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Israel's Gaza Blockade Baffles Residents

Von: Dan Clore (clore@columbia-center.org) [Profil]
Datum: 29.05.2010 19:56
Message-ID: <4C01555B.1090806@columbia-center.org>
Newsgroup: soc.rights.human alt.politics.socialism alt.politics.radical-left alt.activism alt.society.anarchy alt.anarchism alt.fan.noam-chomsky alt.politics.libertariantalk.politics.libertarian
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/05/28/israels-gaza-blockade-baffles-residents-4/
Israel's Gaza blockade baffles residents
Israel's baffling blockade of Gaza: Salmon permitted, cilantro
considered contraband
by DIAA HADID
AP News
May 28, 2010 06:42 EDT

Military bureaucrats enforcing Israel's blockade of Gaza allow frozen
salmon filet, facial scrub and low-fat yogurt into the Hamas-ruled
territory. Cilantro and instant coffee are another matter  they are
banned as luxury items.

Over the past three years, Israel has determined down to the tiniest
detail what gets into the Gaza Strip and to its population of 1.5
million, using secret guidelines to differentiate between humanitarian
necessities and nonessential luxuries in its blockade meant to squeeze
the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The results are often baffling.

"Frozen salmon  we never had it before the blockade," said perplexed
salesman Abed Nasser, examining a frozen chunk of fish.

Critics have long maintained that Israel's blockade, imposed after
Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, has not just been confusing,
but counterproductive. It has come under renewed scrutiny this week as
hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists sail a flotilla to Gaza loaded
with thousands of tons of goods.

Israeli Col. Moshe Levy, a senior military official dealing with Gaza,
called the flotilla a "provocation" and said all necessary humanitarian
aid already reaches Gaza. Israeli officials say they will stop the
flotilla by hauling the ships to an Israeli port if they don't turn back.

Critics say the blockade has failed to dislodge Hamas and has hurt
Gaza's poor and blocked reconstruction after Israel's devastating
three-week military offensive in the winter of 2008-2009. A Palestinian
industry report says the blockade has wiped out over 100,000 jobs in
Gaza by banning raw materials and stifling trade.

With small exceptions for international aid projects, raw goods vital
for trade and construction are banned. A biscuit factory cannot import
margarine, and a tomato paste factory cannot bring in empty cans. While
fruits, vegetables and frozen meats are let in, fresh meat, vinegar and
jam, are not, said Sari Bashi of the Israeli rights group Gisha.

"There are enough quantities of basic food items in Gaza. But because
there is a ban on raw materials needed for production and a ban on
exporting finished products, people don't have enough money to buy
things," she said. "That's why 80 percent of Gaza residents are
dependent on international assistance."

Meanwhile, tunnels built under the Gaza-Egypt border haul in scarce
goods at inflated prices, enriching smugglers and Hamas, which taxes the
trade. Gaza markets are filled with smuggled products like chocolate
sauce and shiny children's shoes that most residents cannot afford.

Hamas officials have used smuggled cement to rebuild the notorious Ansar
prison where they detain their rivals, and are currently building a
shopping center.

But three years after the blockade, Israel is only now shipping in the
building materials the U.N. needs to construct 151 apartments for some
of Gaza's poorest residents.

"Gaza is being reconstructed  it's just that the U.N. is not doing any
of the reconstruction," said U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness. He said the
U.N. still had not been given permission to build another 450 apartments
in the same project, nor to start rebuilding the 2,400 homes that were
destroyed during the war.

Israel has bristled at criticism, insisting there are no shortages of
food or other essential goods. On Wednesday, Israel's Government Press
Office issued a news release sarcastically encouraging people to visit
one of Gaza's few upscale restaurants, Roots Club, which uses a mixture
of smuggled and legally imported goods for its menu.

"We have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are
highly recommended," it said, attaching a menu.

The press office's director, Daniel Seaman, said he issued the release
to counter "propaganda" about a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Gaza's tiny elite and foreigners are well served by the handful of
restaurants like Roots, where a meal costs more than a typical Gazan's
daily wage. But such places are out of reach for virtually all of Gaza's
residents, who overwhelmingly rely on U.N.-donated food aid.

Israel says the blockade aims to dry up Hamas' homegrown weapons
industry by keeping out steel that can be forged into rockets and
fertilizer that can be turned into explosives.

Officials say the blockade also constrains Hamas' ability to rule and
pressures it to release Sgt. Gilad Schalit, an Israeli soldier held
captive for four years.

With Egypt destroying some tunnels and restricting the inflow of cash,
Hamas has struggled to pay the salaries of its 32,000 civil servants and
security forces in recent months. But Hamas remains firmly in power, and
residents are left uncertain about what Israel will allow in at any
given time.

Israeli refuses to say what it bans or permits. The government said
revealing that information would harm Israel's security and foreign
relations, in response to a court challenge by the rights group Gisha in
May.

Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli military official, said Israel bans "luxury"
food items because they "will not be consumed by the public  but only
by the rich and corrupt Hamas leaders."

The luxuries include goods considered staples in Gaza, like honey,
instant coffee and spices, according to Bashi and Palestinian liaison
official Raed Fattouh.

Not included are the frozen seafood or low-fat yogurt purchased by
Gaza's wealthy few at the al-Rimal supermarket, or facial scrubs and
skin-whitening sunscreen at a nearby upmarket pharmacy  all from
Israel. Seafood comes as frozen meat, skin creams as feminine hygiene
products and diet yogurt comes as dairy, categories permitted by Israel.

Some items have now been allowed to enter after being banned for years,
like clothing, shoes and tea, providing the surreal sight of gleaming,
expensive boxes of Israeli-imported caffeine-free blueberry tea sold
alongside knocked-around boxes of tunnel-smuggled black tea.

"Sometimes we ask (the Israelis) why some things are banned," Fattouh
said. "'Release Schalit and make Hamas step down and then we'll lift the
blockade,'" he said, quoting Israeli officials. "But there's no problem
if you want to have a salmon dinner."

Source: AP News

--
Dan Clore

New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
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Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"































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