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One of the main reasons Hamas cites for continuing to launch rockets into Israel is the Israeli blockade of Gaza by air, land, and sea, which in the Palestinians' view effectively makes Gaza an "open-air prison". Now as I understand it, Israel's justification for the blockade is that it's necessary to prevent the importation of weapons into Gaza, weapons that would presumably be used to attack Israel.

But my question is, why isn't the blockade limited to weapons then? My understanding is that the blockade covers all goods, and it even covers exports from Gaza. Why would Israel be concerned if people export things from Gaza? And I've also heard that it restricts the movement of people, to the point where residents of Gaza can't leave the area to go to college in a foreign country. What is the explanation for that?

The only potential explanation I've seen is from a recent interview with Danny Ayalon, former deputy foreign minister of Israel, who said that Israel would be willing to replace the blockade with a regime where all shipments into Gaza are inspected to see if they contain weapons, but that the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly refused such an inspection regime. Is it true that the Palestinian Authority has refused such a proposal? If so, what is the reason that they gave?

EDIT: I found the interview with Danny Ayalon. See the 2-minute mark of this video. Here is the relevant excerpt from the transcript:

COOPER: When you say you've completely pulled out of Gaza, that's true in terms of your forces on the ground there, you did that years ago, but you do control the borders to Gaza, you do control the sea lanes to Gaza, fishing rights, I mean, you control who comes in and out of Gaza.

AYALON: Only as a response to the Hamas and before that to the Fattah as well. The PLO are smuggling and actually creating a launching pad of attacks on Israel from Gaza. If the Gazans or if the Palestinians over there would accept a effective, a reliable monitoring regime it wouldn't be a problem, but you see, they always accused us for not understanding. They imported a lot of cement for building, but we find out now that most of the cement was put in underground for all this tunnel war, and attack tunnel war from which they wanted to attack it, and indeed attack and kidnap one of our soldiers, Gilad Shalit.

So we see this is a regime over there, a terror regime which cannot be trusted. This is why we need to make sure everything goes in is inspected and we would like very much Gaza to flourish. This is why we left in the first place.

So is it true that Israel has offered to replace the blockade with some sort of monitoring regime or inspection regime, but the Palestinians have refused?

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    I have to say, given the recent batch of questions on this topic, it's nice to see a balanced question. – Bobson Aug 4 '14 at 13:59
  • "My understanding is that the blockade covers all goods" - While I upvoted the question for same reason stated by @Bobson, it could be improved by clarifying where that specific (and as per Avi's answer, incorrect) understanding originates so the specific sources and statements can be confirmed or debunked. – user4012 Aug 5 '14 at 1:31
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    This question is based on an entirely wrong premise which is at the core of Israeli propaganda: that Hamas is a terrorist state that should be put under boycott while Israel being the benevolent side. However, Israel is a merciless terrorist occupation which is being fought by Hamas that represents the aspirations of Palestinians for liberation of Palestine. We are talking about colonialists vs an oppressed indigenous people. This important context gives the so called blockade the status of military siege of a people by aggressive occupying forces! – infatuated Aug 5 '14 at 2:10
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    @infatuated - UN (which is generally known to be strongly anti-Israel and pro-PA) explicitly noted in Palmer report that the blocade was both legal under international law and justified – user4012 Aug 5 '14 at 2:28
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    @infatuated even if you consider the blockade that, which it isn't, this is still a valid question. The legitimacy of Israel as a state is not related to the question of what their justification is for imposing the blockade. – Avi Aug 5 '14 at 6:42
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It is incorrect that the blockade applies to all goods. Many are allowed, though Israel does not publish justification for all non-weapon items that are banned. Since 2010, Israel eased restrictions on non-military items.

On 20 June 2010, Israel's Security Cabinet approved a new system governing the blockade that would allow practically all non-military or dual-use items to enter the Gaza strip.

Israel also lifted bans on agricultural exports, but continues to ban non-agricultural exports from Gaza so that they have economic leverage over Hamas and can deny them financing.

Israel still bans the import of some non-military items, but many things that are not weapons can still be used for military purposes. For example, Hamas uses building materials to build tunnels. These tunnels sometimes run from Gaza to Egypt, where they are used to smuggle weapons past the blockade, but can also run into Israel, where they are used to attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers, as well as to conduct terrorist attacks.

There are other items that Israel classifies as "dual-use goods", which means that they can be used both for legitimate civilian and for military purposes. Some such goods include:

a range of chemicals used in the production of explosives (including certain fertilizers); specific types of metal profiles; ball bearings; lathes and their parts; composite materials; hunting knives and machetes; optical equipment, such as lasers and night vision goggles; certain navigation aides; diving equipment; parachutes, gliders and other nonmotorized airborne vehicles; flares and fireworks; avionics and flight control equipment; missile related computer technologies; rock drills and equipment drawing water from excavated sites

Restrictions of movement have generally been attempts to curb terrorist attacks. Before Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007, Palestinians were more free to move between Gaza and Israel, but that is now only allowed in exception humanitarian cases. Israel and Egypt closed off movement from Gaza on the grounds that Fatah was no longer providing security in the area.

