One of the main questions that’s been floating around (no pun intended) in relation to this week’s events is whether there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip or not. Is Israel letting in enough stuff?
Despite several years of attempts, including a Freedom of Information petition, we’ve never heard a satisfactory answer to the question of how Israel measures “crisis” or monitors the humanitarian situation in the Strip when it decides what and whom it allows into and out of Gaza. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue that at least 80% dependence on charity, a stagnant economy, 90% to 95% unsafe water in the aquifers, and movement limited to the bare minimum don’t constitute, at the very least, a crisis of dignity.
While there does seem to be enough food in the Strip, as around 76% of the items Israel approves for transfer are food and hygiene products, the blow to economic activity means that most people can’t afford to buy it. The haze surrounding what items can and can’t enter is confusing to us all, but it’s obvious, as Nicholas Kristof said in an op-ed published in yesterday’s New York Times, that not letting in items like paper and chocolate is not about security. Israeli security expert Brig. Gen. Meir Elran offers a similar assessment in today’s Washington Post.
The question that needs to be asked is not just whether there is a crisis, but whether Israel wants to continue standing behind a policy that is clearly not getting it any closer to its goals, not making it safer, and only causing harm every which way you look.