- Published on Sunday, 08 July 2012 15:04
Five years since the start of the government of Israel's blockade of Gaza, imposed on security grounds, its once thriving economy is in ruins, with 30 percent of businesses closed and 80 percent of people recipients of humanitarian aid, says international aid agency Oxfam and Palestinian export development body, Palestine Trade Center- PalTrade.
Oxfam's International Director Jeremy Hobbs, said:
"There is no natural reason for Gaza to be in the humanitarian situation it is in now– a look at Gaza before the blockade shows clearly the entrepreneurial, resourceful character of Palestinians who worked with their Israeli counterparts to export their products to the rest of the world. Compared to five years ago, Gaza is an industrial wasteland. Oxfam condemns violence targeting civilians on both sides, and we condemn this blockade that primarily harms civilians. The crossings can be equipped with the technology necessary to address Israel's legitimate security concerns while allowing for the free flow of people and goods. In order to create the environment necessary for a just, durable peace, all parties must respect their obligations under international law."
Citing security concerns, the government of Israel imposed a blockade on all border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip following the Hamas takeover in June 2007. The current blockade amounts to illegal collective punishment because the whole of Gaza's civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. Over the past five years, the near ban on traditional export products, such as textiles, furniture, and processed foods, coupled with limitations on the import of raw materials needed for production, has had a devastating impact, with the annual level of exports in 2011 plummeting to less than 3 percent of pre-blockade levels.
Gaza's traditional exports to the Israeli market and Palestinian internal trade with the West Bank remain effectively closed., The Israeli government's programme of 'easing' of the blockade has been insufficient, and has not even met its own benchmarks for progress. In the past five years, only 720 trucks have left the blockaded strip. All but 2 of these truckloads of exports were agricultural products destined for the Netherlands, as part of a special agreement with the Dutch government. 19 truckloads of date bars produced in Gaza for a pilot project initiated by World Food Programme were allowed to be transferred in March 2012 to schools in the West Bank, but these items were not for public sale, and are therefore not counted as traditional exports.
Before the blockade an average of 1,034 truckloads of furniture, garments and textiles, cash crops, and processed foods industries left Gaza each month, with 80 percent of these goods marketed in Israel and the West Bank. Keeping these two markets restricted for Gazan products, the impact on the economic situation in general and the exporters performance in specific will remain very minimal.
Oxfam and PalTrade called for the complete lifting of the blockade of Gaza as a first step towards economic recovery and building a better life for civilians in Gaza.
PalTrade Chief Executive Officer Hanan Taha said:
"This blockade is creating huge frustration among Palestinians who believe that peace is still possible. It's a shame on the international community that it allows this illegal collective punishment to go on. The situation means Palestinians are forced to depend on aid donated by governments who are not willing to push the government of Israel to end the blockade and the occupation."