Five years have passed since Operation Cast Lead, the last war on Gaza, ended.
The war threw Gaza into the spotlight of the international community. The most densely populated city in the world was at the forefront of the Palestinian cause. Images of children, who made up one-third of the casualties of Cast Lead, were plastered across international campaigns, and the hindrance of the Palestinian peace process came to light.
Although the war ended five years ago with Israeli troops pulling out of the city, the war on the economic viability, health and security of the population goes on till this day. Gaza still relies on international aid for day-to-day activities, including the most basic of needs such as food and drink. Lobbies are constantly calling for more international aid to be sent to Gaza; however, the truth of the matter is that Gaza doesn’t need international support in the form of monetary economic aid; it needs international support that allows it to operate as a normal city, without restrictions on trade, transport, and electricity. The international community needs to put an end to the economic warfare that has been exercised on Gaza for years.
Gaza needs uninterrupted transport routes
The UNRWA is allowed to transport vital goods and foods into the city’s refugee camps. However, the transport of goods and products that can be sold openly on the market, aiding the economy and promoting the development of the city, is restricted. Since Operation Cast Lead, or The Gaza Massacre as it is referred to in Gaza, destroyed 95 percent of the tunnels in Gaza, the trade has been stagnant. The destruction of the tunnels, which were used to transport goods and food from Egypt into Gaza not only restrict the amount of food coming into Gaza, leading to systematic starvation of the cities population, but has also brought the economic state of Gaza to an apparent standstill with limited imports and virtually no exports.
The war has certainly left a legacy of poverty, economic injustice, and hungerYara al-Wazir
The blockade of the tunnels comes from both the Egyptian and the Israeli government – even products as simple as cars have to be dismantled into four pieces and transported separately across into the city, where they are then reassembled. The Israeli government restricts the types of goods that can be transported for fear of the material being used as explosives or weapons.
The restrictions on the operating and opening times of the tunnels must also be revoked in order to allow for economic growth. The establishment of a free-trade zone is not what is being called for by any means, rather a predictable functioning schedule of tunnel operation is what is needed, so as to eliminate the problem of scarcity.
Gaza needs habitable homes
After the war ended, Amnesty International proved that chemical weapons banned by international law, such as white phosphorus, were used in civilian areas, leading to the Goldstone Investigation. The final report accused Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity due to its systematic targeting of the civilian population. As a result, the United Nations Human Rights Council ordered Israel to rebuild parts of the civilian homes which it had destroyed. Yet 75 percent of them are yet to be rebuilt. Meanwhile, Israel has no problem in building houses in other Palestinian cities as part of its continued expansion of its settlements.
Gaza needs habitable homes that do not collapse in extreme weather conditions. It needs homes that are built outside of refugee camps. Not only will this provide a safe home for the people, but it will also offer employment opportunities for the builders, engineers and tradesman of the city.
Gaza needs a steady supply of electricity that lasts more than eight hours a day
The power outages that came with the 2008 war continue to this day. 60 percent of Gaza’s power supply comes from the Israeli grid. For various reasons, ranging from Hamas not having the budget to pay for expensive Israeli power, and due to Israel limiting its power supplies to Gaza, the people are left with power outages ranging from 12 to 18 hours a day – more hours than they had to deal with when the war was going on.
Gaza needs a constant power supply that is uninterrupted so as to allow industry to thrive once again. Electricity can power factories, shops, stores, homes, schools, and hospitals. Reliance on generators strains industries, and creates an unpredictable future.
For electricity supply and trade to stabilise, concessions have to be made both by Hamas and the Egyptian government; electricity must come off a sustainable grid for a reasonable price. Political sensitivity to the situation must be exercised– Gaza, as an independent city, may not have the ability to fully finance it’s current electrical needs due to limited funding. However, if a system of repayments was set up, taking into account the predicted economic growth that comes with having basic electrical needs, the city can function and grow, and in the future pay off its debts.
Economic warfare goes on, making Gaza is worse than Sub-Saharan Africa
The economic warfare employed by Israel by limiting trade and creating economic pressure on the city mirrors that of the BDS movement internationally, where activists are lobbying to create economic pressure on the Israeli government by boycotting Israeli goods. Both movements have been going on for years, and both movements see a weakening of the governments. The question is, which will crack first?
The war has certainly left a legacy of poverty, economic injustice, and hunger. With 80 percent of the population living under the poverty line, the situation in Gaza is worse than the average of Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet the only difference is that Gaza, both as a city and as a population, has the ability to rise above this poverty line without necessarily relying on international aid, rather by simply ending the restrictions imposed by governments, be it the Israeli, Egyptian, or Hamas government.
The war, in every sense of the word, goes on till this day. Just two days before the anniversary of the ceasefire, four airstrikes were conducted by Israel, and militants fired eight rockets. The people of Gaza, recovering from the aftermath of decades of struggle, don’t need international aid – they simply need the opportunity to grow without international interruption or restrictions.
Yara al-Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazirSHOW MORE