When senior foreign delegates visited Israeli President Shimon Peres recently, they were surprised when he informed that there are no humanitarian problems in the Gaza Strip.
He maintained, in fact, that there is plenty of food, medicines and other products, although there is a slight shortage of cement. But you know – Hamas wants cement.
The gap between the well-documented existence of a severe humanitarian situation in Gaza and the President’s firm assertion that there is no such thing was so vast that the delegates could not help but wonder: Could it be that Peres was lying to them?.
The fact of the matter is that since Israel imposed an almost total closure on the Gaza Strip 27 months ago, it has repeatedly declared that there is no humanitarian crisis. It continues to stick to this story even though it only allows 25% of the needed goods to pass into Gaza (some 2,500 trucks per month as opposed to 10,400 prior to the closure). It does so even though around 75% of the population of Gaza (more than 1.1 million people) has been classified as “food insecure” by international organizations. It does so even though more than 90% of the water in Gaza has been declared non-potable according to World Health Organization standards, due partly to the shortage of equipment to treat it properly.
In fact, the President did not lie when he claimed that Gaza has an adequate supply of basic foods – rice, flour, and oil, for example – which Israel allows in. But please don’t ask about foods like sesame, juice powder, or beef stock – these items are banned, because they are beyond what is essential for the “basic existence of the population.”
Raw materials for industry, paper for textbooks, and building materials for reconstructing homes have also been classified by Israel “as beyond what is essential for the basic existence of the population.” Therefore, their import into Gaza has been prohibited.
As a result, two-thirds of the people in Gaza – one million human beings – are forced to rely on food assistance, 97% of the factories have shut down, unemployment stands at over 40%, and the local economy has collapsed due to the ongoing ban on the import of raw materials and the export of finished products.
The President did not lie, but he failed to mention essential information about the goals of Israel’s policies – to keep Gaza on life support, to permit the minimum transfer of food to prevent starvation, and to do everything in its power to prevent economic growth.