(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
The state admitted recently in a response to a petition that it had made “imprecise statements” to the court during the hearing and that they had been made “because of a misunderstanding.”
The state was referring to claims it made during a hearing in Tel Aviv District Court that it did not have lists of so-called humanitarian goods that it allowed and prohibited to enter Gaza, that it did not have procedures and criteria for determining what to allow into Gaza and that it did not have a “red lines” document that set out the nutritional minimum required for the subsistence of Palestinian residents, which it used to determine how much food should be allowed into Gaza to satisfy the minimum needs of various categories of the Palestinian population.
The petitioner, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, charged that the “imprecise statements” were, in fact, “false” and that “the government’s conduct was, to put it delicately and understatedly, improper.”
Since September 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade of the Gaza Strip in response to terrorist rocket attacks against southern Israel and has only allowed the entry of goods according to what it describes as essential to the survival of the civilian population or the “minimum humanitarian level.”
On October 27, 2009, Gisha filed a petition demanding that the state reveal, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law, what goods were permitted or prohibited entry into Gaza, what criteria were applied in defining goods as “humanitarian” and what were the procedures that guided the activities of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Administered Territories (COGAT) with regard to the import of goods.
In the first stage of the petition, the state provided answers to a number of questions presented by Gisha. One of the questions was whether there were lists of approved and prohibited goods for Gaza.
COGAT spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar replied, “There is no list that includes all the goods that go into the Gaza Strip…We evaluate each request individually.”
The court was dissatisfied with the state’s reply. During a hearing on January 21, 2010, it ordered the army to produce the documents requested by the petitioner or explain why it refused to do so.
In its response, filed on April 25, the state admitted that there were four documents dealing with the import of humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip. These included:
• The procedure for admitting goods into the Gaza Strip. A written procedure that regulates policy-making regarding the admission of goods into the Gaza Strip and processing requests to admit goods into the Gaza Strip
• A procedure regulating one of the ways of monitoring the level of stocks in the Gaza Strip for various staples and to allow effective warning of expected or existing shortages.
• A list of humanitarian products approved for admission into the Gaza Strip.
• A document called Food Consumption in Gaza – Red Lines. The state declared there was such a document but that it was only a draft and was never applied.
The state refused to go into any further details regarding these documents, telling the court that according to the Freedom of Information Law, the government was not obliged to reveal information that could threaten national security, Israel's foreign relations, or public and individual security.
“Israel’s treatment of Gaza, including the restrictions on the transfer
of goods, is a central element available to Israel in the context of
the armed conflict being conducted between it and the Hamas
organization, which is a hostile entity aimed at destroying Israel,”
wrote the state’s representative, Dror Guttman.
It offered to show the documents to the court behind closed doors and without the presence of the attorney for the petitioner.
But in response to the state’s brief, Gisha charged that the state had
gone too far by refusing to reveal the documents on the basis of the
security exception in the Freedom of Information Law.
“This is an unprecedented expansion of the provision,” wrote Gisha attorney Tamar Feldman.