In Gisha’s Petition: Israel Agrees to Reveal Old Documents, Still Hiding New Ones
• After 1.5 years of obstruction and "security" claims, Israel agrees to reveal documents requested by Gisha on pre-flotilla Gaza closure policy.
• Israel refuses to reveal current documents on restrictions on goods entering Gaza.
• Israel refuses to reveal "Red Lines" document establishing minimal caloric intake.
Thur., October 7, 2010: After one and a half years of obstruction and denial, the State of Israel agreed this morning to make public three documents related to the transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip prior to the flotilla incident, including a list of items allowed into Gaza, procedures for approving or rejecting goods, and a "monitoring system" for checking stocks in Gaza. The concession came in a Tel Aviv District Court hearing on a Freedom of Information Act petition submitted by Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement demanding transparency for the Gaza closure policy.
One and Half Years of Obstruction
The state refrained from providing the requested material to Gisha for 1.5 years, first claiming the documents do not exist and then admitting their existence but claiming that revealing procedures and criteria for allowing goods into Gaza would "harm state security" and Israel's foreign relations. Gisha had raised concerns that the state was hiding behind a security pretext to prevent public discussion of a policy that prevented purely civilian goods from entering Gaza, including paper, coriander, and raw materials for industry. The policy has crippled Gaza's economy and blocked reconstruction.
Refusal to Reveal the Current Policy, Including Construction Materials
The state, however, refused today to reveal new documents which govern the current policy of goods transfer into Gaza following the May 31 flotilla incident. The documents requested by Gisha would reveal procedures for transferring goods into Gaza, including criteria for evaluating requests by international organizations to transfer the construction materials needed to build schools, homes, and infrastructure. Since the change in closure policy, Israel has permitted just 180 trucks of steel, concrete, and gravel into Gaza, even though tens of thousands are needed. The state claimed that Gisha must submit a new request for the current documents. Gisha Attorney Tamar Feldman argued that the state must reveal the documents now, noting that it has taken the state 1.5 years to agree to even part of Gisha's prior request.
State Still Hiding "Red Lines" Document
In today's hearing, however, the state's attorney continued to refuse to release the document known as the "Red Lines" document, in which the state apparently establishes the minimal caloric consumption required for the subsistence of the residents of the Gaza Strip. The state claimed that the document is an "internal draft". Gisha has argued that deliberately reducing Palestinian residents of Gaza to a "minimal" level of subsistence violates Israel's obligations under international law to avoid harming civilians and to facilitate normal life in Gaza and.
Turkel Commission and Public Debate
The state's admission is particularly timely, in advance of planned testimony next Wednesday by Gisha and other human rights organizations before the Turkel Commission to investigate the May 31 flotilla incident. Gisha will argue before the commission that Israel's Gaza goods policy, including the maritime closure, is illegal because it is and was designed to exert pressure on the civilian population in Gaza, in violation of the international law prohibition against collective punishment.
The state agreed to submit the documents to Gisha within 14 days, after which the court will rule on whether it must also reveal the "Red Lines" document and the new procedures.
According to Gisha Legal Director Tamar Feldman, who submitted the petition: "It is a shame that it took 1.5 years of obstruction before the state agreed to reveal documents required by law, and more regrettable that the state continues to hide information about its current Gaza policy".