Saed Bannoura / IMEMC News & Haaretz – 2010-11-28 22:12:16
Israeli Government Documents Show
Deliberate Policy To Keep Gazans
At Near-starvation Levels
Saed Bannoura / International Middle Ease Media Center News
(November 6, 2010) — Documents, whose existence were denied by the Israeli government for over a year, have been released after a legal battle led by Israeli human rights group, Gisha.
The documents reveal a deliberate policy by the Israeli government in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are “putting the people of Gaza on a diet.”
In 2007, when Israel began its full siege on Gaza, Dov Weisglass, adviser to then Prime-Minister Ehud Olmert, stated clearly, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” The documents now released contain equations used by the Israeli government to calculate the exact amounts of food, fuel and other necessities needed to do exactly that.
The documents are even more disturbing, say human rights activists, when one considers the fact that close to half of the people of Gaza are children under the age of eighteen. This means that Israel has deliberately forced the undernourishment of hundreds of thousands of children in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
This release of documents also severely undermines Israel’s oft-made claim that the siege is “for security reasons”, as it documents a deliberate and systematic policy of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza.
Gisha’s director, in relation to the release of documents, said, “Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity â€“ paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place.”
In its statement accompanying the release of the documents, Gisha wrote:
The documents reveal that the state approved “a policy of deliberate reduction” for basic goods in the Gaza Strip (section h.4, page 5*). Thus, for example, Israel restricted the supply of fuel needed for the power plant, disrupting the supply of electricity and water.
The state set a “lower warning line” (section g.2, page 5) to give advance warning of expected shortages in a particular item, but at the same time approved ignoring that warning, if the good in question was subject to a policy of “deliberate reduction”.
Moreover, the state set an “upper red line” above which even basic humanitarian items could be blocked, even if they were in demand (section g.1, page 5). The state claimed in a cover letter to Gisha that in practice, it had not authorized reduction of “basic goods” below the “lower warning line”, but it did not define what these “basic goods” were.
Commentator Richard Silverstein wrote: “In reviewing the list of permitted items for import, you come to realize that these are the only items allowed. In other words, if an item is not on the list, itâ€™s prohibited. So, for example, here is the list of permitted spices: Black pepper, soup powder, hyssop, sesame. cinnamon, anise, babuna (chamomile), sage. Sorry, cumin, basil, bay leaf, allspice, carraway, cardamon, chiles, chives, cilantro, cloves, garlic, sesame, tamarind, thyme, oregano, cayenne. Not on the list. You’re not a spice Palestinians need according to some IDF dunderhead. And tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, toys, glassware, paint, and shoes? You can forget about them too. Luxuries all, or else security threats.”
Despite the disturbing nature of the documents, which show a calculated policy of deliberate undernourishment of an entire population, no major media organizations have reported the story.
â€¢ The full text of the released documents, and the original Freedom of Information Act request filed by Gisha, can be found on Gisha’s website. Click here.
Israel Releases Papers Detailing Formula of Gaza Blockade
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, officials have employed mathematical formulas to monitor goods from aid groups entering the Strip to ensure amount was in line with what Israel permitted.
Amira Hass / Haaretz
TEL AVIV (October 26, 2010) — In the three years since Hamas took control of Gaza, Israeli officials have employed mathematical formulas to monitor foodstuffs and other basic goods entering the Strip to ensure that the amount of supplies entering was neither less nor more than the amount Israel permitted, according to documents released last week.
The documents — released Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Act petition by the non-profit group Gisha — were drafted while Amos Gilad served as interim coordinator of government activities in the territories, heading the body that checked the goods.
The formulas used coefficients and a formulation for “breathing space,” a term used by COGAT authorities to refer to the number of days remaining until a certain supply runs out in Gaza, to determine allowed quantities.
In September 2007, the Israeli government ordered a tightening of the blockade on Gaza, a closure first put in place in 1991. COGAT, in conjunction with other authorities, drafted “Rules for permitting the entry of goods” and “Regulation, supervision and evaluation of supply inventories in Gaza.”
Both documents were classified as drafts, but in effect served as instructions for Israeli authorities and were considered valid until a government-implemented policy change following the May raid of a Gaza-bound flotilla that left nine people dead.
Officials from COGAT, a Defense Ministry unit that coordinates activity between the government, military, international groups and the Palestinian Authority, told Haaretz that it had actually been responsible for releasing the documents, given that in the wake of the government decision the directives for keeping the files classified were no longer in force.
A high-ranking COGAT officer told Haaretz that “Regulation, supervision and evaluation of supply of inventories in Gaza” is a method of quickly identifying a shortage of any basic item in Gaza, and that despite the mathematical equations contained in the document, he had never intentionally limited the amount of goods allowed to enter, but on the contrary, verified whether inventories of certain basic supplies in Gaza were full.
The COGAT spokesman said that the regulations were formulated “based on well-known basic foodstuffs, in consultation with the Israeli Health Ministry and in consideration of family consumption habits in Gaza, as published by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2006.”
The document contained “warning lines,” which were defined as “the days of [remaining] inventory beyond which the relevant official must pay attention to the deviation from reasonable norms and examine the correctness of the model.”
There were two types of warning lines. The “upper warning line,” which identified surpluses, was defined as an inventory exceeding 21 days for products with short shelf lives or 80 days for those with long shelf lives.
The “lower warning line,” which identified shortages, was defined as an inventory of less than four days for products with short shelf lives and of less than 20 days for those with long shelf lives.
The senior COGAT official said the upper warning line was never actually used and the lower line was an important tool for identifying and averting impending shortages.
The “rules for permitting the import of goods” was drafted pursuant to a cabinet decision to restrict “the quantity and type of merchandise” entering Gaza. Its stated purpose was to define the “procedure, rules and method under which permission will be granted” for goods to enter Gaza.
These rules, the draft continued, were meant to allow in goods that would “supply the basic humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population.” It then listed seven considerations to weigh when determining which goods should be permitted.
Security was one. The others were as follows:
* “The necessity of the product for meeting humanitarian needs (including its implications for public health in both the Strip and Israel).”
* “The product’s image (whether it is considered a luxury).”
* “Legal obligations.”
* “The impact of the product’s use (whether it is used for preservation, reconstruction or development), with an emphasis on the impact of its entry on the Hamas government’s status.”
* “The sensitivities of the international community.”
* “The existence of alternatives.”
These rules explain why, for example, imports of cloth and thread, which were considered “development” products, were barred, thereby destroying Gaza’s textile industry.
The document states that many outside parties affected Israel’s decisions: The Strip’s needs will be determined not only by the relevant government agencies, it read, but by the Palestinian Authority, international agencies, the media and petitions to the courts by nongovernmental organizations, among others.
The third document that COGAT gave Gisha was the official list of products allowed into Gaza prior to May’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
Following that raid, the list was significantly expanded. But the senior COGAT official said that even before then, the list of products actually allowed into Gaza was always longer than the written list.
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