At a time when Israel’s security officials should probably be focused on this week’s extensive home front security drill, it seems that that most of their attention is being paid to the flotilla of ships on its way to the Gaza Strip, laden with humanitarian supplies. Frantic consultations between officials and the prime minister’s top military chiefs of staff have taken place, an urgent meeting of a forum of senior government ministers was held, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged in extensive activities, and an urgent press conference was held at the Erez border crossing. In particular, the Israeli government’s public relations machine has been mobilized with the intent of persuading the public that there is no need for the flotilla, due to the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is fine, the Strip’s markets are abundant, and its gourmet restaurants are thriving.
Of course, an initial question comes to mind – if there is such prosperity, then how exactly is the closure policy promoting Israel’s goal to weaken the Hamas government? But beyond that, the government’s message is likely to be confusing to the layperson. For example, if the economic situation in Gaza is so magnificent, as stated in the cynical message distributed by the Government Press Office yesterday – why does another public statement by the State of Israel proudly declare that 738,000 tons of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip last year? How, the reader might also ask, are these statements of prosperity compatible with the contradictory information frequently released by international organizations (organizations with whom Israel proudly declares itself to be cooperating)?
Is it not true that 80% of Gaza’s population is supported by international aid organizations? Is it not true that the unemployment rate in Gaza is around 35%? And, how is the decisive statement that “Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce” consistent with the sweeping ban imposed by Israel for the past three years on the entry of raw materials to industrial plants and factories in the Gaza Strip? Indeed, the ban is perpetuating a situation in which over 90% of industrial establishments are closed or are operating at less than 10% of capacity. Does the fact that Israel prevents the entry of margarine in large containers designed for the production of foodstuffs in Gaza, while it allows the entry of margarine in small packages (made in Israel) promote the economy in Gaza?
But what really may confuse the naive layperson are Israel’s peremptory statements that there is no restriction on the entry of equipment into Gaza, except that which might be used by Hamas for terrorist activities. Based on this, the layperson may conclude that coriander, sage and children’s toys constitute a security risk, given that Israel prohibits the transfer of these goods to Gaza. In addition, he or she might wonder whether shoes and clothes constituted a security threat for 2.5 years before having their status as a security threat recently removed. A layperson might further ask, if Israel’s policy on the restriction of goods really benefits the people of Gaza, then why does Israel insist on refusing to reveal the secret of her success, arguing that producing documents explaining its closure policy will harm national security?
All of this is confusing not just to the layperson but also to the passengers on the ships. Israel states repeatedly, time and again that the organizers of the flotilla should transfer the goods “in accordance with procedure”. Yet how are they to know what these procedures are, if Israel refuses to disclose them?