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Details of Gaza blockade revealed in court case

BBC News has seen documents, submitted to an Israeli Court, which give more detail than ever before about how and why Israel maintains its Gaza blockade.

In one document, Israel describes the import curbs as "a central pillar in the armed conflict with Hamas".

It also confirms estimates were made of how many calories Gazans need, but says these were not used for policy-making.

Israel says the blockade is to pressure Hamas, which does not recognise Israel and backs attacks on its citizens.

Three years ago, after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power, Israel and Egypt tightened their closure of Gaza's borders, leaving the territory's 1.5 million inhabitants facing acute shortages.

But Israel has never published a list of banned items, saying it approves requests on a case-by-case basis.

Items allowed have changed over time, which has left humanitarian organisations and commercial importers constantly attempting to guess what will be approved.

The court case has been brought by the Israeli human rights group, Gisha.

The group has been trying, for more than a year, using freedom of information legislation, to squeeze information from the state about what exactly is allowed for import to Gaza, and why.

In January, Gisha, took the Israeli authorities to court, to try to force them to provide the information.

Gisha's director, Sari Bashi, says she is no security expert, "but preventing children from receiving toys, preventing manufacturers from getting raw materials - I don't see how that's responsive to Israeli security needs."

And she says that some of the prohibitions appear to be absurdly arbitrary: "I certainly don't understand why cinnamon is permitted, but coriander is forbidden. Is there something more dangerous about coriander? Is coriander more critical to Gaza's economy than cinnamon? This is a policy that appears to make no sense."

She argues that if there is a logic behind such decisions, the military should reveal what it is.

'Conflict against Hamas'

Now, after several months' waiting, the state has given its response to the court, in a written submission, seen by the BBC.

It throws a small pool of light on the process behind the blockade.

The overall rationale is set out, in bold type: "The limitation on the transfer of goods is a central pillar in the means at the disposal of the State of Israel in the armed conflict between it and Hamas."

The Israeli authorities also confirm the existence of four documents related to how the blockade works: how they process requests for imports into Gaza, how they monitor the shortages within Gaza, their approved list of what is allowed in, and a document entitled "Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip - Red Lines" which sets out the minimum calorie intake needed by Gaza's million and a half inhabitants, according to their age and sex.

This paper was however, the state insists, just a draft power-point presentation, used for "internal planning work", which "never served as a basis for the policy of the authority".

But while the first three documents promise a great deal of detail, that detail is not delivered.

In each case, the state argues that disclosure of what is allowed in and why would, in their words, "damage national security and harm foreign relations".

It offers, instead, to reveal the contents of the documents to the court in a private session with the judge.

'Collective punishment'

The lack of clarity causes immense frustration not just among Gazans, but among aid groups, diplomats, and the United Nations - which has described Israel's blockade as "collective punishment"

The problem, they say, is not just the shortages themselves, but the unpredictability and changing nature of what is permitted for import.

Israeli officials have said, in the past, that they are concerned that building materials in particular could be misappropriated by Hamas for military ends.

But some Israeli commentators - even those who advocate a tough stance against Hamas - say that the strategy behind the much wider blockade is ill-defined, and harmful to Israel's international standing.

The BBC has received information from reliable sources that there are currently 81 items that are approved for import - from kidney beans to tinned meat - and as of March, shoes.

Among the large range of goods currently forbidden are jam, chocolate, wood for furniture, fruit juice, textiles, and plastic toys.

The 13-page submission by the Israeli authorities to the Tel Aviv District Court raises more questions than it answers.

It does set the context for the blockade: in what Israel considers to be its existential conflict with Hamas.

But it will not satisfy those noisily calling for Israel to be more open about one of its most contentious policies.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8654337.stm


Click to view image: 'a31c0f9c283a-liftgazablockadeforpalestiniansfacingextremepovertyaidgroup.jpg'

Added: May-3-2010 
By: loweyes
In:
Middle East
Tags: israel, gaza, blockabe, collective, punishment
Views: 8982 | Comments: 28 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • In 50 to a 100 years time, the world will be talking about the Gaza blockade as the beginning of the end of the Israeli criminal regime.

