The United Nations and all other humanitarian actors have spent 15 years delivering humanitarian support to 2.1m Palestinians blockaded inside Gaza, and yet, there is still no sustained collective political action or will to resolve it.
In those 15 years, the international community has spent an estimated US$5.7 billion in Gaza just to help keep an incredibly resilient population afloat, in impossible conditions.
“The humanitarian relief effort has long become a permanent operation. We are collectively forced into being de facto enablers of an open-air prison,” said Oxfam International Executive Director, Gabriela Bucher, on marking 15 years of the blockade.
“Today, seven out of ten people in Gaza depend on aid. This must change. We look to the UN Secretary-General personally to make the immediate lifting of the Gaza blockade a priority,” Bucher said. “Israel’s control is total, extending down to levels that are frankly ridiculous and punishing – like banning Gaza’s export of tomatoes unless they have had their green tops removed, so they can’t be kept as fresh”.
This month, Oxfam joins a civil society campaign, #OpenUpGaza15. “We need to stop the tragedy of Gaza from continuing to drain all the joy and aspiration of its youth, year upon year. It is imperative that we help the next generation not to be lost to the blockade. Over 800,000 young Palestinians have spent their entire lives trapped within Gaza. They have known nothing else,” she said.
These young people face a 63 percent probability of having no job. For girls it’s even worse – four out of five won’t find paid work. Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
“Most all of Israel’s restrictions are motivated by politics, not security. Palestinian families in Gaza are being collectively and illegally punished,” said Oxfam’s Country Director, Shane Stevenson. “Israel bans the export of date paste, cookies, and French fries. It has forbidden 3G and 4G phone data and there’s no PayPal. This is not a place where a young person can be expected to flourish and find happiness.”
#OpenUpGaza15 will feature the everyday stories from 15 young people about their daily deprivations, curbs, and constraints with which they have to deal just to pursue their lives and their interests.
Ahmad Abu Dagga, 15, excels in sciences but fears that he will finish his 12 years of school without ever seeing a microscope in his school laboratory.
Alaa Abu Sleih, 23, was born with a physical disability. A few years ago, the control panel of his wheel chair broke down and he cannot get a new one. The chair tyres are wearing out and he worries how he will get around.
Oxfam’s humanitarian and development efforts in Gaza are all constantly undermined by Israel’s suffocating restrictions on services and the movement of resources and people. 97 percent of Gaza’s piped water is not fit to drink and electricity supply is restricted to 12 hours per day.
“The UN and its member states must become the diplomatic power brokers needed to end this blockade now,” Stevenson said. “All sides must commit to a time-bound plan with actions and strong accountability mechanisms. We refuse to accept that all the effort made to maintain the blockade for 15 years can’t instead be harnessed for good and to consign it to history.”