provided all relevant information, the State last week submitted its response to the court. In this response the State apologized for “inaccurate statements made to the court”, that it claimed were the result of a misunderstanding and admitted to the existence of four primary documents. Following this admission, however, the State refused to disclose the contents of the documents. It argued that, despite not previously raising such an objection, disclosure of the documents “…would harm national security and foreign relations”. Gisha today filed its response to the court.
The documents whose existence the State now confirms are: (1) “The procedure for admitting goods into the Gaza Strip,” which regulates the processing of requests for transfer of goods to Gaza and updates of the list of products allowed into the Gaza Strip, (2) “The procedure for monitoring and assessing supply in the Gaza Strip” a document which regulates the monitoring of the level of supply of goods in Gaza to prevent shortages, (3) “A list of humanitarian products approved for admission into the Gaza Strip” which outlines the products which may be transferred to Gaza, and (4) a presentationcalled “Food Needs in Gaza – Red Lines,” a document that reportedly establishes the minimal nutritional requirements for the subsistence of the residents of the Gaza Strip. This document purportedly contains detailed tables of the number of grams and calories of each kind of food each resident should be permitted to consume, broken down by age and sex, apparently in order to establish a minimal threshold for restrictions on the admission of goods.
Regarding the first three documents, the State relied on an exception in the Freedom of Information Act to argue that it is concerned that harm would be done to Israel’s national security or its foreign relations if these working documents are revealed. The State refused to explain why revealing the documents would harm national security, arguing that the facts and reasons are so confidential that it could only present them to the court on an ex parte basis, i.e. in a closed hearing without the presence of Gisha’s lawyers. In relation to the “Red Lines” document, the State argued that it is not required to disclose it under the Freedom of Information Act because it is a draft document that does not serve as the basis for policy. However, this argument does not provide an answer to the question of how Israel manages to “provide effective warning of expected shortages” of goods in Gaza while continuing to insist that there is no working document that defines the minimum required quantities?
“It is not clear why Israel, instead of promoting transparency, chooses to invest so many resources in the attempt to conceal information”, said Adv. Tamar Feldman of Gisha, who wrote the petition. “How is the disclosure that Israel forbids the entry of sage and ginger, yet allows in cinnamon, related to security needs? It is also hard to imagine how disclosing this information would harm Israel’s foreign relations, unless the State is equating fear of harm to Israel’s image with fear of harm to its foreign relations”.
In the petition submitted by Gisha, the Ministry of Defense and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories were asked to answer very basic questions about Israel’s policy concerning the entry of food and other vital goods into the Gaza Strip, a policy that is shrouded in thick haze that obscures the State’s procedures. So, for example,it is not clear why Israel refuses to allow into Gaza products such as cans, which would allow farmers in Gaza to preserve and market their tomatoes, yet permits the transfer of packaged tomato paste manufactured in Israel. Nor is it clear how the decision to ban the import of other raw materials for industry such as industrial salt or large blocks of margarineare related to the security needs which are supposed to inform the policy for the crossings into the Gaza Strip.
Ref: Gisha
Food Shortages In Gaza Raise “Serious Questions About The Underlying Legality Of The Blockade.” According to Dr. Guilfoyle: “The BBC has reported UN agencies as saying that insufficient aid is reaching Gaza, possibly less than one quarter of daily needs. This raises serious questions about the underlying legality of the blockade.The relevant rules of armed conflict prohibit intentionally starving the civilian population and require that humanitarian supplies essential to survival must be allowed to pass, albeit subject to certain controls by the blockading power. To maintain a population at a level just above the bare minimum needed for survival might arguably be within the strictest letter of the law, but could never seriously be thought consistent with its spirit. Calls for the immediate cessation of the blockade may well have a good case in law as well as in humanitarian policy.” [Times of London, 6/1/10, emphasis added]

  • 2006: Israeli Government Adviser Speaks Of Putting “Palestinians On A Diet.” According to the Christian Science Monitor: “Israel says it will withhold $55 million a month in taxes and other fees collected by Israel, but owed to Palestinians. “‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,’ Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told the Israeli media.” [Christian Science Monitor, 2/27/06]

