The UN celebrates the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November each year. It is intended to draw the attention of the international community to the fact that the Palestinian cause has not yet been resolved, and that the Palestinian people have not yet received their inalienable rights as established by the General Assembly. These include the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property from which they were expelled.
The Israeli occupation is the main factor hindering the dreams of the Palestinians and standing in the way of achieving their rights. It created and exacerbates the humanitarian crisis affecting Palestinian citizens in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and deprives them of control over the basic aspects of daily life.
According to the UN, there are 4.8 million Palestinians affected by this crisis, 2 million of whom are in need of vital assistance and protection. The vast majority are subjected to conflict, violence, displacement and restricted access to livelihoods or basic services such as water, health care, shelter and education.
The effects of the occupation, and the Israeli-led siege on the Gaza Strip, have caused unemployment to rise to 412,800, according to the International Labour Organisation. Of these, 243,800 are in the Gaza Strip and 169,000 live in the West Bank. Around 320,000 families live below the poverty line; thousands of families are quite literally dependent on humanitarian aid from international bodies.
Meanwhile, Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians saw 418 houses and 646 other structures demolished in 2016, 40 per cent of which were in occupied Jerusalem, displacing 1,852 people, including 848 children. More than 8,000 people, more than half of them children, have been affected by the demolition of their homes. Another 47,000 people, mostly children, women and the elderly, are still without shelter as a result of Israel’s 2014 military offensive against civilians in Gaza.
The Israeli occupation forces continue with their unjustified detention of 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 330 from the Gaza Strip, 680 from occupied Jerusalem and the land occupied since 1948, 6,000 from the occupied West Bank and 34 with various Arab nationalities. Since the outbreak of the Jerusalem Intifada in October 2015, about 4,000 children have been arrested, of whom around 300 are still in detention, deprived of their childhood and pursuit of their studies, and subjected to abuse by their gaolers.
Israel has imposed a system across the occupied Palestinian territories which restricts the free movement of people and goods. Jerusalem has been cut-off from its West Bank hinterland, which is riddled by more than 600 military checkpoints, where Palestinians are subjected to deliberate humiliation, indiscriminate killing and lack of access to their businesses, schools and land.
The occupation has imposed a near-complete blockade of the Gaza Strip for 11 years. There is a complex permit-regime in place for any Palestinians trying to leave or enter the besieged territory. Many face attempts to blackmail them into collaboration with the occupation in return for exit and entry permits. Delays at the border risk the lives of hundreds of Palestinians seeking essential medical care outside of Gaza.
Even with all of this happening before eyes of the world, the international community is still failing to end the decades-old Israeli occupation. International organisations have not improved the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians despite numerous UN resolutions.
On their day of international solidarity, the Palestinian people aspire to see a better reality and a promising future for their children. They are not waiting for seminars, conferences, festivals and awareness-raising publications as much as for real action on the ground that enables them to move freely without restriction, as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They want to see their detainees set free from Israel’s jails, and they want to have decent employment opportunities in order to boost social and political participation.
The people of Palestine want forced displacement and house demolitions to end; they want a healthy environment and proper housing; they want easy access to well-sourced medical and education facilities; and they want to be able to travel without enforced restrictions. They look forward to an end to the siege of Gaza, and a return to normality.
The suffering of the Palestinian people in general, and those in the Gaza Strip especially, demands the intervention of the international community. Injustice and oppression generate violence and extremism, and this makes everyone have a price to pay. On the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, their plight remains painful to see. The requirement to maintain the cohesion of Palestinian society and preserve its social fabric must be the focus of this solidarity day, based on the 17 objectives of the UN’s sustainable development plan.