According to experts at the United Nations, the Gaza Strip was projected to have become unlivable by the beginning of 2020. We are now heading into 2021 and Israel has decided to make the situation even worse, without any backlash from the International Community.
Experts at the UN had speculated back in 2012 that Gaza would reach the point of “un-liveability” by the year 2020, a prediction often cited to give urgency to the need for Israel to bring an end to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. We are now a year past that point of predicted un-liveability, but the reality is that Gaza has been unlivable for much longer than a year.
Back in 2018, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories), Michael Lynk, declared that “the state of unlive-ability is upon us” and that the predictions were incorrect, Gaza was already unlivable. In the same press release as Lynk’s statement was released, it was also noted that Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the UN on Gaza is in violation of the UN Charter. Additionally noted was that “The World Bank described Gaza’s economy in free fall.. drinking water has almost disappeared, the economy is cratering”.
In February of 2018, Gaza was declared to have been in a ‘state of emergency’ and was deprived of Palestinian Authority (PA) funding. This had a massive impact on the salaries of many employees in Gaza, who are employed by the West Bank based PA. The funding cut to Gaza also affected the fuel which was, prior to February, reaching the Gaza Strip and being used to power the only power plant left in the Gaza Strip.
In August, 2018, the US Trump Administration then cut all US funding to the UN Agency set up to help over 5 million Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which the 70+% refugee population of Gaza are heavily dependent upon for social programs, schooling, food and other key services. Last month UNRWA just declared that they were out of money and have subsequently had to dramatically cut funding to the Gaza Strip.
Currently the 2 million plus residents of the illegally besieged Gaza Strip, are subject to regular 18+ hour blackouts and have one of the highest unemployment rates on the planet, with youth unemployment estimated at over 70%. The besieged coastal enclave’s population is roughly 52% children (under 18’s), most of which have never been allowed to leave Gaza and have endured three large-scale wars. Gaza’s water is also currently 97% undrinkable, due to Israeli aerial bombardments, blockage of goods from entering Gaza and destruction of Gaza’s aquifer. The situation is so bad that the leading scholar on Gaza’s economy, Harvard University’s Sara Roy, has essentially said that Israel is systematically poisoning a million children in Gaza.
According to a recent UNCTAD report, released in August, Gaza’s economy lost 16.7 Billion between 2007-2018 alone due to the Israeli imposed blockade on Gaza. A ‘Press release’ from the UN noted that the 16.7 Billion from the report does not “capture other costs of the Israeli occupation, such as the economic impact of preventing the Palestinian people from using their natural gas field off the shores of Gaza” and states that if it wasn’t for Israel’s blockade the poverty rate would be a fraction of what it currently is (56+%).
Above all, the UNCTAD report importantly states: “Lifting what amounts to the blockade of Gaza is essential for it to trade freely with the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the world and restore the right to free movement for business, medical care, education, recreation and family bonds. Only by fully lifting the debilitating closure, in line with [UN] Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), can we hope to sustainably resolve the humanitarian crisis.”
On the December 2, Rapporteur for the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Adela Raz , at a UN General Assembly meeting again called upon the UN Security Council to enforce an ending of the siege. Many similar calls for an end to the siege have been made in the past, but unfortunately there have been no solutions put in place for ending the illegal blockade.
The impact of Israel’s illegal 14 year blockade on Gaza and the suffering it has caused regular Gazans can not be overstated. The 1907 Hague Regulations (art. 42-56), the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV, art. 27-34 and 47-78), Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and Customary International Humanitarian Law, which lay out the legal way in which an occupying power should behave, have all been violated by Israel in Gaza.
What is even worse for the people of Gaza, is that the Israeli government isn’t going to become more humanitarian anytime soon, in fact it is actively getting worse. Israel is now set to hold new elections, the fourth in two years, come March 2021 and the only contender to Netanyahu’s premiership, is a man named Gideon Saar. Saar is a former Likud Party [Party of Netanyahu] member and is even more anti-Palestinian and pro-Settler than Netanyahu. According to all Israeli polls, at this time, Israeli “centrist” and “leftist” Parties would barely make the threshold required to get into the Knesset, whilst Gideon Saar’s ‘New Hope Party’ would land roughly 21 seats and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud would land roughly 27.
Israel is heading towards its most far-right religious extremist government in history, and to the detriment of prospects for regional peace and the lives of Palestinians living under brutal military occupation. Israel’s current trajectory is heading it’s policies towards the extreme, and it is the duty of the international community to jump in and apply the harshest possible sanctions on Israel, in order to prevent it from committing even worse crimes against the Palestinians, specifically the people of Gaza, in the future.
UNCTAD Press Release
UN Report on Gaza Economy
Gaza Economic losses due to Israeli siege
UNRWA Runs out of funds
UN representative calls on Security Council for an end to the Siege
Israeli Media Poll cited in Palestinian media
UN Security Council Resolution 1860