NGO Forces IDF to Release Secret Memo Documenting Gaza Strangulation
While Wikileaks may have the biggest national security expose of the moment, the one I’m going to report tonight on one that in the Israeli context is a close second.
Thanks immensely to Ed Mad X for alerting me to the IDF’s release of a much sought after April, 2009 memo (23 pages linked here, with the original Hebrew document here) which served as the rationale and underpinning of the Gaza siege and explained how it was interpreted and enforced. It was in effect before the Mavi Marmara massacre (after which the siege was loosened). Immense thanks to the unrelenting effort of the Israeli NGO, Gisha, to bring this report to the light of day. As far as I know, this is likely its first publication in English.
Frankly, when Ed first sent me the link to his translation I thought it might be a joke, especially when I read the mathematical equations used to determine how much basic foodstuffs should be allowed into Gaza. I had to query him a few times before I assured myself it was legit. It’s just that crazy a document.
The IDF report is a wonder of almost Eichmanesque military-speak, obfuscation and self-justification. If any future historian of the Occupation wishes to study how the IDF got the Occupation’s “trains” to run on time in Gaza (much like Raul Hilberg did in his study of the mundane bureaucracy of the Holocaust), they will only have to look here and study.
Here, for example, is the “mission” described:
# Supervision of basic products from the variety of those imported into the ‘Strip,ʼ including basic food stuffs, fuels, maintaining oversight of the quantity of these products, identifying shortage, surplus, and establishing levels of warning (ʻred-linesʼ e.m.x), dealing with the issues caused and providing concurrent information and realtime alerts to decision makers.
Gisha’s website notes that when it first sued the state in order to expose this 2009 memo the latter denied it existed. When that didn’t work, it conceded the memo existed but that releasing it would endanger “national security” (now, you have a chance to judge for yourself the probity of this claim). The government has now conceded that it must release them under an FOIA legal proceeding. However, the government continues to refuse to release the current rules governing the siege which are supposedly more lenient than the pre-Marmara rules.
Gisha notes the bizarre logic of the memo which called for a “deliberate reduction” in the level of basic necessities like fuel used to power the only operating power plant. This in turn caused regular electrical and water outages. Though the IDF created a “red-line warning” that would notify that a necessity was becoming inaccessible, it also permitted itself to ignore the warning.
Though international law permits goods to be restricted under siege conditions only if the specific item poses a security threat, the IDF prohibited items based on whether their public perception within Gaza was as a luxury. This is how chocolate and paper came to be prohibited.
Though the Israeli government has indicated it would permit the rebuilding of Gaza (and the world community has insisted on this), the 2009 rules tell a wholly different story. Building materials were only permitted by special permission, and attempts to rebuild within Gaza were viewed as a decided negative. Israel refused transfer of goods from international relief agencies and western governments to Gaza for rebuilding schools and homes.
The rules also indicate that they could not be released in any form to anyone unless specified. This served the function of leaving Gaza merchants in the dark about what was on or off the list. Thus, they would never know whether they could import an item into Gaza or not, until it was impounded at the border or permitted through. Items like cumin which were not on the permitted goods list could only be approved by special permission despite the fact that there was no security consideration in banning it.
Gisha’s director notes more oddities of the rules and their logic:
Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place“.
It’s truly worthwhile reading extended passages of the document to understand the true nature of the ghoulishness of Israel’s siege and the way it is imposed and enforced. Here the memo describes monitoring imported items in order to determine their levels of availability:
The data will be collected in the economy division, once a week, on Tuesday, and a calculation compiled of products transferred, then added to existing inventories, and then consumed amounts will be deducted according to the models.
F.# After the calculation is performed, a draft of inventory estimates will be prepared…[and] the following data will be checked:
# 1. Upper level warning – in case inventory of one of the short shelf life products is over 21 days or long shelf life product inventory is over 80 days.
# 2. Lower level warning – in case inventory of one of the short shelf life products is under 4 days or long shelf life product inventory is under 20 days.
# 3. Shortage – in case inventory of one of the short shelf life products is under 2 days or long shelf life product inventory is under 5 days.
