A large shipment of clothing from Turkey, destined for numerous businesses in Gaza, was recently seized by Israel’s Ministry of Defense at Gaza’s commercial crossing with Israel – Kerem Shalom – over an alleged “attempt to smuggle tactical shoes” into the Strip. The footwear items in question are 140 pairs of military-style boots, which had been shipped together with skirts, dresses, pants, pajamas, underwear, and hundreds of pairs of shoes in a variety of other styles. The small size range of the so-called “tactical shoes,” a fashionable item apparently intended to fit adolescents, and the fact that they were clearly left visible for inspection, made no difference to the Israeli authorities that seized them.
On April 6, Gisha lawyer Muna Haddad wrote a letter to Adv. Paul Landes, Head of the National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing at the Ministry of Defense, demanding that the entire shipment, or at least all items besides the “tactical shoes,” be released immediately. Haddad noted that all items contained in the shipment, including the “tactical shoes,” had undergone physical inspection and security screening and had been found to meet all Israeli requirements prior to reaching the crossing.
Shoes are not included in Israel’s long list of items it defines as “dual-use,” meaning items that are primarily civilian in nature but may also be used for military needs. Items on Israel’s “dual-use” require special coordination in order to enter the Strip – some are banned from entering altogether, others severely delayed. Adv. Haddad had to explain that “the shoes in question are walking shoes considered popular among teenagers in the Gaza Strip,” and to state the obvious fact that “theoretically, a military actor could purchase them, since all people wear shoes.”
It is difficult to see what the justification could be for the arbitrary decision to seize the entire shipment of clothing due to a sudden, confusing concern over one type of shoe it contained. This measure not only violates the freight company owner’s right to property and damages the reputation that he had established for himself over the years, but also the right to freedom of occupation of dozens of business owners in Gaza, who paid in advance for the items and delivery, and have already sustained considerable losses due to the long delay. Adv. Haddad concluded her letter by stating: “Seizing the entire shipment because the authorities are of the opinion that one of the items it contains is a dual-use item that had not been coordinated as such, raises grave concern over a possible desire to make unlawful financial gain at the expense of Gaza’s residents.”