Israeli Official Disputes List Of Banned Gaza Products Glucose. Nutmeg. Size A-Four Paper. Donkeys. Those are just some of the items Palestinians claim are on an Israeli list of items that cannot be imported into the Gaza Strip. Robert Siegel talks to Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, who claims there is no such list.

Israeli Official Disputes List Of Banned Gaza Products

Israeli Official Disputes List Of Banned Gaza Products

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Glucose. Nutmeg. Size A-Four Paper. Donkeys. Those are just some of the items Palestinians claim are on an Israeli list of items that cannot be imported into the Gaza Strip. Robert Siegel talks to Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, who claims there is no such list.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now, Israel's sanctions against Gaza. The Israeli interception of an aid flotilla bound for Gaza claimed the lives of nine pro-Gaza activists last week. As with most aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the very meaning of what happened is in dispute.

Israel claims the flotilla's purpose was simply to break its naval blockade of Gaza, which it maintains as part of its conflict with the Hamas regime there. The Free Gaza Movement says that while it means to challenge the blockade, its aim is to deliver aid to the Palestinians who are victimized by the blockade and the sanctions against Gaza.

Well, Israel says it allows aid in, but they're keeping out anything that might enhance the ability of the Palestinians in Gaza to make weapons. And the Free Gaza Movement says that Israel's decisions about what may go in and what may not go in are arbitrary and are punitive.

Well, joining us now from Jerusalem is Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Welcome to the program.

Mr. YIGAL PALMOR (Spokesman, Israel Foreign Ministry): Yes, hi.

SIEGEL: And I'd like to read to you something that Amira Hass of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz wrote recently. She wrote this: The Israeli defense ministry is refusing on security grounds, it says, to reveal why Israel prohibits the import into the Gaza Strip of such items as cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flower pots and toys, while allowing in cinnamon, plastic buckets and combs. If those distinctions are not arbitrary, can you explain what principle is expressed by them?

Mr. PALMOR: Okay, the list she makes is clearly not true and disproved by facts. There is no fixed list of banned products. And the real question here is, where are these imports coming from? We know that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, who will use anything to manufacture military devices to attack Israel.

The question is, who has packaged the products and where do they come from? If you import something into Gaza from an uncertain, let's put it mildly, an uncertain producer from a country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel, then the problem is not the product. It is the packaging, it is the origin, the source and so on and so on. This is the nature of the problem.

SIEGEL: But the list that Amira Hass of Ha'aretz was referring to was compiled, I believe, by the Israeli human rights group Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which brought suit. And in their lawsuit it seemed that the Israeli ministry of defense, while not releasing a list, conceded that there is somewhere a list of items that can be - You're saying that there's no such list? It just depends on what country things are coming from?

Mr. PALMOR: On what country, on who the original producer is. And there is no list of products that are banned. It's not like, you know, a supermarket shopping list that says this goes in and this does not go in. The list, if we can call it that way, is rather a number of specifications concerning what can be considered secure and what cannot be considered secure.

SIEGEL: Palestinians, activists and their supporters say that notebooks or stationery paper have been blocked. Can I just ask you, if paper comes from a country that has diplomatic relations with Israel, can it go in or is it deemed as dual-use goods that might be put to use by the Hamas regime in ways that could harm Israel's security?

Mr. PALMOR: Of course paper is not considered dual-use.

SIEGEL: Paper can enter Gaza, you're saying?

Mr. PALMOR: Paper is totally innocent and it's not banned as such. As I said, sometimes there are problems with the people who package or who deal with the products and you don't know what's inside the package.

SIEGEL: Now, I want to go back to something you said earlier, that the key as to why cilantro or jam or paper might be blocked is not the item per se, but the provenance of the item, what country it comes from. Are you saying goods that come from the likes of Iran and Syria, whatever they might be, are routinely excluded? Or would that also cover other states in the region that might want to support the Palestinians in Gaza, say, Saudi Arabia or the Emirates? Are they - are goods from those countries permitted into Gaza?

Mr. PALMOR: Now, I knew you would ask that question and, of course, you have every right to do so. But you understand that this is precisely why we cannot publicize the regulations, the list, so to speak. We don't want to get into diplomatic trouble with anyone. We don't want to pinpoint or to single out any country. This is a very, very delicate diplomatic question. And this is precisely why it deserves to be kept in discreet hands and not be publicized.

SIEGEL: Mr. Palmor, thank you very much for talking with us today about this.

Mr. PALMOR: Thank you.

SIEGEL: Yigal Palmor is the spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry. He spoke to us from Jerusalem.

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