“Red Lines” presentation released after 3.5-year legal battle: Israel calculated the number of calories it would allow Gaza residents to consume

Wed. October 17, 2012: At the end of a three-and-a-half-year-long legal battle waged by Gisha, the Israeli Defense Ministry has disclosed the presentation entitled “Food Consumption in the Gaza Strip – Red Lines”. The document contains information about the policy of restricting the entry of food into the Gaza Strip, which was in effect between 2007 and 2010. Gisha received the presentation over the Sukkot holiday after the Supreme Court rejected the state’s appeal against disclosing it on September 5, 2012.

The presentation, delivered in two versions, both from January 2008, explains that it is a summary of work carried out by the security establishment in cooperation with the Ministry of Health in order to “identify the point of intervention for prevention of malnutrition in the Gaza Strip”. The presentation includes detailed tables on food consumption in Gaza according to the type, weight and nutritional value of different foods. The tables were compiled following the September 19, 2007 Security-Political Cabinet decision, which officially authorized the tightening of the closure on Gaza after Hamas took control of the Strip in June of that year. The decision defined Gaza as a “hostile territory” and imposed “severe sanctions in the civilian sphere”. These sanctions included, among other things, restrictions on bringing goods into the Gaza Strip, including food.

According to the presentation, the work undertaken by security and health ministry officials led to the conclusion that a daily shipment of 106 trucks to the Gaza Strip per business day would suffice for supplying its residents with their “daily humanitarian portion” which included basic food, medicine, medical equipment, hygiene products and agricultural inputs. By comparison, before June 2007, on average, more than 400 trucks entered the Gaza Strip every day. Previous documents published as a result of Gisha’s legal advocacy revealed lists that prohibited products such as seasoned hummus, fresh meat and ground coriander from being brought into Gaza. In practice, during the time in question, Israel allowed just 67 trucks on average to enter Gaza per business day. The presentation shows that the security establishment was aware that the restriction on agricultural inputs and eggs for reproduction for chicken farmers caused a reduction in local production of chicken and vegetables. The presentation states: “The amount of vegetables produced in the Gaza Strip is declining in view of the absence of inputs and lowered expectations for the development of agricultural marketing to Israel”. The official goal of the policy was to wage “economic warfare” which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defense Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government.

Throughout the legal battle for disclosure of the presentation, and in the cover letter delivered to Gisha, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories claimed that “the aforementioned presentations are drafts and have never been used as a basis for implementing the civilian policy toward the Gaza Strip”. However, both expressly state that: “In order to allow for a basic fabric of life in the Gaza Strip, the deputy defense minister approved allowing 106 trucks carrying basic humanitarian products into the Gaza Strip”. One can only wonder how Deputy Minister Matan Vilnai came up with the "106 Model" (as it is referred to in the presentation) if not based on the work summarized in the presentation.

The civilian policy towards Gaza changed after the flotilla incident of May 2010, and Israel no longer imposes restrictions on food entering the Gaza Strip. However, the security establishment continues to maintain the position that Israel’s obligations toward residents of the Gaza Strip are minimal. Israel now employs a “separation policy” with respect to the Gaza Strip, as part of which it limits travel between Gaza and the West Bank to “exceptional humanitarian cases” and prevents the sale of Gaza-made products in the West Bank and Israel, which in the past accounted for 85% of the demand for these goods. The Government of Israel refrains from explaining to the public what the goals of the policy are or who decided to implement it and in so doing precludes the possibility of an informed public debate about this policy.

Sari Bashi, Gisha Executive Director: “How can Israel claim that it is not responsible for civilian life in Gaza – when it controls even the type and quantity of food that Palestinian residents of Gaza are permitted to consume? Israel's control over movement creates an obligation to allow free passage of civilians and civilian goods, subject only to security checks – an obligation that remains unfulfilled today”.