Israeli Blockade Exacerbating Humanitarian Crisis In Gaza. According to Amnesty International: “Israel’s military blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, an area of land just 40 kilometres long and 9.5 kilometres wide.  Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.” [Amnesty International, 6/1/10]

Gaza Blockade Is Only Hurting Civilians. As the Independent explains, “It is widely accepted internationally that the blockade is hurting the civilian population much more than Hamas, whose grip has tightened in the last three years. It has destroyed a once-entrepreneurial and productive economy, ensured that 80 per cent of its population now depend on food aid, left most of its water undrinkable, and prevented reconstruction of some 75 per cent of the buildings destroyed by Israel’s devastating military offensive in the winter of 2008-9, not to mention many, many thousands more destroyed since the beginning of the intifada in 2000; or the building of 100 new schools the UN refugee agency UNRWA desperately needs to meet its ever-soaring demands. It’s because world leaders understand this – at least on a theoretical basis since few ever enter Gaza – that the Quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN has repeatedly called for the siege to be lifted.” [Independent, 6/2/10]

Gaza Blockade Is Collective Punishment. According to Amnesty International: “This gratuitous exacerbation of the privations already suffered by the inhabitants of Gaza seriously hampered their access to health care and education and destroyed industries and livelihoods. Imposed ostensibly to deter rocket-firing into Israel by Palestinian armed groups, the blockade was nothing less than an outrage – the imposition of collective punishment on the entire population of Gaza. All too predictably, it hit hardest on the most vulnerable – children, the elderly, the homeless and the sick, including those in need of medical treatment outside Gaza – not the armed militants responsible for rocket firing.” [Amnesty International, accessed 6/3/10]

UN: Since Blockade Is “Collective Punishment,” It Violates The Geneva Convention. According to a 2009 report to the United Nations: “As noted by senior United Nations human rights and humanitarian officials, among others, the blockade of Gaza amounts to collective punishment, which is prohibited under international humanitarian law. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that ‘No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or terrorism are prohibited. […] Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.'” [UN Report, 11/6/09]

Ref: Political Correction

VIVA PALESTINE! Gaza aid held-up in Jordan

Since June 2007 Gaza has been under a crippling blockade with few essential goods making it through.

Now an aid convoy of 250 trucks and ambulances is attempting to reach the Strip to deliver much needed supplies.

But a bureaucratic argument with Egypt is holding it back in Aqaba in southwest Jordan.

Al Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher reports.

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GAZA: “We run out of plastic bags to distribute the food” as Israeli banality continues…

UN officials reiterated their call for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza and open the crossings for urgent supplies to be sent in to the Palestinian territory.

“It is absolutely crucial that Israel allow the crossings to be opened”

Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN special envoy
“It is absolutely crucial that Israel allow the crossings to be opened and also expand the list of items that go in,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict, told reporters following her recent visit to Gaza, the West Bank and southern Israel.

“At the moment less than 200 [aid] trucks are going through [the crossing points into Gaza],” she said.

“We need at least 400 just for the humanitarian needs and over 1,000 once reconstruction begins.”

The UN also appealed for Israel to allow plastic bags and human rights textbooks into the Gaza Strip.

“We run out of plastic bags to distribute the food,” John Ging, the Unrwa director of operations in Gaza, said in a video link on Monday, adding that the process of getting the plastic locally was “unreliable” and “very expensive”.

Unrwa, which only provides assistance to Palestinians holding refugee status, plays a key role in distributing aid in Gaza by handing out food aid to some 900,000 people of out of a population of 1.5 million.

Ref: Al Jazeera

GAZA: ONE YEAR ON ‘Punish, humiliate, terrorise’

As the one year anniversary of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is marked, it is vital to re-examine Operation Cast Lead within the wider context of Israel’s approach to both Gaza and the Palestinians.

There is a danger that the scale of the devastation and the international protests which followed the war can deflect attention from the broader Israeli policies of collective punishment and deliberately-engineered socio-economic collapse.

The first important part of this context for both before – and since – Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip is the crippling blockade.

The isolation of the Gaza Strip actually goes back to the early 1990s, when Israel first implemented the system of ‘closure’ and fenced off the territory. But Israel’s current tight control of the Gaza Strip dates back to the aftermath of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, and then Hamas’ armed defeat of Fatah in the summer of 2007.

