The one-year anniversary of the Gaza onslaught is being noticed by some of Israel’s leading human rights groups.
One year after Operation Cast Lead, B’Tselem is today (27 December) launching a public campaign demanding that Israel lift its siege on the Gaza Strip. This is necessary in order to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip from the destruction wrought by the hostilities. As part of the campaign, the organization is releasing a new animated short film, by Alon Simone. The film shows how goods that are forbidden entry into Gaza from Israel enter from Egypt through tunnels, a process that enriches Hamas, which collects taxes on the goods. Through the film, B’Tselem hopes to demonstrate the absurdity of the Israeli siege policy: while seeking to topple the Hamas government, Israel is gravely harming Gaza’s million and a half residents, and is achieving the opposite outcome.
Not only is the siege unlawful and immoral, it is also utter folly. Two and a half years after it began, not only has Israel’s siege not eroded the status of the Hamas government, it has even achieved the opposite effect. One reason is that Palestinians have built hundreds of tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt, which they use to smuggle in goods, as well as to flood Gaza with weapons. The media and international agencies have extensively documented the way in which the Hamas government controls the tunnel economy and collects taxes on the goods passing through them.
Israel has the right and the duty to protect its citizens from attacks coming from Gaza, yet it is not allowed to exploit its control of the crossings to collectively punish one and a half million persons.
Despite the fact that a year has passed since the start of the Gaza military operation, the damage caused by three weeks of war and the near total closure preceding it has yet to be repaired. The reason: Israel’s ongoing policy blocking goods from entering the Gaza Strip, including a near total ban on reconstruction materials.Funds for Reconstruction:
- Reconstruction funds pledged at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit Some $4.5 billion.
- Number of months international community negotiated with Israeli government over mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: 9 months.
- Implementation of mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: None.Housing:
- During the war: Some 3,500 homes were completely destroyed, some 2,800 sustained heavy damage, and some 54,000 were lightly damaged.These homes housed about 325,000 people.
- Policy on import of construction materials (cement, glass, iron) prior to the war: Banned, few humanitarian exceptions.
- Policy on import of construction materials today:Construction materials (cement, glass, iron, etc.) banned; 19 trucks of mostly cement and gravel permitted to enter for exceptional humanitarian projects.
- Needed to rebuild homes: At least 40,000 tons of cement, 25,000 tons of iron.Humanitarian Infrastructure (Electricity, Water and Sewage):
- During the war: Seven out of 12 electric lines were shut down; the power station operated only 50% of the time. One million people were without electricity, and half a million people were without running water.
- Needed prior to the war to repair and maintain infrastructure: 172 types of spare parts that were either completely out of stock or were below minimum supply; 3.5 million liters/week industrial diesel for power station.
- Needed today to repair and maintain infrastructure: 240 types of spare parts that are either completely out of stock or are below minimum supply; 3.5 million liters/week industrial diesel for power station.
- Policy on import of materials prior to the war: Industrial diesel supply for power station limited to no more than 63% of need; parts stood idly for months in warehouses in Israel and the West Bank? due to the restrictions and delays on their import into the Gaza Strip.
- Policy on import of materials for infrastructure today: Permission granted exceptionally for the entrance of fewer than 100 trucks carrying spare parts and building materials; industrial diesel still limited to no more than 63% of need.
- Repercussions: 40,000 people have no electricity; 10,000 have no running water; power outages eight hours a day, four days a week for most areas; 87 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage dumped into the sea daily for lack of electricity and spare parts.
- During the war: More than 1,000 factories, businesses and private sector institutions were damaged, at an estimated cost of $45 million.
- Policy on import of goods prior to the war: Just 25% of the demand for goods was met (2,500 trucks per month versus 10,400); fewer than 40 kinds of items permitted (versus some 4,000 prior to the closure); ban on import of raw materials for industry and on export.
- Policy on import of goods today: Just 25% of the demand for goods is met, permitting entrance of about 60 kinds of goods; ban on import of raw materials for industry and on export.
- Repercussions: Some 97% of factories have remained closed; 42.3% unemployment in the third quarter of 2009 (compared to 32.3% unemployment in June 2007); 80% of the population dependent on food aid.
- Policy on import of school supplies prior to the war: Banned, except for UNRWA schools.Policy on import of school supplies today: Banned, except for UNRWA schools.