Will security officials implement statement by Netanyahu to transfer all civilian goods into Gaza?

Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to instruct the security authorities to implement a policy of free passage of civilian goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, subject only to individual security inspections.

June 2, 2010: Gisha wrote to the Prime Minister following his May 31, 2010 statement that Israel’s only objective in restricting the passage of goods is to prevent the entry of war material into the Gaza Strip. According to Netanyahu, "any goods, any humanitarian aid to Gaza, can enter. What we want to prevent is their ability to bring in war materiel." Netanyahu spoke in response to the demand to investigate the incident in which nine people were reportedly killed when a flotilla trying to transfer goods into the Gaza Strip was intercepted by the Israeli navy.

Gisha welcomes the statement by the Prime Minister but points out that it does not reflect the policy of the security officials operating on the ground. As a matter of practice, Israel prevents the entry of hundreds of items into the Gaza Strip, including sage, vinegar, ginger and children’s toys (for a partial list of banned goods, click here). These restrictions constitute collective punishment under international humanitarian law, because they are designed to punish civilians in the Gaza Strip for acts they did not commit.

Despite a Freedom of Information Act petition submitted by Gisha to the Israeli district court, security officials refuse to reveal their procedures and the criteria that guide them in determining which goods are permitted and forbidden to be brought into the Gaza Strip. "If, as you say, any product can be brought into Gaza as long as it is not war materiel, then the parties operating on the ground are either unaware of the government policy or are not acting according to the policy," writes the Director of Gisha’s Legal Department, Attorney Tamar Feldman.

Gisha calls on the political echelon to establish a transparent mechanism for the free passage of civilian goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, including raw materials, export products and building materials, subject only to individual security checks.