    People will be asking how on Earth the wold let Israel commit such a humanitarian catastrophe... The same way we ask ourselves today , why did the Europeans put their Jewish populations in cattle trains and send them to Hitler...

    Israel will eventually manage to destroy Israel.



    .

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • Only an idiot would compare Israels actions to the holocaust!
      Israel has no genocidal aspirations like the NAzis.

      The only comparison i see to NAzis or the Holocaust is whats clearly written in the Palestinian Charter!

      Posted May-4-2010 By 

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  • Didnt the Nazi do the same to the Jews?

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • Comment of user 'wargypsy' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • "Among the large range of goods currently forbidden are jam, chocolate, wood for furniture, fruit juice, textiles, and plastic toys."

    War criminals:

    ===

    Customary International Humanitarian Law

    Rule 103. Collective punishments are prohibited.

    ===

    4th Geneva Conventions

    Art. 33. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

    ===

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • Exactly, and the minimum calorie intake? Sounds a lot like other prison camps we have heard about.

      Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • israel (or any other country) has no obligation to open it's borders to it's neighbors.

      and another question:
      is the war in Afghanistan (in which Denmark is participating) collective punishment of the Afghani people over the crimes of al-qaida 9 years ago?

      Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • Does that rule apply to all the Arab countries as well, or just Israel?

      Posted May-3-2010 By 

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  • some of the prohibitions appear to be absurdly arbitrary: "I certainly don't understand why cinnamon is permitted, but coriander is forbidden. Is there something more dangerous about coriander? Is coriander more critical to Gaza's economy than cinnamon? This is a policy that appears to make no sense."

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • the article fleetingly mentions egypt only once.
      it's not a siege when you have another border for gods sake.
      they can ask their muslim brothers for coriander.

      Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • Would you assist anyone that wants you dead?
      Its not ISraels problem how they survive.....they can use the Rafah crossing and let their Egyptians brothers supply them all their needs.
      Its bad enough ISrael supplies them anything at all.
      Doesnt make any sense.

      Posted May-3-2010 By 

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    • ISRAEL SAYS TERROR IS JUSTIFIED FOR REACHING THEIR GOALS.

      .

      Former prime minister of Israel said, %u201CNeither Jewish morality nor Jewish tradition can be used to disallow TERROR as a means of war%u2026 We are very far from any moral hesitations when concerned with the national struggle. First and foremost, TERROR is for us a part of the political war appropriate for the circumstances of today%u2026%u201D

      %u2014Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli Prime Minister, in an August 1943 article titled %u201CTe More..

      Posted May-4-2010 By 

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    • So what does that prove in this situation?
      Nothing!
      The Gazzans have the Rafah crossing to get their supplies from EGypt.
      Tell me, why doesnt Egypt take control of the area again.....after all, before 67 it was Egytptian territory! Gazzans are in reality, Egyptians that their own country has ignored and incarcerated!

      Posted May-4-2010 By 

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    • The majority of Gaza's residents are from refugee families which fled or were expelled from the land that became Israel in 1948.

      The Geneva Conventions:
      "Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in More..

      Posted May-4-2010 By 

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  • Slowly but surely killing and expelling them off, that's what a blockade is

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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  • "Three years ago, after the Islamist Hamas movement seized power"

    Seized power? They were democratically elected by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian people.. They didn't seize power from anyone.. It was the US and Israeli backed corrupt patsies known as Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that tried to violently retain power after they had been voted out and did so by kidnapping and torturing innocent civilians who supported Hamas as their elected government and were protestin More..

    Posted May-4-2010 By 

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  • Comment of user 'wargypsy' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Without the conflict, Israel wouldn't have all the foreign aid... they don't want to lose that.

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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  • do your fcuken trade with egypt, they are your goddm fellow citizens

    Posted May-3-2010 By 

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