State appeals to Supreme Court to prevent exposure of document containing minimal calorie requirements for residents of the Gaza Strip
Sun., May 1, 2011 – On Thursday, April 28, 2011, the state appealed the Tel Aviv District Court ruling that the Defense Ministry must provide Gisha with the "red lines" document, in which the Defense Ministry apparently determined the minimal number of calories residents of Gaza should be allowed to consume, as part of the restrictions on the transfer of civilian goods into the Gaza Strip. The district court ruled that the Freedom of Information Act requires disclosure of the document for the sake of public interest in transparency.
In the appeal, Deputy State Attorney Uri Keidar argues that the document in question is a draft whose disclosure is not compulsory. However, the court’s ruling stated that when the matter in question involves a strong interest in public health and security, the document must be published – even if it is a draft – because the rationale for the non-publication of working drafts does not apply.
Attorney Tamar Feldman, director of Gisha’s legal department says: "It is not clear why the state insists on concealing from public view the documents upon which the Gaza closure policy was based. It cannot be understood as anything but an attempt to avoid embarrassment likely to result from revealing details of a policy that restricted food products and other civilian goods that pose no security risk".
On October 28, 2009, Gisha submitted a petition to the court on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, requesting that the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories disclose the policy according to which the transfer of civilian goods into the Gaza Strip was permitted or forbidden, and clarify the procedures and criteria upon which the security apparatus decided which goods could enter the Gaza Strip. At first the state refused to respond to the request for information, then it claimed that there were no written procedures, and later it admitted the documents existed but argued that their disclosure would endanger national security. Finally, the state changed its position and agreed to reveal most of the procedures, which were made available to the public in October 2010. In March 2011, the district court ruled that the state must also reveal the "red lines" document and the list of officials who were charged with enforcing the closure on the Gaza Strip. The list of officials was transferred to Gisha last month.
Gisha explains that without the "red lines" document, one cannot understand how decision-makers determined the "minimal" amounts of food they would allow residents of Gaza to buy. The other documents that have already been exposed show that the state restricted the kinds and amounts of food it allowed into the Gaza Strip, supposedly in order to exert pressure on the Hamas regime.
Even though the policy changed following the events surrounding the flotilla, the state continues to prevent residents of Gaza from transferring building materials, exporting goods from the Gaza Strip and traveling between Gaza and the West Bank.