H. In case inventory of one or more products reached a ‘level of warning,’ the following actions will be taken:
1. Xxxx will verify the information with leading Palestinian merchants.
2. Xxxx will perform mathematical evaluation of the model to verify the data.
3. In case of an upper level warning, the issue will be brought up for discussion and update for a decision on policy of entering the # relevant product.
4.! In case of a lower level warning an update will be transferred, and Gaza DCO will take action to facilitate transferring the relevant product, unless it is an intentional policy of reduction. [ed., italics mine]
5. In case of shortage, the same actions as of ʻlower level warningʻ will be taken. In case it is an intentional policy of reduction, decision makers will be presented with the consequences of shortage of the relevant product.
One wonders what warning the decision makers would be presented with: would they be warned that preventing entrance of a piece of medical equipment would cause the death of children? Or that the categorization of milk, or hummus or any number of staples of the Palestinian diet as “superfluous” might exacerbate the already existent malnutrition among children? Or that a shortage of fuel and hence water outages would cause women not to be able to cook properly or families to observe hygienic practices. What type of discussion do you think happened among the decision makers when they were ‘warned’ about these red lines?
The report notes that “need” can be determined from a variety of sources but that need as defined by military headquarters supersedes them:
According to an internal procedure which incorporates headquarters work in relation to relevant security needs and demands.
In other words, the need for rice or flour or any item whatsoever can be changed according to an artificial determination by the IDF that this item corresponded to some imagined security interest.
In a section of the memo devoted to how an item is determined to be necessary or superfluous–keeping in mind that international law says the only criteria is security–this is one of the criteria:
Implications of the product’s uses (is it used for preservation, rehabilitation or development?) with emphasis of the effect its entry has on the status of the Hamas regime.
In other words, if an item may be used for preservation, rehabilitation of development of infrastructure that could benefit Hamas in any way in the eyes of the people, it will be prohibited.
In reviewing the list of permitted items for import, you come to realize that these are the only items allowed. In other words, if an item is not on the list, it’s prohibited. So, for example, here is the list of permitted spices:
Black pepper, soup powder, hyssop, sesame. cinnamon, anise, babuna (chamomile), sage
Sorry, cumin, basil, bay leaf, allspice, carraway, cardamon, chiles, chives, cilantro, cloves, garlic, sesame, tamarind, thyme, oregano, cayenne (here’s a list I consulted of popular Arab spices). Not on the list. You’re not a spice Palestinians need according to some IDF dunderhead. And tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, toys, glassware, paint, and shoes? You can forget about them too. Luxuries all, or else security threats.
I’m displaying here the “mathematical model” by which the IDF determined whether it was allowing in too much of any particular item. The very notion that not one, but hundreds of IDF soldiers occupied all (or even part) of their waking hours implementing this insane policy adds another nail to the coffin of the Occupation. Can there be any doubt that not only is the siege immoral and illegal, but borderline insane. Grown men actually sat in office cubicles and used calculators to determine the answers to these absurd questions. It comes close to leaving one speechless.
48 thoughts on “NGO Forces IDF to Release Secret Memo Documenting Gaza Strangulation – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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None of this suprises me; it is after all, a military of psychopathic bullies backed by the greatest state of shitheels (the US) the world has ever seen.
Tell me the difference between this horror and the horror waged against an imprisoned people in Warsaw? Where is the difference between the thugs in Israel and the thugs in Germany during WWII? The sheer banality of the cruelty takes your breath away
Indeed, it reminds me of another regime which calculated just how little it needed to feed “useless eaters” to bring about slow starvation.
Richard, isn’t there something in your comment rules on comparing Israel to Nazi Germany?
If the shoe fits, wear it. In this case, this reminds me of the kind of thinking common to the Milosevics & Eichmanns of the world. My comment rules ask that people be very careful & cautious in using such analogies, but dont rule them out entirely if there’s reason. In this case, I’m afraid there is. I’ve always maintained that I’m not talking about genocide of the Nazi variety in describing the suffering of Gaza. But before the Nazis devised the Holocaust their rhetoric was very close to the rhetoric of this memo.
