Israel’s Exclusion and Restriction of Goods to Gaza

After Hamas was overwhelmingly elected in January 2006, Israel, Washington and the West ended all outside aid, imposed an economic embargo and sanctions, and politically isolated the new government.

Stepped up repression followed, including regular IDF incursions, bombings, killings, targeted assassinations, arrests, property destruction, and Israeli-instigated internal conflict that left Fatah usurping authority in the West Bank, leaving Gaza alone under Hamas.

In June 2007, conditions worsened after Israel imposed its siege, medieval-like, according to some, for its harshness. Now, nearing its third anniversary, it’s still in place, slowly suffocating and strangling 1.5 million people, trapped by closed borders, regular incursions and attacks, and shortages of everything needed to function and survive. A humanitarian crisis resulted and continues. The West and most regional states are culpable, complicit or indifferent to a real time catastrophe.

Israel’s Policy of Exclusion and Restrictions

The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement is a 2005-founded Israeli NGO, “whose goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents” — rights international and Israeli law guarantee. Yet under 43 years of military occupation, Palestinian rights have been systematically compromised, abused, and violated, worst of all in Gaza under siege.

In January 2010, Gisha examined the situation in a report titled, “Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and Obfuscation,” saying that:  “Beginning in September 2007, Israel openly stated that it would restrict the movement of goods into and out of Gaza (not for security), but (to) apply ‘pressure’ or ‘sanctions’ on the Hamas regime.”

Earlier, claimed security concerns were cited — from open borders and goods through them, including “dual use” ones with military potential. Hereafter, a limited “humanitarian minimum” would be permitted excluding everything deemed not “essential for the survival of the civilian population.”

What followed were exclusions halting exports, normal economic activity, production, agriculture, and availability of commonplace items like shoes, paper, school supplies, and tea called “luxuries.” Gisha called it “economic warfare (and) collective punishment designed to weaken the (Gazan) economy as part of its warfare against the Hamas regime.”

Because of Western complicity and regional  indifference, Israel maintains tight control, squeezing the life out of Gaza, using Hamas as pretext, a government it doesn’t control like Fatah under Abbas.

In a December 2008 paper titled, “Gaza Closure Defined: Collective Punishment,” Gisha was blunt in calling Israel’s action:

Not a siege, not a blockade, not economic sanctions (but an imposed) closure for purposes of collective punishment (illegally in place to harm) the civilian population and civilian institutions by blocking the passage of goods necessary for health, well-being, and economic life.”

It’s solely a political act for political gain, unrelated to security or military necessity.

Linking it to Hamas’ use of rockets, its right to self defense under international law, is bogus on its face. Claiming foods, medicines, fuel for electricity and other essential to life goods relate to security is outlandish and illegal under international law.

A Gisha May 6 news release said that:

“After 12 months of unsuccessful (Freedom of Information Act) attempts (to) obtain (Israeli) documentation about (its) policy concerning the entry of food and other goods into (Gaza), and after claiming for many months that no such documents exist, Israel has finally admitted that it does indeed possess the information (including) a list of goods whose admission into (Gaza) is permitted.”  (More on this below)

 In 2009, one of several Haaretz reports alleged arbitrariness and corruption in Israel’s Gaza policy as well as vagueness about what constitutes “humanitarian,” let alone the low quantities let in that fall far below minimally sustainable levels for 1.5 million people. As a result, other humanitarian aid efforts and Gaza’s tunnel economy supplement to compensate, but never enough to relieve dire conditions that worsen, not improve.

Gisha’s Obtained Israeli Documents

They list policies that include:

(1) “The procedure for admitting goods into the Gaza Strip,” that regulates how requests for goods transfers are processed and updates allowed products.

(2) “The procedure for monitoring and assessing supply in the Gaza Strip,” that regulates the monitoring of the supply of goods permitted, ostensibly to prevent shortages.

(3) “A list of humanitarian products approved for admission into the Gaza Strip.”

(4) A document called “Food Needs in Gaza – Red Lines,” that reportedly establishes minimal nutritional requirements for subsistence, or as Ehud Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass said in early 2006:  “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” In other words, make them suffer enough to reject Hamas or force its officials to accede to Israeli demands and function like Fatah as Tel Aviv’s enforcer, and if fail at both, slowly suffocate and strangle the entire population.

The “Red Lines” document reportedly establishes minimal nutritional requirements at below subsistence levels. Unreleased to the public, it’s believed to contain detailed tables of the number of grams and calories of each permitted food item by age and gender. Israel refused to release it, saying the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t require it because it’s a “draft document” that doesn’t serve as basis for policy. Gisha countered by saying:

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 (their) minimum required quantities. It is not clear why Israel… chooses to invest so many resources in the attempt to conceal information…. How is the disclosure that Israel forbids the entry of sage and ginger, yet allows in cinnamon, related to security needs?