Thus even before the widespread targeting of civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military a year ago, the Gaza Strip had been subjected to what the Goldstone report described as “a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation”.

‘Economy dismantled’

Since 2007, aid as a proportion of all imports into the Gaza Strip has increased eightfold. Workforce unemployment stands at around 40 per cent, with only seven per cent of factories operational. The weekly average for truckloads of goods entering Gaza is a quarter of the quantity in the first half of 2007.

Months before Operation Cast Lead, an aid agency report described how the blockade “is destroying public service infrastructure in Gaza” and “has effectively dismantled the economy”.

Little wonder then that the World Health Organisation’s mission to Gaza reported in May this year that “since 2006, the health effects of the blockade have included stagnating life expectancy, worsening infant and child mortality, and childhood stunting”.

Israel has also maintained a tight control over Gaza’s air space and territorial waters, the population registry, and movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

Political strategy

The second crucial context for Operation Cast Lead is the overarching political strategy behind Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. For the humanitarian catastrophe documented in numerous reports by the UN and NGOs is not, of course, a ‘natural disaster’ but a deliberate, political policy.

War was intended to diminish civilian support for Hamas, White says [EPA]

One of Israel’s main aims over the last few years has been to keep Hamas diplomatically and internationally isolated. Tzipi Livni, the then foreign minister, told a press conference a few days into Operation Cast Lead of how it was “important to keep Hamas from becoming a legitimate organisation” (a reason for Israel preferring not to extend a six-month truce).

Another key Israeli goal, evident in both the ongoing blockade as well as the brutal military assault of Operation Cast Lead, is to punish the civilian population in the hope of turning them against Hamas.

In early 2006, an advisor to Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, said that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet” in order to pressure the elected Hamas-majority government.

In September 2007, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on the Israeli military’s plans “to limit services to the civilian population in Gaza” in order “to compromise the ability of Hamas to govern”.

It was this logic that shaped Israel’s military operations which, in the words of the UN’s Goldstone report, were “directed by Israel at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population”.

‘De-developing’ Gaza

That this was a “carefully planned” assault intended “to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population” was clear at the time.

The Jerusalem Post reported Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, as saying that Israel’s aim was to “to provide a strong blow to the people of Gaza so that they would lose their appetite for shooting at Israel”.

As hundreds of Palestinians were being killed, The Washington Post related how the “hope” of Israeli officials was that “Gazans become disgusted with Hamas and drive the group from power”.

An Israeli ex-national security adviser told The New York Times that “the terrible devastation” caused by going beyond just “military targets” would lead to “a lot of political pressure” on Hamas.

Targeting civilians to advance a political goal is a standard definition of terrorism: in the words of the US state department, “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets”. US federal law describes terrorism as violence or “life-threatening acts” apparently intended “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population”.

A final part of Israel’s political strategy for the Gaza Strip is to turn the territory into a depoliticised humanitarian crisis, its population rendered utterly dependent on international aid. This is the strategy of ‘de-development’ that has been going on for decades and which is now intensified and more brutal.

Zionism’s contemporary dilemma

But the third and final context for recalling the events of a year ago means looking beyond just Gaza to take in Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as a whole.

Israel’s regime of control over the Palestinians, both those in the Occupied Territories as well as those with citizenship in the pre-1967 borders, is a response to political Zionism’s historic and contemporary dilemma: how to create and maintain a Jewish state in a land with a non-Jewish population.

In 1948 and 1967, Israel was able to carry out the mass expulsion of Palestinians. Since then, however, Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, aimed at maintaining the domination of one group over another, have been guided by two, parallel principles: maximum land with the minimum number of Arabs, and, the maximum number of Arabs on the minimum amount of land.

That is how the blockade of Gaza and Operation Cast Lead fit in with the eviction of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the consolidation of the settlement blocs in the West Bank, and Israeli state policy toward the Negev and Galilee.

Slowly, Palestinians are being forced out, whether through house demolitions, the removal of residency permits, or the creation of conditions which make the continuation of normal life impossible.

