Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai’s response to a query submitted by MK Dov Khenin in July regarding the ban on importing musical instruments into Gaza was recently published. In his (surprising) answer, the deputy minister claimed that: “According to the information available, no applications to bring musical instruments into the Gaza Strip have been received for the past two years.”

MK Khenin’s query did not come out of the blue. He asked the question because  attempts by various groups – both private and international aid organizations – to bring musical instruments into the Gaza Strip over the past two years all met with failure.

Deputy Minister Vilnai added in his response that “there are a number of materials and types of goods that are banned from import into the Strip due to the possibility that they will aid terrorist activity or because their import deviates from the policy, “which is  “a broad-ranging civil-humanitarian policy.” The first category of prohibited materials – which have a civilian use but could also be used as weapons – are publicly listed. But the second category of banned goods – items such as musical instruments, sesame seeds and toys, which do not fall within the criteria for import included in “civil-humanitarian policies” – are not listed anywhere. This is because the State of Israel refuses to publish a list of permissible items for import and refuses to publish a list of items prohibited because they are not deemed sufficiently necessary for humanitarian needs.

This week, Gisha petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court under the Freedom of Information Law, in the hope of obtaining some transparency regarding the parameters according to which the State of Israel permits or prohibits the import of goods into the Strip. Who knows? Perhaps after the information is disclosed, the Deputy Minister will know that the import of musical instruments is prohibited, and we will all understand why.