people starved to death in warsaw
i would like you, richard or anyone in the world to point out even one person who starved or is starving in gaza
Oh, I see, they starved in Warsaw but they’re only dying of untreated medical conditions because of a lack of proper equipment, & children are suffering severe malnutrition (according to UN relief agencies). SO that makes the suffering OK for you. I consider severe malnutrition starving. But I guess you’re more John Yoo on this: if they’re not keeling over in the street from hunger & dying in public view then there’s no starvation in Gaza. Is that about the size of it?
i know you like people to support statements with links…so here goes
That leaves Gaza suspended in a state of misery that defies easy categorization. It is, of course, crowded and poor, but it is better off than nearly all of Africa as well as parts of Asia. There is no acute malnutrition, and infant mortality rates compare with those in Egypt and Jordan, according to Mahmoud Daher of the World Health Organization here.
is the who a good enough source for you?
it is unfair and a misstatement of fact to compare gaza to the warsaw ghetto….i stand by my statement
Ah, I see. Because international aid donors have, according to Ethan Bronner writing more than a year ago, failed to honor commitments that means that Israel’s illegal siege is somehow justified or OK??? Please, you’re joking & can’t be serious. Gaza’s misery doesn’t ‘defy easy categorization.’ It is easily categorizable as a violation of international law for which Israeli decision makers, including those who wrote & enforced this execrable memo, will ultimately be held accountable.
“Better off?” By what standard on earth can you make such an offensive, disgusting claim? Jimmy Carter just called Gaza “a cage.” Do the poor in Africa and Asia live in cages imposed on them by the military forces of neighboring countries?
Ah, so now we see you concede there is malnutrition, just not “acute” malnutrition. Children aren’t dying in the street with flies buzzing around their bodies. They’re just crying in their mother’s arms because there isn’t enough to eat and their tummies are rumbling. I’m deeply moved by yr & the IDF’s magnanimity in preventing acute starvation.
Again, before the siege infant mortality rates were undoubtedly much lower. So I’d rather compare mortality rates now to those before the siege. Then we can judge what impact Israel’s crimes in maintaining this siege have had on Gaza’s babies.
I find this comment and you offensive. You stand a hair’s breath from losing your comment privileges.
What a preposterous statement, although not surprising coming from you.
I am not going to repeat all the statistics I mentioned elsewhere on this blog again but to briefly answer your question: people are starving in Gaza to an extent that thousands of children suffer from stunted growth – scientifically and independently measured by UN agencies. These children will never be able to develop the way they otherwise would and should and it is a direct result of the strangulation Richard writes about here.
Care for a trip to Gaza? Why don’t you go there for a few weeks and look around a little, chat with the locals and see for yourself what their lives are like? Or relocate all together since you seem to be believing that life there is so great?
I’ve got to think of a name for this syndrome: Israelis and their most ardent supporters who live under the delusion that what THEY think life in Gaza is like is actually the reality, while having absolutely no legitimate basis for believing so. It’s an especially troubling phenomenon. Anyone having any catchy names for this?
Gaza Reality-Perception Mismatch Syndrome – GRPMS? Ok, maybe not.
Folks won’t like this but also as a parallel to WWII, Germans at the time probably too would have said they didn’t think there was anything unusual going on, that it was all somehow ok or that it was maybe somewhat bad but could be worse and anyway it was justified or at least necessary – anything to make them feel better or elude responsibility.
For those who suffer it doesn’t matter if the perpetrator thinks it’s somehow justified or that others are – purportedly – even worse off.
For lack of another term, how about Gaza Denial Syndrome?
The syndrome stems in part from those odious hasbara photos and videos showing the Gaza mall, and the shops in Gaza loaded down with goods (of course, smuggled through the tunnels, not allowed in via the border crossings). They don’t mention that most people in Gaza can’t afford to buy those items because unemployment is so outrageously high (I’d give a statistic, but everywhere one looks one finds different figures, anywhere from 30 to 80 percent).
How about the ‘purblind orthodoxy’, because when it come to Israel these people are faithfully blind to the real facts . They live in a world where not only do they not recognise the facts, but they are actually creating new ones to suit themselves.
Israels very survival depends on the support it recieves and its image abroard. So it imperative for the hasbara to portray Israel as the ‘Western style democracy’ and not the true Israel, the racist colonial enterprise.