Israel balks at releasing anything for reasons of national security and its foreign relations (its image), with no further explanation, except that the information in this case was so “confidential” that only a court in closed session should hear it, excluding Gisha attorneys.

Yet what logic excludes cans containing food, but allows Israeli produced tomato paste? Or why large tubs of margarine are embargoed but not individual sticks. Below is a list of allowed and banned items, subject to arbitrary changes and permissible quantities.

Wheat, animal feed, flour, cooking oil, cooking fat, sugar, salt, pasta, dates, garlic, chickpeas, rice, beans, lentils, kidney beans, margarine, some dairy products, powdered milk, frozen meat and fish, frozen vegetables, animal medicines, gas for medical use, empty bags for flour, certain medicines and medical equipment, diapers, toilet paper, detergent, washing liquid, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning products for tiles and glass, toilet cleaner, yeast, fertilized and unfertilized eggs, some fruit, semolina, polyethylene for greenhouses, some agricultural materials, tea, instant and regular coffee, canned tuna, salami, canned meat, bath and washing-up sponges, cloths to mop floors, baby wipes, some canned goods other than fruit, dried herb mix, black pepper, chicken stock powder, blankets, olives, matches, candles, sticks for brooms, rubbish bins, mops, hand cleansing gel, aniseed, cinnamon, camomile, water dispensers, potatoes, mineral water, tahini, combs, hair brushes, shoes, wood for doorposts and window frames, small amounts of aluminum, and some kitchenware.

Prohibited items include common ones like sage, cardamon, jam, vinegar, chocolate, fruit preserves and dried fruit, seeds and nuts, biscuits and sweets, fresh meat, fabric for clothing, fishing rods, musical instruments, writing implements, notebooks, newspapers, toys, razors, heaters, horses, donkeys, goats, cattle, and chicks.

Any and as many of the above items can be changed arbitrarily by military order without further explanation — Israel’s customary practice to harass, abuse and cause harm enough for Amnesty International (AI) to title its one year after Operation Cast Lead report, “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, and no more excuses,” concluding with a “call to action” for Quartet members, the EU, Russia, UN and US, to end the blockade by all available means under international law to assure that Palestinian rights are restored, enforced, and assured. 

Nothing has been done so far, AI calling it “a sign of the wider failure to hold all parties to account for (ongoing) violations of international law.” In January 2009, former Ireland President and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson said:  “Their whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating…. It’s almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening.” Its silence makes it complicit.

In June 2009, Jews for Justice for Palestinians accused Israel of “deliberating keep(ing) Gaza on the edge of starvation,” based on a Yotam Feldman-Uri Blau Haaretz investigatory report explaining that Israel’s policy isn’t fixed, but continually subject to change at the whim of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the (Occupied) Territories (COGAT).

For example, after excluding them, carrots and pumpkins were allowed in. Yet items like cherries, kiwi, green almonds and pomegranates are prohibited and halvah most often. At the time, no official approved or banned items lists were available, COGAT officials saying only that “Any goods that we allow in, or prohibit — you’ll know about… by phone. That’s the way we work.”

A former COGAT senior officer said:

If you go back two years (ago when the blockade began), you see that it was utter foolishness. There was a vague, unclear policy, influenced by the interests of certain groups, by this or that lobby, without any policy that derived from the needs of the population…. What happened was that Israeli interest took precedence over the needs of the populace.”

They, in turn, use their tunnel economy to compensate for shortfalls, but it’s never enough to meet needs. Since the blockade’s imposition, the Karni terminal has been closed. Earlier, over 600 trucks crossed daily. Now Kerem Shalom crossing handles most goods by conveyor belt for wheat, seeds and animal feed.

Nissim Jan, a former Shin Bet agent, profits most as “head of the crossings department.” He built a small empire profiteering from the siege that includes a logistical and shipping services company, as well as real estate deals. He’s also erecting a building in the Barnea area of Ashkelon, apparently partnering with Didi Yamin, the contractor. In addition, he’s closely connected to Nasser Saraj, in charge of Israel-Gaza crossings.

According to one Israeli: “The services Jan supplies on both sides of the crossing have made him one of the most significant figures at Kerem Shalom.”

He says that “Nothing that happens at the crossings escapes my notice.”

Defense Ministry sources told Haaretz that they’ve been checking complaints about his activities, including charging a fee for every truck entering Gaza. Jan denies it, yet he profits both ways by charging Palestinians for services rendered. He was fined for one incident involving about 100 tons of cooking gas, reported at the time to be stolen. He claimed he paid the fine to say “Leave me alone.”

His operation clarifies an added reason for maintaining the siege — the fact that Israeli businessmen profiteer from the misery of 1.5 million people, and do it on both sides of the border.

