Amnesty International: Israel’s blockade is cruel and illegal

December 6, 2010 18:08 0 comments

A damning report published by a coalition of 22 development, human rights and peace building organisations has found Israel’s “efforts” to ease their illegitimate policy on Gaza utterly insufficient. The report urgently calls the International community to put renewed pressure on the Israeli government.

Sofia Ahmad

The devastating effects of the blockade continue to deprive “Palestinians in Gaza of access to clean water, electricity, jobs and a peaceful future” according to Jeremy Hobbs, Director of Oxfam International.

The report “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza Blockade” has found that Israel has failed to live up to key pledges it made six months ago, promising to put in place measures to ease the blockade on Gaza. Israel was pressured into making these pledges following international outrage after Israeli commanders stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to Gaza in June, killing nine activists in the process.

The report shows that the people of Gaza have continued to endure the same levels of hardship and suffering as a direct result of what the United Nations has described as a “medieval siege”. The blockade on Gaza severely heightened when Hamas came to power in June 2007, prohibits most exports, restricts imports and curtails freedom of movement.

Israel’s failure to lift the ban on exports has had a “crippling” effect on the economy. According to the report this has left two thirds of Gaza’s industrial businesses closed and the remaining operating on only partial capacity. In the meantime an increased inflow of finished consumer goods undermines the local economy and local businesses have been crushed unable to restart or export.

Despite Israeli promises to lift restrictions on imports only a minute percentage of imports have been approved. The report says construction materials are still only 11% of pre-blockade levels and shockingly only seven percent of the construction material needed to carry out UNRWA’s reconstruction plan for Gaza has been permitted for import. This also means that many new schools planned under the reconstruction plan have not been built and 40,000 eligible children will not be able to enrol in UN schools at the start of the academic year.

Without commitment

Israel laid siege to Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009 in operation “Cast Lead” allegedly carried out to stop Hamas firing rockets into Gaza. Operation “Cast Lead” killed more than 1,380 Palestinians and destroyed many educational, health and public institutions that form part of the UN’s reconstruction plan.

Moreover the report has found that despite Israel’s stated commitment to streamline entry and exit to and from Gaza for humanitarian aid workers, there has been little change to freedom of movement in Gaza. In fact it shows that there has been an increase in refusals of entry and exit for UN agencies’ local humanitarian staff.

Meanwhile the ordinary Palestinians continue to be imprisoned in their own land, unable to freely move in and out whether it be for work, family, travel or study. Janet Symes, Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East Region believes “the psychological impact of relying on food has devastated the community in Gaza. People want jobs to make a living in a dignified manner and not exist on handouts.”

Israel’s attack on the convoys packed with aid coming into Gaza back in June catapulted an on-going problem into the public eye and this demanded a reaction. However the report has shown that Israel’s promises appeased the international community while they pretty much continued with business as usual. The coalition of the 22 organisations including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Save the Children want the International community to renew pressure on Israel and demand an immediate and complete end to the Blockade on Gaza.

The occupation

Israel has illegally occupied Gaza ever since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. For many years entry and exit from Gaza was restricted but this significantly intensified in June 2007 after the new democratically elected Hamas government that Israel consider to be a terrorist organisation came to power. However Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director describes the reality of Israel’s policies: “A cruel and illegal blockade collectively punishing the entire civilian population”.

For a long time the Israeli authorities have used security reasons to justify their blockade, however last month documents published under the freedom of information act revealed this to be untrue. The documents released by the Israeli government said the blockade was originally tightened as part of a policy of “deliberately reducing” basic goods for people in Gaza in order to put pressure on Hamas.

The 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza are trapped in an area of land just 40 kilometres long and 9.5 kilometres wide. Unable to leave and cut off from basic supplies the majority live in extreme poverty under an illegal occupation and illegal blockade. Palestinians in Gaza are essentially trapped in an area depleted and ravaged from all sides by Israeli policies; the report urgently calls for immediate action.

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