Gaza has suffered through fourteen years of the Israeli-led blockade which has had the effect of an enforced quarantine. This is something with which the rest of us are by now well used to, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Are you bored with quarantine and restrictions on everyday life yet? And the restricted travel and business opportunities? The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been faced with this for fourteen long years.
During that time there have been numerous major and small-scale Israeli military offensives and incursions. The latest saw Israel destroying residential and mixed use tower blocks, making thousands of people homeless and hundreds jobless. The assault against the largely civilian population followed the resistance groups' defence of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the people in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood who face being thrown out of their homes to make way for illegal Israeli settlers.
The Israelis also targeted the civilian infrastructure in Gaza. Electricity lines were blown up and the already meagre water supplies were cut even more. Even roads leading to Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital were attacked, making it impossible for ambulances to get through with casualties.
According to Palestinian author and scientist Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh, we are witnessing a "slow motion genocide". The expert in biodiversity is involved in training younger Palestinians in farming and fishing techniques using limited resources in limited space. The occupation makes it difficult to do even that.
According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), eighty per cent of Gaza's population depend on humanitarian aid. The closure of the border crossings limits access to educational, employment and other opportunities, including medical care. Facilities to provide clean water and electricity for the nearly 2 million Palestinians in the coastal territory depend on materials and spare parts which cannot be imported due to the blockade.
This chaotic situation created by the Israeli occupation means that Palestine attracts little Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The 2020 World Investment Report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development notes that FDI in Palestine accounted for $176 million in 2019, down from the $252 million received in 2018.
Meanwhile, some private companies are competing to help in Gaza's reconstruction. One of the most important initiatives is that promoted by Qatar's envoy to Gaza, Mohammed Al-Emadi, who persuaded gas company Delek to channel some of Israel's offshore natural gas to a power station in the impoverished Strip in 2019, under a contract between Delek and the Palestinian Authority. Several countries support this initiative.
Having a secure power supply helps alleviate the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza. There is only one power plant in the territory and this is dependent on diesel from the Israel Electric Corporation, as well as from Egypt, for most of its power. Beyond that, Qatar buys about $5 million of fuel every month for the power station.
Moreover, the US is planning to reopen a mission in occupied Jerusalem to manage relations with the Palestinians, which had been downgraded by the Trump administration. Washington has also announced that the Biden White House is asking Congress for $75m in aid for the Palestinians, including $5.5m in immediate aid for reconstruction work in Gaza. This is a drop in the ocean when compared with the $3 billion that the US gives to Israel every year in military aid alone.
With Egypt said to be allocating $500 million for rebuilding efforts in the Gaza Strip, things look a little brighter for the Palestinians in the enclave, but they ask, quite legitimately, how long this will last. Donor countries have spent billions of dollars to rebuild what was destroyed by Israel in 2014. Now, they will pour more money into the territory to reconstruct what has been blown up in Israel's latest offensive. It is entirely reasonable that the Palestinians are fed up of this constant cycle of destruction and reconstruction.
In any case, the rebuilding of Gaza will not be easy as Israel controls virtually everything that enters the Strip, as well as who is and is not allowed in and out. Exports are also tightly controlled, so that economic hardship is a fact of life.
A Palestinian activist tweeted a photograph recently showing the ordinary people clearing up their streets after the ceasefire came into effect. It is a powerful image that shows us people power at its best. The Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will rebuild brick by brick if they have to, with or without support from elsewhere.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.