Thursday, February 26, 2009


More on the ridiculous "pasta blockade" that Israel has instituted over Gaza:

For more than seven weeks, the international aid group Mercy Corps has been trying to send 90 tons of macaroni to the isolated Gaza Strip as part of a global campaign to help the 1.4 million Palestinians there rebuild their lives after Israel's recent devastating 22-day military operation.

Israel, which controls most of what goes into and out of Gaza, has said no repeatedly.

At first, Israeli officials said that they wanted to make sure that the macaroni wasn't destined for a Hamas charity. Then they said macaroni was banned because they didn't consider it an essential food item.

On Wednesday, days after American lawmakers raised pointed questions about the macaroni ban, Israeli authorities said that they were preparing to give the pasta a green light.

For the international aid community, the dispute is emblematic of the red tape and political maneuvering that have stymied efforts to rebuild Gaza.

"We're at the end of our rope," said David Holdridge, the head of Middle East emergency relief efforts for Mercy Corps. "This is just ridiculous. It's absolutely absurd."


The macaroni standoff drew the attention of U.S. lawmakers who made a rare trip last week to the Gaza Strip.

"Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" Rep. Brian Baird, a Washington state Democrat who joined Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison in visiting Gaza, reportedly said after hearing about the aid restrictions.

Along with macaroni, Israel has prevented aid groups that are helping Gaza from sending in everything from paper and crayons to tomato paste and lentils.

As international donors prepare to meet next week in Egypt to discuss a massive, coordinated global rebuilding initiative, Israel is making it clear that it will block any projects that could help Hamas.

Since that definition could be expanded to include anything that keeps Palestinians alive, it's no wonder spaghetti is blacklisted. One would think that after the recent inauguration of a new President who is expected to scrutinize Israeli actions in Gaza more carefully, the Israeli government would be more careful about public relations. Instead they appear to want to give themselves a black eye over ridiculous, non-consequential food items.

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