It is no overstatement to describe the current situation in the Gaza Strip as a serious humanitarian disaster. A recent report by the UN stated that Gaza will become unliveable by 2020. Rather than providing temporary remedies, the world should address the root cause of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
This summer, the UN declared that Gaza may already have become unliveable. With problems ranging from declining GDP per capita to crises in healthcare, education, water and electricity, to which I would add raging despair and frustration among people, the situation is unbearable.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza
This severe situation in Gaza is not the result of a natural disaster or a famine but, sadly, is purely manmade. Using the pretext that it was protecting itself, in 2006 Israel enforced a draconian blockade on Gaza’s land, sea and air borders. Backed by most western governments, Israel justified its blockade of Gaza’s civilian inhabitants as “punishing Hamas”, which had won the 2006 parliamentary elections, when in fact it, and the world, was in fact collectively punishing the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, 66% of whom are under 24 years old. With Egypt’s closure of its border with Gaza and western governments’ ‘no contact’ policy with the de facto government, the ongoing siege has inevitably resulted in an ongoing humanitarian disaster.
Official EU policy dictates that economic development is subordinate to political progress between Israel and Palestine, which, needless to say, has so far failed. Ever since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the EU has supported the Palestinians with €6 billion, mostly in the form of aid grants and not investment. The completion of projects funded by EU taxpayers has done little to change facts on the ground and many of the results have been short term and unsustainable. In Gaza, in the past decade, the EU’s policy to boycott Hamas’s de facto government unless it respected the international community’s principles and renounced violence has further diminished the EU’s involvement in Gaza to being solely a provider of relief and emergency aid.
The EU could use its leverage as Israel’s top trade partner to push Israel to abide by the same ‘international community principles’ and renunciation of violence that it expects from the Palestinians.
Council of Europe report condemns Israel
Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a report that condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as “collective punishment” and accused Israel of “unlawful, systematic killing” of Palestinians in Gaz. Guided by its core values of human dignity, freedom, equality and respect for human rights, it is time for the EU to act upon its beliefs in Palestine. Aid is not the solution and Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is not an overnight occurrence. We need to address the root of the problem: Israel’s illegal military occupation. The Palestinians deserve their freedom, security and the rest of their basic rights. An immediate end to the occupation is the answer and it will only become possible if the EU takes a bold stance against Israel’s illegal policies in Palestine. The EU could use its leverage as Israel’s top trade partner to push Israel to abide by the same ‘international community principles’ and renunciation of violence that it expects from the Palestinians.
The EU could re-establish its trade relations with Gaza in order to encourage self-sufficiency and economic resilience.
The EU can play a role
Given the current global paradigm shifts among historic alliances, the EU should seize the opportunity to capitalise on its principal role towards ending the Israeli occupation. In addition to strengthening its position on issues of Israeli crimes in Palestine, the EU has many economic opportunities to offer through trade and investments and can thereby encourage Palestinian independence and readiness for statehood. For instance, the EU could re-establish its trade relations with Gaza in order to encourage self-sufficiency and economic resilience. This used to be the case before 2006 when the EU was a major importer of Gaza produce such as strawberries and flowers. Investing in Palestine can be another vital policy. Adopting such a strategy would not only support the Palestinian businesses and the private sector, but would also raise the stakes in the face of potential Israeli aggression.
It is not too late to rescue Gaza from its manmade humanitarian disaster. Palestinians are not hungry for aid and donations. We rather strive for freedom, security and dignity. Had Israel, with the world watching, not controlled and closed the borders of Gaza for the past decade, we would not be where we are today. Palestinian people are educated, entrepreneurial and ambitious. However, Israel’s military occupation cripples any opportunity for development. Without the international community standing up to Israel’s illegal actions in Palestine, we will continue to be dependent on futile aid programmes that lead nowhere and the humanitarian crisis of Gaza will duplicate around the territories. Let us put an end to this immoral humanitarian catastrophe, and give an opportunity to men and women to generate prosperity.
photograph: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/shutterstock.com