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on May 19th, 2010 at 12:48pm #

    Evidently, Stephen Lendman and most of us did not realise that spaghetti and macaroni are dangerous weapons, that is why they were not allowed into Gaza by Israel!!!

  2. Rehmat said on May 19th, 2010 at 1:22pm #

    The latest WMD for Israel is found in the least expected place – Among the gay movement!!

    Ottawa: ‘Pride Toronto’ and Israel

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 20th, 2010 at 12:45am #

    How touching and unexpected (not) to see that our Zionist friends do not miss any opportunity to profit, even from human misery.How enterprising they are! And good, too, to see that decent Israelis are still hard at work defending humanity in the face of the fascist outrages of their own state. To list all the vicious cruelties and breaches of humanitarian law committed by Israel is, of course, important, but, alas, irrelevant. What Mr Lendman relates, what Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories (a ‘self-loathing Jew’) described,some time ago, as ‘pre-genocidal’, the collective punishment, the terrorisation, the death-squad assassinations, the kidnappings, the steady drip of Gazan killings by the Israeli Death Forces, might be crimes against international humanitarian law, as it stands, but that is merely ‘Christian morality’, as the Yesha Council of Rabbis and Torah Sages asserted in 2006. These worthies, and scores like them on the religiously fundamentalist Judeofascist Right, who totally control Israel and its policies, declared that killing civilians (even one can be sure, by slow starvation and deliberately inflicted neglect) is a religious duty, a ‘mitzvah’ or good deed. Other Judaic authorities have declared child murder to be acceptable, if the children would grow to oppose the Jews. What is even worse, scarcely credible, but, given Zionist control of the West, quite possibly about to happen, is that these Judaic religious fascists have announced their intention to change international humanitarian law so that it reflects this homicidal interpretation of Judaic scripture. They intend to see civilians made legitimate targets for extermination if they reside in ‘terrorist entities’, to be defined, of course, by those supreme creatures, themselves. Moreover, Israeli Death Force child-killers are to be re-defined as ‘civilians in uniform’ (of a Holy State,to (jack)boot) thus making resistance to their barbarity evidence of ‘terrorism’. Even if they cannot manage to get they bought and sold Sabbat Goy stooges in the West to ram this diabolical travesty down the world’s throat, they intend to change humanitarian law by establishing ‘facts on the ground’, the old Zionist trick of simply committing crime, and getting away with it. As in Gaza, as in Lebanon, as in Iran, to come. This is where Israel is truly evil and dangerous. Unlike mundane despotisms like Myanmar or Egypt,or corrupt pseudo-democracies like the Thailand, the Philippines or Indonesia, Israel’s ambitions are global and based as they are on a perverted religious doctrine founded in delusions of cosmic superiority, intend to remake the entire world in a Zionist mould, enforcing a system of globalised apartheid being perfected in the hell of Gaza.

  4. mary said on May 20th, 2010 at 5:43am #

    Michael Mansfield is one of the most eminent human rights barristers in the UK.

    He writes to Clegg, the Tweedledee of the new coalition. Note the request for the British Navy to guard the Free Gaza flotilla. Fat chance.

    “My letter to Nick Clegg on Palestine

    As deputy PM, Nick Clegg, it is your duty to live up to your own words on the daily atrocities happening in the occupied territories”

    Michael Mansfield

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain said on May 20th, 2010 at 9:32am #

    Unfortunately, mary, Nick Leg, was, during the election campaign and before, doing what is these days de rigeur in capitalist election charades.He was lying, either openly,or by giving a false impression or acquiescing by remaining silent as to his true intentions when the media sewer did its propaganda duty. We had the same in Australia with Howard, who invented the categories of ‘core and non-core’ promises when his post-election behaviour was so different to his imposture before the vote. Of course, you only have to fool one in forty or fifty of the patsies to win a narrow election. Everyone who had witnessed Howard’s magnificent consistency in lying and misrepresenting during a twenty year career (he had been nicknamed ‘Honest John’ ironically, for his facility at lying, and, with admirable chutzpah, he appropriated this monicker as if it were literally true) knew that he was lying, but he got away with it. Blair was likewise, as was Rudd here and Obummer is the king of them all. Lying, without conscience, is a mark not only of capitalism (politics and advertising the highest forms of deliberate, concerted lying and manipulation) but also of psychopathy. Nick Leg planned this absorption by the Tories, his homecoming to his class heritage and his elevation to the lofty perch of Cameron’s fag,all along, I would bet. Part of the deal is loyalty to the financiers of UK politics, the Zionists, so, when the Israelis ram, or even sink the Gaza flotilla, Clegg will join in the phony lamentation and the more heartfelt condemnation of the relief deliverers and exculpation of the Zionazi pirates. You can bet your,or his, life on it.