Fighting Anti-Israeli Bias

Countering
Item 7

THE UNHRC'S STANDING AGENDA ITEM
TARGETING ISRAEL

Claims

Claim 26: The Gaza blockade prevents humanitarian aid to Gaza

examples

Maldives, 48th Session

“They must end the blockade and closure of Gaza, lift all restrictions on imports and exports, provide unhindered humanitarian access…”

South Africa, 48th Session

“We further concur with the High Commissioner’s recommendation for Israel to end the blockade and closure of Gaza, lift all restrictions on imports, exports, humanitarian access…”

Luxembourg, 46th Session

“We call on the Israeli authorities to immediately put an end to these actions and to displacements and to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities living under their occupation.”

Palestine, 46th Session

“The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for 14 years now, is the worst form of collective punishment, which prevents the entry of goods, food, medical supplies and fuel…”

Pakistan, 46th Session

“Blockade of Gaza continues where two million inhabitants remain locked up without access to humanitarian assistance.”

Our Response

UN Watch

As noted in our response to Claim 6,  while Israel has maintained a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip and restrictions on land crossings due to Hamas’s control of the Strip and its ongoing terrorism against Israel, there has always been significant traffic in goods and services between Israel and Gaza. Simply put, the Gaza blockade does not prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza. The blockade itself is an entirely legal act of war, even according the UN’s own Palmer Report, which investigated this question in depth in 2011.  If there is one aspect of Israel’s blockade that is different from all other blockades, including recent actions by Western militaries, it is the insistence of the Israelis in letting through food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies.

In the first half of 2021, each week, roughly 2,000 trucks entered Gaza to deliver approximately 60,000 tons of goods and equipment and more than three million liters of fuel and diesel.[1] Even during the May 2021 Israel/Hamas conflict, Israel opened the crossings to facilitate the transfer of humanitarian aid, but Hamas mortar attacks on the crossings halted the shipments.[2] Israel has also enabled millions of dollars in Qatari cash to be transferred to Hamas in Gaza for various public projects and direct aid to Gazans.[3] Notably, Hamas diverted some of this aid for its terrorist infrastructure.[4]

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel has consistently coordinated transfer of aid to Gaza. In March 2020, then-UN Coordinator for Middle East Peace Nickolay Mladenov praised the “excellent coordination and cooperation” between the Israelis and Palestinians in responding to the pandemic.[5] A UN press release noted that Israel had “facilitated the entry of critical supplies and equipment to Gaza since the beginning of the crisis.”[6] In addition to the medical supplies, Israel also coordinated joint medical workshops, as detailed in our response to Claim 20.[7] In December 2020, Israel sent a delegation of doctors to the Gaza Strip to provide free medical services to sick Gazans unable to travel to Israel for treatment. The delegation also brought equipment and drugs to help combat the pandemic.[8] In February 2021, Israel also transferred coronavirus vaccines to Gaza.[9]

Furthermore, prior to the May 2021 conflict, Israel facilitated numerous reconstruction and infrastructure projects in Gaza. For example, Israel is a party to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (“GRM”), an agreement between the United Nations, the PA and Israel to allow for the transfer of construction materials to Gaza following the summer 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict.[10] According to the GRM website, in the last year alone, approximately 450,000 tons of cement and 60,000 tons of rebar were used every month for Gaza reconstruction projects.[11] Over 1,450 large scale projects have been registered with the GRM[12] and more than 36,500 beneficiaries have participated in the residential stream of the GRM—13,130 for reconstruction of homes demolished in the 2014 conflict and 23,403 for construction of new homes unrelated to the conflict.[13]

Mechanisms like the GRM are necessary to prevent exploitation of humanitarian aid by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. As noted above, Hamas, in particular, has been known to divert construction materials for military purposes, including to build terror tunnels.[14]

Israel has also facilitated infrastructure projects to improve living conditions in Gaza, specifically in the water and energy sectors.

