UK INDEPENDENT: Gaza blockade: kettle calls pot black
- The US delegation which toured Gaza is composed of political leaders who can
on the one hand be outraged by Israel banning medical devices from entering
Gaza whilst at the same time vote in favour of the exact same measure in
relation to the blockade of Cuba. Perhaps they would prefer Israel to adopt
the US anti-Cuban legislation in total and change the word "Cuba" for the
words "West Bank and Gaza" and see how the US like it. Meanwhile, in the
real world, the other 200-odd countries of the world are outraged by BOTH
the US and Israel for their blockades of Cuba and Palestine respectively. -
The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
UK INDEPENDENT, Monday, 2 March 2009
Members of the highest-ranking American delegation to tour Gaza were shocked
to discover that the Israeli blockade against the Hamas-ruled territory
included such food staples as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste.
"When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you
with a piece of macaroni?" asked Congressman Brian Laird. It was only after
Senator John Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
raised the issue with Defence Minister Ehud Barak after their trip last
month that Israel allowed the pasta in. Macaroni was considered a luxury
item, not a humanitarian necessity, they were told. The total number of
products blacklisted by Israel remains a mystery for UN officials and the
relief agencies which face long delays in bringing in supplies. For security
reasons such items as cement and steel rods are banned as they could be used
by Hamas to build bunkers or the rockets used to target Israeli civilians.
Hearing aids have been banned in case the mercury in their batteries could
be used to produce chemical weapons.
Yet since the end of the war in January, according to non-government
organisations, five truckloads of school notebooks were turned back at the
crossing at Kerem Shalom where goods are subject to a $1,000 (£700) per
truck "handling fee".
Paper to print new textbooks for Palestinian schools was stopped, as were
freezer appliances, generators and water pumps, cooking gas and chickpeas.
And the French government was incensed when an entire water purification
system was denied entry. Christopher Gunness, the spokesman for the UN
agency UNRWA responsible for Palestinian refugees, said: "One of the big
problems is that the 'banned list' is a moving target so we discover things
are banned on a 'case by case', 'day by day' basis."
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said: "Israel's blockade
policy can be summed up in one word and it is punishment, not security."