# Uncle joe mccathy)
You’re right people starved to death in the Warsaw Ghetto, but they also had a Symphony Orchestra, aka the ‘Olympic Swimming-pool’ and the ‘huge commercial center’ in Gaza:
“Mavi Marmara massacre”
You guy is unbelievable. You will never let a fact meet you.
Thanks Richard for the lucid description and analysis. Indeed perhaps the most appalling thing about this, is that the Israeli media and public sphere still couldn’t care less about this atrocity carried out in our name.
I’m still waiting for Israeli media to cover this. It’s been out on the Gisha website for 3 days now. A Tzinor Layla reporter contacted me about it, but I’m not sure they’ll do a story. It would be great if they did.
I’ve sent my post link to several Israeli reporters. It’s up to them now.
I think that, apart from keeping people at (bare) survival levels, the blockade is designed to prevent any surplus of anything that might be fermented to make fuel.
But the restrictions on paint, spices and so on, are probably done on the basis of advice from psychological warfare experts. Within these restrictions, it is very hard for any family to create even an illusion of normality, let alone celebration, for the children.
As if the IDF was run by Cathars rather than Jews.
After the liberation of Belsen, one British officer initially drew criticism from his colleagues for devoting a couple of lorry-loads of relief supplies to basic cosmetic kits for the women. But it changed the mood of the camp overnight and gave many back the will to live.
The long term intent is to break, if not the will to live, then at least the will of the Palestinian people to live in Palestine or anywhere near.
Very insightful. This is probably true and in-line with the in vogue shock-and-awe doctrines that the US and Israel are playing with to remake the psyche of occupied peoples.
Excellent post! You’re right, they want to break the mind, spirit, and body of the Palestinians through a series of techniques psychological and physical to discourage them from procreation, to induce them into depression and despair, to make them feel insecure and alienated from the world in a “perpetual limbo” and basically maybe in their wildest dreams to turn this Gaza “camp” into a kind of Jonestown where people might go crazy and decide to commit mass suicide or something.
I’ll tell you, the thought would cross the mind of any of us stuck in a situation so bleak with no escape and under complete domination. I’ve heard there’s a stench in Gaza because of damage caused to the sanitation and water infra-structure during Operation Cast Lead which they are unable to repair because Israel refuses entry of parts. Imagine living with that stench and being imprisoned and deprived in this manner?
I read an excerpt from a thesis by James Ron tonight entitled: Frontiers and Ghettos in which he describes Israeli domination of Palestinians as “savage restraint”. I’ve yet to hear a more apt description for this kind of “controlled” inhumanity.
Having spent twelve years trying to help victims of the animal liberation front, one has learned an awful lot about deliberate and sustained attempts to drive people to despair and even suicide, by person claiming to be “non-violent” throughout.
When the French were persecuting protestants, “Huguenots”, they made it a crime to bury one, so that the dead laid at the roadside to rot. That worked, insofar as most of the survivors fled to England or South Africa.
Henry Bessemer, inventor of the steel convertor and author of Great Britain’s global power in the 19th and early 20th centuries, was the grandchild of one of those Huguenots. Something of an own goal for tyranny.
RE: the “mathematical model” by which the IDF determined whether it was allowing in too much of any particular item
MY COMMENT: How incredibly Teutonic! Kafka would have a ‘field day’ with this.
Wow… there was a little part of me that was still hoping these plans couldn’t be real… and here they are…
What kind pf people can do this?
There is just no way anyone is going to convince me that the US didn’t collude with Israel in the engineering and implementation of this horror.
What I can’t help wondering, though, is when the engineers of this lunacy got together and designed it, did even one of them experience even a fleeting sensation of deja vu?
I’m not sure what’s worse – if they did have a feeling of deja vu, or if they didn’t.
I agree the list is ridiculous. There’s also the curious way in which the list changes to reflect production surplus of Israeli farmers. Particularly when they grow more that they can sell.
I disagree on the fuel point though. Electricity is Gaza is partially a security threat since it’s used to manufacture weapons. The fuel allotted allows the operation of the power plant but not at peak capacity, leaving it to Hamas to decide who gets what. Judging by these formulas, there’s probably enough power to run school hospitals and mosques but not, say, rocket shops.
