J Street Falsely Charges Israel with Restricting Food, Medicine to Gaza

J Street, an advocacy organization that focuses on criticism of Israel, has falsely charged the Jewish state with restricting the import of food and medicine into the Gaza Strip.

In an Aug. 26 email to its subscribers, J Street claimed that to maintain the status quo in Israeli-Palestinian relations “means punishing restrictions on medicine, food and goods to families in Gaza will continue.”

text of j street email

The text of a J Street email written by Jeremy Ben-Ami that wrongly charges Israel with blocking food and medicine from the Gaza Strip. (Click to expand)

The email was signed by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the organization’s president.

In fact, there are no such restrictions on medicine or food. Other critics of Israel, at least, have been more honest about Gaza imports. “Currently, Israel allows the entrance of all civilian goods into the Gaza Strip, with the exception of a list of materials defined as ‘dual-use,’ which, according to Israel, can be used for military purposes,” notes the Israeli NGO Gisha.

Gisha, which normally advocates for Gaza residents and criticizes Israeli policies, has previously found it necessary to set the record straight about the very same accusation leveled in J Street and Ben-Ami’s email. After Ralph Nader claimed in 2012 that Israel limits food, medicine and water to Gaza, Gisha slammed the charge as unhelpful and inaccurate “hyperbole.”

Israel does not restrict the import of food, water or fuel,” the NGO pointedly noted. “And while Nader’s article implies that Israel is responsible for the medication crisis in the Strip, the truth is that ongoing disputes regarding payment for medication between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are largely the cause of this.”

The New York Times has published a correction after wrongly blamed Israel for a shortage of medicine in the Gaza Strip. According to the original wording of the correction, “An earlier version of this article overstated the impact of Israeli restrictions on travel and trade in the Gaza Strip. Although they have made the import of some medical equipment difficult, the import of medicine is not restricted.”

Even the Palestinian Ma’an news agency has published an article that quoted a senior World Health Organization official who noted, “Israeli authorities are not blocking the entry of drugs and disposables to Gaza. They recognize these are priority items for humanitarian needs.”

After various rounds of attacks from Gaza, Israel has temporarily halted the import of certain goods into Gaza. But food and medicine continued to flow. During a wave of arson attacks from Gaza that scorched sections of Israel, for example, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported: “Israel has banned all imports except food and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.”

During another round of Palestinian arson attacks, Al Mezan, a Palestinian NGO, likewise described an Israeli measure that “blocks the entry of fuel and cooking gas supplies, allowing only medicines and food items to pass into Gaza.” The UN described that month’s closure as a move to “prohibit all goods except medical and food supplies” to Gaza.

After since Hamas attacked Israeli cities with rockets last May, setting off a round of deadly fighting, Israel continued allowing food and medicine to enter the Gaza Strip even as it temporarily shut down imports of other goods. Or in the words of a June story published in the New York Times, “has limited imports through its crossing points to humanitarian goods such as medicine, fuel and food, pending a longer-term agreement.”

If the New York Times, the UN, a stridently anti-Israel NGO, and a Turkish news service described as a mouthpiece for a Turkish government that has little sympathy for Israel can get that right, why can’t J Street?