Pallywood Meets The Gaza Blockade (Or, “Did You Hear The One About How Palestinians Can’t Eat Chocolate?”)
One of the arguments against the military blockade of Gaza is that Israel does not only prevent military items from entering, it blocks non-military foodstuff and other supplies. This argument, of course, does not argue for a lifting of the blockade, but narrowing the scope of prohibited items found during screening.
If Israel really does prevent chocolate and spices from entering Gaza (it does not, see highlighted text below), that certainly does not make sense. But the only way for Israel to know whether a truck or ship contains weapons or chocolate (or weapons hidden in boxes marked “Chocolate”) is to inspect the shipment.
Nonetheless, people like Nicholas Kristoff in The New York Times (and many others) point to the inclusion of non-military items on the list of banned items as proof that the blockade should be lifted in total.
The source for the claim that Israel bans a long list of civilian items, however, is speculative. Kristoff and others link to a list provided by the Gisha Legal Center.
But that list makes clear that it is anecdotal based upon what Palestinians have told Gisha. Even items supposedly banned, like chocolate, actually are not banned but are allowed to be shipped to the international organizations in Gaza which distribute food (emphasis mine):
The following list is approximate and partial, and it changes from time to time. It is based on information from Palestinian traders and businesspersons, international organizations, and the Palestinian Coordination Committee, all of whom “deduce” what is permitted and what is banned based on their experience requesting permission to bring goods into Gaza and the answers they receive from the Israeli authorities (approved or denied). It is not possible to verify this list with the Israeli authorities because they refuse to disclose information regarding the restrictions on transferring goods into Gaza. It should be noted that Israel permits some of the “prohibited” items into Gaza (for example: paper, biscuits, and chocolate), on the condition that they are for the use of international organizations, while requests from private merchants to purchase them are denied.
But of course, the Palestinians told us that Israel killed several hundred civilians in Jenin, had a policy of harvesting Palestinian organs, used poison gas in the West Bank, and so on and so on.
A good example is a story I linked to yesterday, in which a Danish journalist traveled to Gaza earlier this week to check out the food and other shortages, and found just the opposite. The journalist interviewed a Palestinian woman who insisted that there were food shortages, as she stood among stalls in the market filled high with food.
When it comes to the blockade, Pallywood is at its finest.
The question none of these commentators seem to ask, however, is why doesn’t the government in Gaza spend money improving the lives of Gazans, rather than acting as a missile launching pad for Iran? Why, when Israel left Gaza in 2005, didn’t the Palestinians turns towards self-improvement rather than war?
When Israel left Gaza, American Jewish donors paid to buy the huge greenhouses the Israelis had build in Gaza, so that Palestinians would have a foundation for a domestic food source:
The unusual arrangement was put together by James D. Wolfensohn, the former World Bank president and the current Middle East envoy for the Bush administration.
Mr. Wolfensohn also contributed $500,000 of his own money. “The arrangement gives a real opportunity for the Palestinians and makes the departure of Israelis from Gaza much easier,” Mr. Wolfensohn said Friday in an interview. He added that he believed “the Palestinians are trying to make this a peaceful transition – at least the Palestinian Authority is.”
The agreement, just four days before Israel is to begin evacuating settlers from Gaza, is intended keep valuable agricultural properties intact for Palestinian use.
Although Palestinians are eager to see the Israeli settlers go, the withdrawal could leave the Palestinians in even more dire economic straits, at least in the short term. About 3,500 Palestinians have worked in the greenhouses as employees of the Israeli settlers and would lose their jobs if the greenhouses are torn down. The greenhouses grow vegetables, spices, flowers and other produce that have become a major source of Israeli export income.
What did the Palestinians do? They destroyed the greenhouses, after looting the materials. If there is a food shortage in Gaza (which there is not), it is self-inflicted.
The blockade was not put in effect until two years after Israel left Gaza, when Hamas, which is committed to the destruction of Israel and a client of Iran, took over Gaza. The blockade was a reaction to Palestinian rejectionist policies, not the cause of rejection.
Why, when peace was handed to it with the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, did Gazans use the opportunity not to make peace and improve their lives, but to bring the war to southern Israel? Why did Palestinians in Gaza elect a government aligned with Iran which predictably started firing thousands of rockets at Israel?
The answer to that question puts everything else in perspective. But it is the question Palestinians and their supporters refuse to consider, because the answer is that Palestinians have made their own lot in life.
But you won’t see that movie in Pallywood, or read about it in The New York Times.