Last week we published a post about an article Noam Chomsky wrote after visiting the Gaza Strip. The post received many positive responses, including from American blogger Andrew Sullivan, who nominated us for the Yglesias Award, given to people “who criticize their own side”.
We’re happy about the nomination, but after reading some of the responses to the post and rereading the post itself, it appears that we might also deserve some criticism. Here we add a few clarifications:
Entrance of goods to Gaza:
Chomsky’s post gives the impression that Israel continues to limit the entry of food products into the Gaza Strip. It’s important for us to clarify: The main problem isn’t that entry of goods is blocked – Israel only restricts the entrance of construction materials and other items it considers to be “dual use” – rather it’s the ban on exit of goods for sale in Israel and the West Bank that is problematic. These restrictions paralyze the industrial and agricultural sectors and are responsible for a situation in which many of the Strip’s residents don’t have the money to buy the products that do enter the Gaza Strip.
Construction in the Gaza Strip:
In the previous post we wrote “heavy equipment in Gaza is not ‘lying idle’, as Chomsky describes”. This is true, though we would like to point out that it is indeed difficult to repair heavy equipment because Israel restricts the entry of spare parts into the Gaza Strip and does not allow heavy equipment to be shipped out of the Strip for repair. Currently, the restrictions on the entry of building materials through the crossings with Israel do not prevent construction in the private sector, which makes use of materials brought in through the tunnels. However, as we said in the post, projects funded by international organizations, which are prevented from purchasing goods brought in through the tunnels, are delayed and have been rendered more costly as a result of the restrictions imposed by Israel’s security establishment.
While Professor Chomsky described the opening of the Rafah crossing as an insignificant change, we wanted to emphasize that the volume of travel through Rafah has returned to what it was before the crossing closed in June 2006, but travel between Gaza and the West Bank, through any crossing, is still limited to exceptional humanitarian cases.
We wrote that the Palestinian Authority decides who can travel to receive medical treatment in Israel and the West Bank. What we meant was that the Palestinian Authority decides who to refer for medical treatment in Israel and the West Bank, which involves providing proof of payment for the treatment. It is important to emphasize that Israel does not allow patients who do not have such a referral but are willing to pay for the treatment privately to enter its territory, or the West Bank. Therefore, it is Israel and not the Palestinian Authority that prevents the entry of patients from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank.
We hope that this clarification elucidates why we wrote about Chomsky’s article. We continue to call on the Government of Israel to cancel restrictions on the movement of civilians and civilian goods that are not imperative for concrete security reasons and therefore do not meet the requirements of international humanitarian law.