There is no ‘solution’ to Gaza outside of a just peace for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis that can only emerge when the Palestinian people’s rights under international law are realised, and Israel’s policies of dispossession, separation, and structural discrimination are seriously challenged.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have appeared in publications like the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’, New Statesman, Electronic Intifada, Middle East International, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and others. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published earlier this year by Pluto Press.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Israel outraged at UN remarks urging end to Gaza blockade

Israel reacted angrily to comments made Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in which she called for an immediate end to its blockade of the Gaza Strip, which she said breached international and humanitarian law.

In a statement from her Geneva-based office, Pillay urged Israel to allow the flow of aid including food, medicines and fuel to resume, and to restore electricity and water services in the Hamas-controlled territory.

Pillay was also quoted as saying that 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months.

She also called for Israel to end airstrikes and incursions in Gaza, and for Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza after the Islamic group Hamas violently seized control of the territory in June 2006. It recently tightened the sanctions because of rocket fire at Israeli towns.

Pillay’s demands provoked an angry response from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Aharon Leshno-Yaar, who accused her of being utterly shortsighted and repeating blatant misinformation.

“Overall responsibility for the situation in the Gaza Strip lies with Hamas, which invests all of its resources in arms and terrorism instead of providing for the civilians that it brutally controls,” Aharon Leshno-Yaar said, adding that Palestinian groups had fired more 170 rockets and mortars at Israel during the past 10 days.

Leshno-Yaar also rejected Pillay’s claim that Israel has cut off essential supplies to Gaza.

“Electricity and water continue to flow from Israel to Gaza, and 33 trucks laden with supplies arrived in Gaza yesterday, with more waiting to enter as soon as Hamas ends its violent attacks,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Israel resealed border crossings with the Gaza Strip, citing continued rocket fire at its towns, despite warnings from world aid groups of looming shortages of food and fuel supplies in the coastal territory.

Israel had allowed supplies into Gaza for the first time in two weeks on Monday, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas he would not permit a humanitarian crisis to develop there.

“The crossings are shut because of ongoing rocket fire,” Peter Lerner, a defense spokesman said, referring to several barrages of rockets fired from Gaza on Monday that slammed into Israeli towns, causing no injury.

International aid groups said the supplies sent in on Monday were not enough to alleviate food shortages.

Israel has also held up fuel shipments to Gaza’s main power plant, leading to daily periodic electricity blackouts for many of 1.5 million Palestinians living in the territory.

Israel had not allowed UNRWA, a United Nations agency that aids some 750,000 refugees in Gaza, to bring in supplies since Nov. 4 during cross-border fighting in which more than a dozen Palestinian militants were killed.

Several Israelis have been lightly wounded by dozens of rockets fired by gunmen after the Israel Defense Forces raids.

Palestinians: IDF tanks roll into the southern Gaza Strip

IDF tanks forged into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing rocket and mortar fire from Palestinian militants, militant groups said, intensifying violence that has chipped away at a tenuous cease-fire.

Israel and Hamas have been trading fire for two weeks after nearly five months of relative quiet. The June 19 truce is due to expire next month, and both sides might be trying to dictate more favorable terms in anticipation of the agreement’s renewal.

The tanks, backed by a bulldozer and military jeep, rumbled about a half a kilometer deep into the tiny seaside strip, residents and Gaza security officials said. Residents said they leveled lands along the border east of the city of Rafah. It was the first ground action in a week.

The IDF described the activity as a routine operation to uncover
explosive devices near the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.
It said two mortars were fired at troops, causing no injuries or damage.

The tanks did not respond to the Palestinian fire.

By the army’s count, militants have fired more than 140 rockets and mortars at Israel since the truce began unraveling.

At least 17 militants have been killed over the past two weeks, and Israel in an effort to squelch the rocket fire, has kept cargo crossings into Gaza clamped shut for the most part, drastically restricting vital supplies.

Both Israel and leaders of Gaza’s ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement have said they hoped the Egyptian-brokered truce could be preserved. But a small, Hamas-allied group said they consider the truce to have broken down, and Israel has threatened to hit hard if the rocket fire persists.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry accused Israel of subverting the truce.

“We call on the Palestinian factions to meet to begin an immediate re-evaluation of the calm,” spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein said.

ReF: Haartez