Water: In July 2017, Israel signed a water sharing agreement with the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, which included provisions to increase the water supply in Gaza.[15] Israel also coordinates the entry of material for the Gaza Central Desalination Plant and Associated Works, a major internationally funded project which should effectively solve Gaza’s water problem.[16]

Energy: Prior to the May 2021 Israel/Hamas conflict, Israel was in talks with the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and the European Union to reach an agreement on building a natural gas pipeline through Israel to Gaza—known as G4G (Gas for Gaza)[17]—to enable Gaza to switch from using more expensive diesel fuel to natural gas. This would cut costs, cut pollution, increase Gaza’s energy supply and help power the desalination plant. In February 2021, then-Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said, “any agreement made to provide natural gas from Israel to the Gaza power plant is being done with our full coordination.”[18]

[1] See, e.g., @COGATonline, Twitter (February 14, 2021, 2:03 PM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1360922734759444482; @COGATonline, Twitter (February 9, 2021, 11:07 AM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1359066327118397441.

[2] @COGATonline, Twitter (May 19, 2021, 6:02 PM), https://twitter.com/cogatonline/status/1395032027288723460.

[3] Aaron Boxerman, After years of talks, a plan to provide Israeli gas to Gaza nears approval, Times of Israel (February 14, 2021), https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-years-of-talks-a-plan-to-provide-israeli-gas-to-gaza-nears-approval/.

[4] Daniel Sonnenfeld, Made in Gaza: Hamas Rockets the Product of Foreign Aid and Smuggled Material, The Media Line (May 12, 2021), https://themedialine.org/top-stories/made-in-gaza-hamas-rockets-the-product-of-foreign-aid-and-smuggled-material/; Hillel Frisch, The Strategic Genius Behind Allowing Qatari Suitcases of Cash into Gaza, BESA (May 27, 2021), https://besacenter.org/the-strategic-genius-behind-allowing-qatari-suitcases-of-cash-into-gaza/.

[5] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/note-correspondents/2020-03-27/note-correspondents-response-questions-regarding-the-work-of-special-coordinator-nickolay-mladenov-and-israeli-palestinian-cooperation-address-the-covid-19.

[6] Id. See also Omri Ron, Israel sends 200 coronavirus test kits to Gaza Strip, Jerusalem Post (March 13, 2020), https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/israel-sends-200-coronavirus-test-kits-to-gaza-strip-620883.

[7] Israelis and Palestinians Fight COVID-19 Together, IDF (July 8, 2020), https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/idfs-response-to-covid-19/israelis-and-palestinians-fight-covid-19-together/.

[8] Aaron Boxerman, Israeli medical delegation enters Gaza to provide essential COVID-19 care, Times of Israel (December 3, 2020), https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-medical-delegation-heads-to-gaza-to-provide-essential-care/.

[9] Aaron Boxerman, After delay, Israel allows transfer of firs COVID vaccine doses to Gaza, Times of Israel (February 17, 2021), https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-delay-israel-allows-transfer-of-first-1000-covid-vaccine-doses-to-gaza/.

[10] Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), COGAT (last visited April 22, 2021), https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/units/grm_unit.

[11] (last visited April 22, 2021), https://www.grm.report/#/Reporting/Projects.

[12] (last visited April 22, 2021), https://www.grm.report/#/Reporting/Home.

[13] (last visited April 22, 2021), https://www.grm.report/#/Reporting/Residential.

[14] Report: Hamas using Gaza reconstruction materials to repair infiltration tunnels, Jerusalem Post (December 19, 2014), https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/report-material-for-gaza-reconstruction-diverted-to-hamas-for-tunnel-reparations-385178. Tovah Lazaroff, Israel: Hamas stealing 95% of civilian cement transferred into Gaza, Jerusalem Post (May 25, 2016), https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/israel-hamas-stealing-95-percent-of-civilian-cement-transferred-into-gaza-454999; Hamas’ Exploitation of Humanitarian Aid, IDF (2018), https://www.idf.il/en/minisites/hamas/hamas/hamas-exploitation-of-humanitarian-aid/;

[15] Raphael Ahren and Melanie Lidman, Israel, Palestinians reach landmark water deal for West Bank, Gaza, Times of Israel (July 13, 2017), https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-palestinians-reach-landmark-water-deal-for-west-bank-gaza-strip/.

[16] http://www.quartetoffice.org/page.php?id=5e2231y6169137Y5e2231.

[17] http://www.quartetoffice.org/page.php?id=5e1e7ay6168186Y5e1e7a.

[18] Aaron Boxerman, After years of talks, a plan to provide Israeli gas to Gaza nears approval, Times of Israel (February 14, 2021), https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-years-of-talks-a-plan-to-provide-israeli-gas-to-gaza-nears-approval/.

UN Watch