I sure wish you Israelis would make up your minds. How can Gaza “manufacture weapons” without all the other stuff necessary – such as steel, etc.? Aren’t weapons generally smuggled, and continue to be smuggled while Israel actually looks the other way – after all, we must do something to continue to justify the blockade, mustn’t we?
Cutting off electricity to civilian populations is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It is collective punishment.
So then you’re claiming that because there is some unproven claim that electricity is used to produce weapons that this justifies reducing all 1.5 million Gazans to blindness & penury? Actually, you’re wrong. The plant didn’t operate at all most of the time. There were huge, regular outages for everyone in Gaza. I’m always tickled when Israelis who haven’t a clue what it’s like to live in Gaza make wild completely unsupported claims about what actually happens there. You don’t know shit fr. shinola as far as Gaza goes my friend. And the documentary accounts which I’ve read from people & reporters who actually were in Gaza in 2009 prove yr claims to be ludicrous. Amazing what some people convince themselves of.
“You don’t know shit fr. shinola as far as Gaza goes…”
Priceless. Actually this blog is priceless. I’m glad you took the time to demonstrate the depraved insanity that went into this cockamamie plan designed to persecute Palestinians in the most mean-spirited way.
There is no shame they will not scale to devise one means after another to humiliate and torture Palestinians.
Thanks for that.
Yakov, don’t sweat it.
the rules in this blog can be changed, especially if as a result Israel would be smeared a bit further.
the blockade of gaza is horrible, people forget that the blockade came after 8 years of constant rocket firing and a hams hostile take over of the gaza strip. and that is the huge different between Gaza and the geto’s in Nazi Germany. in Nazi Germany jews were put in ghettos for being jews, in gaza the blockade was introduced after 8 years of constant rocket firing.
there is no base for comparison.
A few problems w. yr lame claim. First, there has been almost no rocket fire to speak of since the end of the war, so by yr logic there should be no siege then, right? Second, Israel clearly instituted the siege not in response to rocket fire, but in response to Hamas winning the PA election & subsequently taking over Gaza. That’s when the siege began. The starvation rules in this memo also make repeatedly clear that starvation is not a security related policy but a political policy to destroy Hamas. So argue yr way out of this one if you can.
You seem to have misplaced yr pique, which should be directed at the IDF, which created the fine mess (to quote Laurel & Hardy) I’m currently featuring here. If they hadn’t written the memo I wouldn’t be featuring it here. And in case you have lost sight of the purpose of this blog it isn’t actually to make Israel or its generals look like the schmucks they show themselves to be. But rather, it’s to present a vision of an Israel that could be, one that is a welcome member of the family of nations, one at peace w. its neighbors, one that contributes great things to the world. That is an Israel I could be proud of & one that I envision. Help me create that Israel & start doing it right now & you’ll have my undying thanks. Continue posturing, simpering, sneering & whining & you won’t.
Richard, you are not that accurate you know
1. Hamas won the election in Jan 2006.
2. Hamas hostilely took over the Gaza strip – violating the agreement between PLO and Hamas 18 month later in June 2007.
3. at that time, Israel initiated its blockade on Gaza.
Israel has no other choice, the Hamas is a terror organization – according to US definitions – what do you expect Israel to do ?
prior to the blockade hamas many times took the responsibility on rockets that were fired on israel, so israel had every right to stop the supply to hamas. if the people of gaza did not agreed with hamas ways they would have found the way to kick them out.
there is another side to the equation, and that is Egypt, which only last week denied entry of know British trouble makers like Gorge Galloway, and others.
Lame (& this is the 3rd time I’m pointing this out to the hasbarist brigade & it gets immensely tiring after a while) the U.S. urged Fatah to mount a violent coup against Hamas. The latter had better intelligence than Fatah & discov ered this & mounted a pre emptive strike. So blame the Bush State Dept. coup machinations of David Welch for the Hamas takeover.
Hamas has always honored ceasefires when in effect. There were no rockets fired by Hamas at the time the siege began. Hence your claim is a load of rubbish. And tell me how banning tomatoes and toys from Gaza will stop the firing of rockets. Your own claims fall like a house of cards. Even you can’t believe the garbage your dumping here, can you?
