State releases documents governing Gaza closure policy
It took the state 16 months to partially agree to Gisha’s request for the four documents, which was based on the Freedom of Information Law.
By DAN IZENBERG
One year after Gisha: The Legal Center for Freedom of Movement petitioned the Tel Aviv District Administrative Court, the state agreed on Thursday to provide three out of the four documents that governed its overland closure policy in the Gaza Strip until earlier this year.It took the state 16 months to partially agree to Gisha’s request for the four documents, which was based on the Freedom of Information Law.Furthermore, the closure policy discussed in the documents no longer exists, since it was overhauled in the wake of the flotilla incident in May and subsequent increased international condemnation of the closure. As a result, the documents which the state agreed to release are largely or entirely obsolete.Until the policy change, there were four documents dealing with the import of humanitarian goods to Gaza: the procedure for admitting goods; the procedure for monitoring the level of stocks in Gaza to prevent shortages; a list of “humanitarian” goods allowed into Gaza; and a document called “Food Consumption in Gaza – Red Lines,” which reportedly determined the necessary minimum caloric intake that Gaza residents required of the different types of food permitted to enter the Strip.Gisha first submitted questions about the state’s policy on June 14, 2009. It charged that the Defense Ministry avoided providing answers.The organization filed its petition on October 27, 2009, demanding answers to several questions, including whether there were lists of approved and prohibited goods for Gaza.At first the state replied in the negative. Afterwards, it admitted that it had made “imprecise statements” to the court during the first hearing “because of a misunderstanding.”In the second hearing, on May 9, 2010, the state admitted that there were four documents and described each one, but refused to release them on the grounds that this would threaten state security.Five months later, and after the change in the government’s closure policy, it has agreed to release three of the four documents within two weeks. However, it continues to refuse to release the so-called Red Lines document.In the meantime, however, Gisha is demanding that the state release not only the Red Lines document, but also the documents governing Israel’s post-flotilla policy in the Gaza Strip. Under the new policy, all humanitarian goods may be imported except for those on a list of specific items, including “dual-purpose” commodities that have both civilian and military uses.According to Gisha legal director Tamar Feldman, “it is a shame that it took one and a half years of obstruction before the state agreed to reveal documents required by law, and more regrettable that the state continues to hide information about its current Gaza policy.”
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