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Statement on the Israeli Blockade of the Gaza Strip

Washington, DC – – October 23, 2012 – United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) expresses grave concern about a report that indicates that the Government of Israel may have restricted imports to the Gaza Strip based on an estimate of the minimum number of calories needed to prevent malnutrition among the population.

The report, titled "Food Consumption in Gaza - Red Lines," was released by the Israeli Ministry of Defense under court order after a freedom of information case brought by Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization. While the Ministry denies that the report guided policy on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, it echoes a widely-quoted statement made in 2006 by an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger."

UPA Executive Director Saleem Zaru said, “Adequate food is a basic humanitarian right. The blockade of the Gaza Strip continues to deny many Palestinians that right.”

Robert Turner, the director of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip told the BBC, “If this reflects an authentic policy intended to cap food imports, this ‘red lines’ document is contrary to humanitarian principles. The facts on the ground indicate that food imports consistently fell below the red lines.”

Indeed, since the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was tightened in June 2007, Palestinians have seen an increase in the rates of unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition. The 2008 Israeli Ministry of Defense report estimates that the Gaza Strip would need 106 truckloads of supplies to meet the minimum needs of the population. Yet, Gisha notes, an average of only 67 truckloads were allowed into Gaza at the time. Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of malnutrition among Gaza children under the age of five increased by 60 percent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.

Further, the crippling effects of the Gaza blockade have not subsided since the supposed easing of restrictions in May 2010. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 41 percent of the Gaza population will not have enough resources to acquire adequate food by the end of 2012, even after food aid is taken into account.

UPA recently initiated a Food Program that combats hunger and malnutrition among Palestinians by providing hot meals to needy children, distributing food parcels to needy families and supporting agriculture projects that add needed calories and nutrients to a family’s diet.

United Palestinian Appeal, Inc., is a non-political, non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that works to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians, particularly those in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and refugee camps in the Middle East, and to contribute to the long-term socioeconomic and cultural development of Palestinian society.