Restrictions of movement have generally been successful at preventing terrorist attacks inside of Israel, though this has made the border crossings a popular target for terrorist sites. As a result, border crossings are usually closed during active conflict:

Since 1996, virtually all suicide bombers trying to leave Gaza have detonated their charges at the barrier's crossing points or were stopped while trying to cross the barrier elsewhere.

Israel's restrictions on Gaza are generally designed to deprive Hamas of military capability, and to put pressure on them to stop the conflict.

  • Are there any goods which Israel classifies as having purely civilian use which it currently still bans? Also, do you have any information about what Danny Ayalon was talking about, concerning replacing the blockade with an inspections regime, and the Palestinians rejecting such a proposal? – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 3 '14 at 23:05
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    @infatuated if you have a specific problem with my answer you are free to say so, but I did not attempt to frame either Israel or Hamas as acting legitimately or illegitimately. I was just explaining Israel's justifications for parts of the blockade. You are free to judge for yourself, in this context, whether such justifications are good ones. My answer does not make that judgment – Avi Aug 5 '14 at 2:24
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    @infatuated I disagree with your judgment, but what about my answer would you change so that you feel it would be neutral with respect to whether Israel is being benevolent or fair? I'm trying to understand your objection. – Avi Aug 5 '14 at 2:54
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    @infatuated - You're always free to post your own answer, but make sure that it's A) supported by quotes (like Avi's is), and B) actually addresses the question (like Avi's does). Or cite specific issues with this one. – Bobson Aug 5 '14 at 13:06
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    @KeshavSrinivasan You may be correctly analyzing Ayalon's statement (which doesn't render it false, just a bit unconvincing). Israel controls the distance from which Gazans can fish because they want tighter control of the sea space, so that they can more easily stop an influx of weapons. – Avi Aug 9 '14 at 4:12
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While Avi's answer covered most of the basics, here are some facts and numbers to illustrate the fallacy of "the blockade covers all goods":

Right now, during active shooting war, allowed hundreds of trucks with food into Gaza.

E.g. on August 3, 185 trucks carrying 3,270 tons of goods and supplies entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom Crossing (statistics courtesy of IDF, so I accept accusations of biased source... but you're welcome to state independent facts falsifying this source that isn't empty-worded propaganda).

Among the trucks were:

  • 100 trucks carrying 2,129 tons of food
  • 4 trucks carrying 13 tons of medicine and medical supplies
  • 67 trucks carrying 627 tons of humanitarian supplies

As a further fun fact; 91 trucks were supposed to enter August 1st... only to be stopped because Hamas shelled the border crossing at Kerem Shalom where they were supposed to enter.

Further numbers:

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge (8 July) 1737 trucks have entered Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing, carrying food, medicines and medical equipment.

Since the beginning of the operation the following amounts were provided to the Palestinians via the Kerem Shalom crossing (data up to and including August 3):

  • 4.44 million liters of diesel for the power station in Gaza Strip, 625,000 liters for UNRWA
  • 3.58 million liters of fuel
  • 1,367,000 liters of gasoline for transportation
  • 2,055 tons of gas for domestic needs

In addition, Israel continues to supply electricity to Gaza (sans damaged power lines) despite the fact that Palestinians don't pay for it.

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For more objective data, here's statistics from Gisha (An Israeli non-for-profit that's generally pro-Palestinian; very critical of Israeli government, and whose mission statement reads:

goal is to protect the freedom of movement of Palestinians, especially Gaza residents. Gisha promotes rights guaranteed by international and Israeli law. ... Gisha, whose name means both “access” and “approach,” uses legal assistance and public advocacy to protect the rights of Palestinian residents.

enter image description here

Source: http://gisha.org/graph/2387?datares=monthly


Additional note on the "Why": because many things don't appear to be "weapons" to an average person, yet can be - and most importantly, are and have been - used in military capacity by Hamas.

Most notably, the cement and other construction materials that ought to have been used for constructing homes and other civilian infrastructure instead are used on military infrastructure, most infamously on infiltration tunnels.

  • A lot of words for saying very little. It doesn't even attempt to answer the question of why. It also don't explain why canned meat is allowed, but canned fruit isn't. – liftarn Jan 8 '16 at 11:50
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The intention of the blockade is (besides not allowing weapons and dual-purpose goods) to paralyse the local economy and put pressure on the government. That explains why exports are not allowed. There is also a ban on "non-essential luxuries" so the blockade allowed frozen salmon and low-fat yogurt into Gaza, but not coriander and instant coffee. (source)

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