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Posts

Israel deliberately keeps Gaza on the edge of starvation

haaretz Gaza bonanza by Yotam Feldman & Uri Blau, Ha’aretz, 11 June 2009

WARNING: this Ha’aretz article makes painful reading

The policy is not fixed, but continually subject to change, explains a COGAT [Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories] official. Thus, about two months ago, the COGAT officials allowed pumpkins and carrots into Gaza, reversing a ban that had been in place for many months. The entry of “delicacies” such as cherries, kiwi, green almonds, pomegranates and chocolate is expressly prohibited. As is halvah, too, most of the time. Sources involved in COGAT’s work say that those at the highest levels, including acting coordinator Amos Gilad, monitor the food brought into Gaza on a daily basis and personally approve the entry of any kind of fruit, vegetable or processed food product requested by the Palestinians. At one of the unit’s meetings, Colonel Oded Iterman, a COGAT officer, explained the policy as follows: “We don’t want Gilad Shalit’s captors to be munching Bamba [a popular Israeli snack food] right over his head.”

The “Red Lines” document explains: “In order to make basic living in Gaza possible, the deputy defense minister approved the entry into the Gaza Strip of 106 trucks with humanitarian products, 77 of which are basic food products. The entry of wheat and animal feed was also permitted via the aggregates conveyor belt outside the Karni terminal.”

After four pages filled with detailed charts of the number of grams and calories of every type of food to be permitted for consumption by Gaza residents (broken down by gender and age), comes this recommendation: “It is necessary to deal with the international community and the Palestinian Health Ministry to provide nutritional supplements (only some of the flour in Gaza is enriched) and to provide education about proper nutrition.” Printed in large letters at the end of the document is this admonition: “The stability of the humanitarian effort is critical for the prevention of the development of malnutrition.”

These quantities allow a very slim margin for error or mishaps. Moreover, COGAT’s analysis is statistically accurate only on condition that there is an equal division of the minimum supplies that are allowed in. “This analysis does not take distribution in the field into consideration,” says the “Red Lines” document. A COGAT official says that he assumes that food distribution within Gaza is not equal. If some are receiving more, others are necessarily receiving less than the required minimum. So it is hard to reconcile this information with the claims of the defense minister and COGAT officers that there is no real food shortage in Gaza

Summaries of the discussions about entry of food into Gaza show just how deeply the captains of the defense establishment seem to care about the income of Israeli farmers. Hence, in a discussion that took place in the office of Deputy Minister Vilnai, it was decided that every day, 15 trucks filled with agricultural produce would be brought in. “The problem right now is the emphasis on melons and fruit in general,” Agriculture Ministry Director General Yossi Yishai said at the meeting. At the conclusion of the discussion, Vilnai instructed that three trucks with melons be brought into Gaza each week, “So as not to cause a market failure in Israel.” Another document, from the end of April, signed by Vilnai’s public information officer, says: “Israel’s policy at the crossings is set at various times in accordance with a number of considerations … Economic considerations, including the agricultural establishment, are at the basis of the policy considerations.”…

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