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Sunday June 20, 2010 10:52 AM (EST+7)
Granted chocolate and cilantro, Gazans remain unimpressed

Read more: economy, imports and exports, imports, economy, Gisha, blockade, closure, Israeli military

RAMALLAH, June 19 (JMCC) - With Israel claiming it has eased the conditions of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians remain unimpressed. The new regulations will allow Palestinians to import small quantities of cilantro, A-4 paper, chocolate, razors and children's games.

But without access to raw materials such as cement, steel, fertilizers and spare parts, Palestinians say that Israel is merely continuing an economic war against the Gaza Strip.

If Israel wants to ease the siege as it claims, says Jamal Khodari, a Gaza activist against the blockade, it needs to open all crossings and lift all restrictions, and permit the flow of commodities (including raw materials needed to run factories and allow construction) as well as open the safe passageway between the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and open waterways under European supervision.

Israeli organization Gisha says that according to the new regulations any goods linked to public or industrial use will not be permitted and only those tied to a civil society organization such as the United Nations will be allowed.

Still, what is to be allowed is clouded in mystery, as Israel refuses to publish lists of permitted and prohibited items. Instead, organizations rely on the private sector to report back what has been allowed to enter the Gaza Strip - and what has been banned.

Raed Fattouh, head of the coordination committee on goods, announced Sunday that new estimates put the list of allowed items at 250, up from the 130 permitted items before Israel's cabinet decision last week.

Gisha charges Israel with waging an economic war by placing sanctions on the occupied territory, essentially preventing imports and exports as a means of applying pressure on Gaza's Hamas leadership.

This policy is a death sentence to the economic development of the Gaza Strip, says Gisha. Evidence of this is that Palestinians in Gaza are allowed to purchase small packets of margarine, but prohibited from producing large vats of margarine that would be exported and not used for domestic consumption.

Gisha's Ayman Jabbour says everything is forbidden until the opposite is shown to be true.

We do not know what is forbidden because many things, such as chocolate and sage, were not on the lists, but were not allowed to enter. We asked the military why they were preventing the entry of certain items and they refused to answer.

He goes on with a touch of sarcasm, Some groups were forced to conclude that Israel fears the distribution of chocolate because it might be used by activists to give them energy and keep them awake during clashes.

Now chocolate is being allowed to enter Gaza, but there is little sign that the eased regulations will help to revive the Strip's dying private sector.






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