The Siege of Gaza
Spotlight on Annapolis, Darkness in Gaza
The international media frenzy surrounding the Annapolis conference (“much ado about nothing”) has entirely eclipsed the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Trade embargoes, travel restrictions, Israeli attacks and food, fuel and medical shortages are plaguing the civilian population – pushing Gaza further to the brink of an all out
humanitarian catastrophe. The reasons for this human rights disaster are twofold – Israeli restrictions and international sanctions imposed after the Hamas election victory in 2006.
The role of the EU
Meanwhile, instead of standing up against these crimes and rallying to the aid of the oppressed, the European Union is a party to these shameful actions through its role in the International Quartet which imposed crippling sanctions on Gaza. It makes hollow calls for Israel to “respect commitments”, while denying the Gazan population desperately needed aid. The EU has aligned itself with US/Israeli imperialism in the region and bears equal responsibility for the humanitarian crisis facing the population of Gaza.
In addition, through the EU-Israel Association Agreement, Israel enjoys trading preferences with the EU. Article 2 of that Agreement makes these preferences conditional upon respect for human rights – yet despite constant, blatant and horrific abuses of human rights on Israel’s behalf no move has been made to suspend this agreement. At the same time the EU endorses brutal sanctions against the people of Gaza.
Food, Fuel, Power & Medical Shortages
According to the World Food Program, the Israeli blockade means that 59% of Gaza’s food import needs aren’t being met. The majority of fuel outlets have closed due to Israeli fuel and power reductions, seriously affecting the local economy and internal travel. This has also had a major effect on the public sector as Gaza relies almost exclusively on fuel and electricity imports to run essential services such as hospital power generators, ambulance services etc. About 225,000 people don’t have proper access to drinking water because pumps are out of action.
In addition, the medical sector is facing further crisis due to severe drug and personnel shortages, lack of medical equipment and external travel restrictions. For example, according to the WHO, supplies of 91 out of 416 essential drugs have run out, as have about a third of essential medical supplies – including most children’s antibiotics.
Closures and collective punishment
The Israeli imposed embargo on external travel in force since June have meant that approximately 6,000 Gazans are waiting for the opportunity to travel abroad for work and education. In addition some 1,500 people require external medical care, including 350 critical cases. A further result of the closures is that 120,000 jobs in all sectors are under threat, and construction projects worth $160m have been halted. The UN has warned that Gaza will become a 100% dependent economy if the borders remain closed for import, export and travel.
The closure acts as a de facto trade embrago. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has said farmers have so far lost $4.5m due to the squeeze on imports and near total ban on exports since June. It is estimated that another $50 million will be lost this season if farmers cannot export. Some 25% of Gazans rely on agriculture for their income.
All this amounts to, in the words of Human Rights Watch and others, “collective punishment” against the people of Gaza. The human rights organisation Al-Haq notes that: “This is the first time in history that sanctions have been imposed on the victims of an oppressive regime rather than on the regime itself”. In total, more than 1,800 Gazan civilians have been killed by Israeli forces since 2000, and many more have died as result of lack of access to proper
What we’re calling for
The IPSC calls upon the EU; to immediately end the aid embargo placed upon Gaza and for a full resumption of aid (including emergency aid to address the current crisis); for EU pressure to re-open the border crossings thus ending the de facto trade embargo; for the suspension of the EU-Israel Agreement until Israel adheres to international human rights law; and for an embargo on arms sales to Israel.