Formulas for Siege

The use of mathematical euqations to calculate basic humanitarian needs cannot help but raise parallels with the most monstrous uses of science.

For three years, officers from COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, have used mathematical formulas to monitor food and other basic necessities imported into the Gaza Strip. The formula Z/C=D, for example, was used to measure the "breathing space" Gaza residents had before stocks of a given product were depleted.

In January, representatives of the State Prosecutor's Office and COGAT were still denying in court that the formulas existed. But a determined and commendable legal battle by the nonprofit Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, together with reporting by Amira Hass in Haaretz, ultimately brought the documents to light.

The documents that were disclosed displayed the inhumanity of Israel's closure policy in all its glory. But the blockade had long since proven itself to be not only an immoral instrument of policy, but also an ineffective one. None of its declared aims has been achieved: not the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and not the weakening of Hamas, which has only reinforced its rule under the closure.

Israel has apparently understood this, even if outrageously belatedly and only following international pressure. The Turkish-sponsored flotilla convinced it to relax the blockade a bit.

But the use of mathematical formulas to calculate basic humanitarian needs cannot help but raise parallels with the most monstrous uses of science. Blood-curdling calculations were made over the suffering of a civilian population numbering 1.5 million individuals. This inhumanity was also expressed in the cynical wording of the documents.

Maj. Gen. (res. ) Amos Gilad, under whose command these formulas were used, bears responsibility not only for the moral obtuseness they reflect, but also for the foolish attempt to lie to the court and conceal information both from it and from the public.

The use of these documents, whose disclosure was essential to understand the thinking of those responsible for the blockade, has ceased. But we must remember that even if the siege has been eased, it continues to exist. Almost no one can enter Gaza or leave it, and the same is true of merchandise for export, which is of critical importance to the territory's economy.

Now that Israel has discarded these despicable formulas and eased the closure, the time has come to end it completely.