“Red lines”: Official document shows Israel calculated Gaza food intake to avoid ‘humanitarian crisis’

The Israeli government calculated the minimum number of food calories necessary to keep Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from becoming malnourished during Israel’s siege on the territory, an official document released by court order reveals.

The government of Israel did in fact calculate the minimum number of food calories necessary to keep Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from becoming malnourished during Israel’s siege on the territory.

The 2008 document shows that Israel’s Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), worked to restrict Gaza’s food intake along a series of “red lines” designed to avoid a “humanitarian crisis”.

One of the “red lines”, and probably the most stark example of Israel’s virtually limitless control over the coastal enclave, demands that Gazans be supplied, on average, with 1,838.6 grams of food per day. Based on an average Israeli diet modified to account for the “culture and experience” in Gaza, this food would account for the 2,279 calories needed to keep Gazans from starving.

The document also contains information on how Israel controlled the flow of food goods through the border.

Maintaining this calorie intake would require at least 170.4 truckloads of food to cross into Gaza each weekday. However, COGAT and the Ministry of Health determined that only no more than 106 truckloads would be allowed through the border. The deductions were meant to offset the suspected amount of fruits and vegetables produced locally, including a 13-truckload deduction for unspecified cultural experiences.

Though COGAT denies that the details of the document were ever implemented, an Israeli District Court disagreed and ruled to release the document to Gisha, a human rights organization which had argued that this document shaped Israel’s policy on Gaza and its tightening siege on the territory.

The document includes tables and mathematical calculations measuring the amount of food necessary to allow into Gaza to “prevent the development of malnutrition”. One of the tables is called “Energy (calories) and Daily Food Portion (in grams) in the Gaza Strip According to Ministry of Health Scale – Broken Down by Age and Gender”.

One of the document conclusions is that “there is a need for a daily supply of 104 food trucks (5 days a week)” and that the working assumption of 106 truckloads “certainly meets nutritional needs in the Gaza Strip”.

The document, translated by Gisha and released by Haaretz, can be found here.

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