The Israeli human rights group, Gisha, has taken the Israeli government to court in an effort to force Israel to reveal information on the import controls through which Gaza is being held under siege.
Rules that allow the importation of cinnamon but not coriander might seem arbitrary and it’s unlikely that further documentation from the Israelis will show otherwise. But there does appear to be a sadistic logic at work here. Nothing more effectively reinforces a sense of powerlessness in a population than for the minutiae of everyday life to be under the constant, arbitrary and callous control of an invisible and inaccessible power. This is the logic and practice of subjugation. It is an exercise in the crushing of human will.
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.
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”.