The ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip, in place since the 2006 democratic election of Hamas, has been condemned widely by international figures, from British politicians to UN representatives. Some 5 years on, the blockade of Gaza remains very much intact. As the debate over peace and security in the Middle East rumbles on, one of the biggest stumbling blocks remains the siege, which has effectively imprisoned over 1.6 million Palestinians in their own land.
An Israeli NGO (Gisha) reported earlier this year that the "Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics indicate(d) that unemployment in the Gaza Strip has reached 31.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, compared to 30.3 per cent in the preceding quarter." This rise in unemployment is just one of the signals of a territory facing increasing hardship. Gisha noted that 70 per cent of the population in Gaza is in receipt of humanitarian aid.
Amnesty International released a report in May this year and commented that the siege had "led to the strangulation of the local economy and resulted in extending the existing humanitarian crisis… The siege is a violation of international law and forms a type of collective punishment that is experienced by 1.6 million Palestinians."
Prior to the election of Hamas the G7 nations called for greater economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Ed Balls MP, then a minister in HM Treasury, said that he believed that "economic regeneration [would be] a catalytic agent for peace". Even if this is the belief of politicians, there has been little action to support economic regeneration for the Palestinians of Gaza. Whilst condemnation of the siege echoes across the globe, Israel has been able to continue to enforce its illegal blockade with impunity.
In a speech to the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East last year, Shadow Foreign Secretary, Rt. Hon Douglas Alexander MP "spoke about his visit to Gaza and the need for full and unrestricted humanitarian access. He made clear that need for a humanitarian response was important but it cannot be a substitute for the political solution, which is ultimately what, is required." These are welcome sentiments, but as long as the siege on Gaza continues so too does the impoverishment of its population.
The election of President Morsi in Egypt may have signalled a change, with intentions to ease movement of people through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. However, this will not end the problems facing the Gaza Strip, for the inability to import and export goods for trade and an increase in poverty over the years is suffocating Gaza. If the obstacles to peace in the Middle East are to be overcome, the international community must increase pressure on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza; sympathetic words are no longer enough.
This was originally written by Shazia Arshad, a different name was published in error in it's original print publication.
This was first published in TheHouse Magazine on September 2012. Volume 36 – Issue No.: 1428