Tuesday, January 11, 2022: A new report by Gisha released today, Red Lines, Gray Lists, provides answers to common questions on Israel’s policy regarding the entry into Gaza of items it defines as “dual-use” – goods that are civilian in nature but that Israel suspects may be used for military purposes as well. For years, Israel has blocked or delayed the entry of thousands of items, including raw materials for industry, machinery and spare parts, and equipment for construction; items which are critical for Gaza’s economy, healthcare system, and civilian infrastructure. The shortages in these items continue to exacerbate living conditions in Gaza, hinder development, and block reconstruction and construction in the Strip.
The report is the product of extensive research conducted by Gisha, providing a comprehensive overview of Israel’s draconian dual-use policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. Gisha’s analysis of the dual-use list for Gaza, which far exceeds the internationally accepted standard, points to its vagueness and opacity. The policy enforced by Israel leads to ongoing violations of its legal obligation to enable normal life in the Strip.
The report notes the arbitrary changes made to Israel’s dual-use policy over the years, shedding light on the different tracks for coordinating the entry of dual-use goods into Gaza via Israel and Egypt, and detailing the legal duties of various actors in the region to facilitate passage of goods to Gaza. A central section of the report examines the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), the result of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority brokered by the United Nations (UN) following the 2014 offensive. The complex and bureaucratic monitoring process that Israel demands of the GRM, as well as its lack of accountability or transparency over such demands, lead to delays in construction and suspensions of contractors from the GRM, also reinforcing a black market in the Strip.
In addition to the questions answered in the report, it includes testimonies by experts and professionals describing, in their own words, how restrictions on access to dual-use items and working conditions under the GRM undermine their work and lead to severe infringements on the rights to property and livelihood. A senior businessperson in Gaza, interviewed for the report, emphasized that: “People who work under the GRM feel like they’re putting their necks in a noose.”
Israel is currently in discussions with the UN and other parties about the future of the GRM, leveraging the promise of “easings” and the entry of dual-use items to Gaza as a means of applying political pressure on Hamas. This gives urgency to a critical examination of Israel’s dual-use policy and the serious flaws inherent in the GRM. Israel must be held accountable for protecting the rights of Gaza residents, who live under its control. It must allow immediate and full access to all that is needed for their lives and livelihoods.
To read Red Lines, Gray Lists – click here.
Summary of the report’s conclusion and recommendations:
Gisha’s position is that Israel must facilitate timely, consistent and dependable entry of goods to Gaza and otherwise do the maximum in its power to facilitate normal life and protect the human rights of Palestinians living under occupation. Israel’s control over and restrictions on movement of goods, particularly goods it considers to be dual-use, are extensive and sweeping. The system of controlling dual-use goods, including via the GRM and other mechanisms, is complex, bureaucratic, unnecessary in many cases, and lacking in transparency, creating delays and incurring additional costs for users. The chronic lack of dual-use items on the local market impedes construction, reconstruction, the functioning of the healthcare system and critical civilian infrastructure, as well as stifling Gaza’s economy and industries.
The GRM was designed with a tacit acceptance of Israel’s broad and sweeping security demands, at the expense of civilian needs in Gaza. Israel must strike a balance between its obligations towards Gaza residents, and its obligation to protect the security of Israeli citizens. It is our view that Israel’s dual-use policy, including how it is implemented through the GRM, does not strike such a balance and as such represents a severe violation of Israel’s obligations under international law.
Barring a complete overhaul of the dual-use system, bringing it in line with international standards, we note the following, specific issues with the current system that must be addressed:
- The extensive nature of the dual-use list – The majority of items on the dual-use list, particularly the Gaza-specific section, are vital for civilian needs and their inclusion on the list is unjustified and reasonable, going far beyond any reasonable interpretation of agreed international standards, as conceived under the Wassenaar Arrangement. Excessive controls on everyday items such as wood paints and thinners, spare parts for machinery, communication items such as regular cell phones, are disproportionate to the threat they pose, and thus needlessly stifle, obstruct, and impede humanitarian operations, commerce, and normal life in Gaza.
- Long delays and high costs – There are long delays in responses to requests for entry of dual-use items, both under the GRM and the regular dual-use track. Under Israeli law, the authorities must respond to regular dual-use requests as soon as possible, within 45 business days at most, but it can take months, sometimes years, to get a response. Bureaucracy and additional requirements for participation in the GRM, which are in many cases unreasonable, incur additional costs for end-users and donors, leading to price rises and incentivizing a black market.
- Lack of accountability for damages – There is no compensation mechanism for damages incurred due to unreasonable delays in approving requests and negligent handling of them, even when this leads to severe financial losses. Israel has very broad powers for the seizure and confiscation of goods, based on vague legal provisions, which undermines the transfer of goods and lead to a disproportionate violation of property rights. Israel often responds to non-compliance with requirements in an extreme manner, for example, suspending a contractor from the GRM due to a CCTV camera resulting from a power outage.
- Lack of transparency and accessibility – Israeli authorities are vague about what goods are considered dual-use, and on the application process for entering items. The dual-use law and associated regulations are not published in Arabic or English. There is a lack of updated and clear information published about the GRM on the official GRM website. A general sense of the impossibility of reliable access to dual-use goods leads to a chilling effect on entrepreneurship and innovation in Gaza. In addition, there is no effective, accessible complaints mechanism and appeals process for people suspended from the GRM system.
- Lack of compliance with international law – As an occupying power, Israel is obligated to preserve normal life in Gaza as far as possible. Allowing unimpeded access for humanitarian aid is the most minimal of its duties, but it has positive obligations to facilitate economic activity and respect the human rights of people living under its control, particularly given the length and nature of the occupation. Instead, it routinely violates its duties, blocking passage of goods, including humanitarian aid as well as other items and products essential for the civilian population.
To read the full report and conclusions, see here.