Israel is responsible for its own actions. Egypt isn’t to blame for Israel’s siege. Israel is. Egypt doesn’t want responsibility for the mess Israel has made of Gaza & I don’t blame them. Egypt’s attitude is if we open our border then the world will see us as the responsible party & we don’t want to be. Egypt rightly wants the spotlight on Israel.
of course the official numbers are a bit different then the ones you show, in the year 2007, 783 Qasam rockets were fired from the Gaza strip to Israel, with your approval i will get you the official shabak distribution by months.
many times on this website you argued against the fact that the hamas wants to destroy Israel, well…..what a hamas minister said in a visit to han yunes university
but i guess they will conquer haifa but will not destroy israel ?
Israel itself says that it instituted the siege to destroy Hamas as a political entity. Missiles have nothing to do with it. The proof: no missiles currently, yet there’s still a siege. Explain that if you can.
Other than the fact that Hamas is incapable of destroying Israel, why are you belaboring the point? Is it because it’s just another excuse to try to destroy Hamas?
At least who moved away from the ridiculous notion that the Hamas doesn’t want to destroy israel.
you are right, at the moment they are incapable of doing so,but don’t expect me to welcome into my life the ones who want me dead.
I didn’t move away from anything. Hamas’ senior leadership not only doesn’t want to destroy Israel, it understands that it can’t even if it wanted to. Unfortunately, Israel’s leadership military & political is less astute & still believes it can destroy Hamas.
Got news for you: you want Hamas dead more even than they want you dead. And that disgusts me.
One wonders what ‘security threat’ is posed by foodstuff. What immense danger do tomatoes posses? Fava beens must be rationed because…? All this trouble, to prevent people from having more then enough shoes? (I admit, I have two(!) pairs).
Collective punishment? If this is the moral standard, can’t the Hamas claim that Israelis should not have elected Bibi (or Ehud, or Yvet or whoever) and go on a collective-punishment spree on the buses of tel-aviv?
What are you talking about ?
i can blame the Bush administration for many things, including the additional debt acquired by the Obama administration. but the truth of the matter is that even the Obama administration didn’t not change the definition of hamas as a terror organization, i wounder why ?
where did you come from with you so called “facts” from elis in wonder land ?
and didn’t we had a debate in this forum that intelligence and intentions are not enough for a preemptive strike ? wasn’t that your argument ? you really are talking from all three sides of your face you know.
as for the cease fire give me a brake, Hamas didn’t honor it once. from firing rockets they moved into firing mortars. check the numbers, the official numbers (which you don’t recognize) show that, so if you chose to believe the words of what your country defines as a terrorist group that is your problem.
Do you think I view the Obama administration as the ultimate arbiter of good political judgment? Its Mideast policy is a shambles partly out of its refusal to have a realistic policy about Gaza. So I could care a fig about whether Obama refuses to recognize Hamas.
You must be a Cubist, otherwise this is a terribly awkward image & physical impossibility.
An outright lie. Hamas is not only honoring a ceasefire right now, it’s enforcing that ceasefire on other factions as well.
Obama’s foreign policy is basically the same as Bush’s, despite all the campaign hooey about “change.”
Of course a hasbarist is going to point to Obama’s foreign policy failures and proof that Hamas is a “terrorist organization.” Actually, it proves only that nobody is thinking with an open mind in Washington or anywhere else (nothing new about that, either).
It’s also not a surprise to see hasbarists repeat outright lies such as “Hamas didn’t honor it once.” What does surprise me is that they’ve got the chutzpah to actually try to pass it off as truth.
Typo – should say “foreign policy failures AS proof”
Richard, Hamas took the responsibility for killing the 4 settlers in September, i guess that falls under your category of a “cease fire” not under mine.
there are daily incidents along side the border in gaza, as well as attempts to fire rockets most of them are not even brought to the public attention.
[URLs removed per comment rules]
I see. Because four settlers were killed in Hebron this justifies maintaining 1.5 million Gazans under siege? Are Gazans responsible for acts over which they have no control or knowledge?? Is there something wrong w. yr sense of direction or geography? Get out a map, buddy.
I do not feature links to IDF propaganda at this site. Read the comment rules.