‘Don’t bring food into Gaza – take it out’

Gisha says focus on humanitarian aid by flotilla organizers and Israeli gov't is misleading; problem is ban on exports, not imports.

Flotilla press conference 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flotilla press conference 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Gaza flotilla is heading in the wrong direction, Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement said on Wednesday. The Tel Aviv-based NGO urged international activists to export goods from Gaza rather than ship them in.
“The problem in Gaza is not a shortage of food but rather a violation of the right to productive, dignified work,” Gisha Executive Director Sari Bashi said.
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While flotilla activists hope to highlight what they say is a humanitarian crisis in the Strip, Gisha argued that the problem for Gaza in 2011 was the Israeli ban on exports, not restrictions on imports.
“The focus on humanitarian aid by both flotilla organizers and the Israeli government is infuriating and misleading,” Gisha said in a statement.
The issue, according to Gisha, is that 83 percent of Gaza factories are closed or working at a capacity of 50% or less. It based its information on data from the Palestinian Federation of Industries.
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Since May 12, Gisha said, “not a single truck has been allowed to leave Gaza.”
During the winter farming season, only two trucks a day were allowed to leave compared with the 400 trucks a day in the terms set by the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, the NGO said.
On Wednesday, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories, said his office was working on a program that within a number of weeks would allow Palestinians in Gaza to export tomatoes and potatoes directly to Jordan.
On Thursday, Palestinians and representatives from the Middle East Quartet will meet at the Erez crossing in northern Gaza to discuss the project.
Dangot spoke to the foreign media in Jerusalem on Wednesday in an attempt to convince them there was no food shortage or humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Although he mentioned the issue of exports he did not address it, except to add that Israel had allowed a certain amount of produce from Gaza to be exported this year.
According to printed material from his office, since December 2010, 6.6 tons of cherry tomatoes, 6 tons of peppers, 367 tons of strawberries and 10.1 million carnations have been exported from the Strip.
Dangot said one of the more critical issues in the Gaza was water and electricity.
Last week the Union for the Mediterranean, a partnership that encompasses 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, approved a project to build a large desalination plant in Gaza that can produce 100 million cubic meters of drinking water a year. Funding for the 310 million euro project is expected to come from the international donor community.
Although Dangot mentioned the water issue briefly, the bulk of his comments were directed toward showing how the situation in Gaza had improved since last year’s flotilla, in light of Israel’s decision to ease its restrictions on the flow of goods and construction material into the area.
That traffic has increased from 90 to 300 trucks a day, he said.
There are around 150 projects under construction in Gaza, including schools, homes, greenhouses, health clinics and water and sewage projects, Dangot said.
Israel has also spent NIS 50m. to expand the capacity for the crossing for goods from Israel into Gaza at Kerem Shalom, Dangot said.
The Palestinian Authority determines what goods should enter Gaza, and then Israel issues its approval based on security considerations, he said.
At the same time, Palestinians in Gaza still continue to fire rockets into Israel.
“What we are dealing with in Gaza is a terrorist regime,” he said.