When Rep. Keith Ellison visited the Gaza Strip earlier this month, he reported back on some of his concerns about humanitarian aid for the Palestinians. He said even basic food items were being blocked at the border.
How did Israel respond to U.S. questioning about the aid? Americans are simply uninformed. Pasta isn't food aid, officials said. Palestinians can only eat rice, Foreign Policy reports.
"If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance. We are glad that President Obama acted quickly to send much needed humanitarian funding to Gaza for this effort. However, the arbitrary and unreasonable Israeli limitations on food, and repair and reconstruction materials are unacceptable and indefensible. People; innocent children, women and non-combatants, are going without water, food and sanitation, while the things they so desperately need are sitting in trucks at the border, being denied permission to go in" said Ellison in a release.
Ellison toured the Gaza Strip with Rep. Brian Laird who also criticized the food aid policies. "When have lentil bombs been going off lately? Is someone going to kill you with a piece of macaroni?" asked Laird.
However, an incident occured last week at a crossing into the Gaza Strip that gave a very different impression to a senior observer. When Senator John Kerry visited the Strip, he learned that many trucks loaded with pasta were not permitted in. When the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee inquired as to the reason for the delay, he was told by United Nations aid officials that "Israel does not define pasta as part of humanitarian aid - only rice shipments." Kerry asked Barak about the logic behind this restriction, and only after the senior U.S. official's intervention did the defense minister allow the pasta into the Strip. The U.S. senator updated colleagues at the Senate and other senior officials in Washington of the details of his visit.