Support a future for Gaza!

“And this is how we see our future — to be killed by the conflict, to be killed by the closure (blockade), or to be killed by despair.”

These words, spoken by a 15-year-old boy, describe how the desperate situation in Gaza is destroying the hopes and dreams of Gazan youth. The boy shared this message with Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, and Ki-moon shared it with the UN Security Council on July 12.

Gaza 2015 childre

This Gazan family (names withheld for security reasons) received MCC material resources after the 2014 war. MCC photo/Jesse Bergen

Through the months of July and August 2014, a war between Hamas and Israel resulted in massive death and destruction, primarily for Gazans. More than 2100 Palestinians, including 495 children, were killed, as well as 66 Israeli soldiers and 7 civilians. It was the third such war in six years. Two years after the most recent war, Gaza continues to suffer:

  • Of 11,000 homes completely destroyed in 2014, only 10 percent have been rebuilt; 75,000 people are still without a home;[*]
  • 250 schools were damaged or destroyed and many have not been repaired; 400 schools currently run double shifts as a result;
  • Severe electricity and fuel shortages lead to rolling blackouts that can last hours; this seriously hampers pumping systems for water and sanitation;
  • 80 percent of the population is dependent on humanitarian assistance for basic necessities;
  • Unemployment levels are estimated to be 40 percent or more – among the highest in the world;
  • The psychological trauma of successive wars and the stress caused by unemployment have resulted in increased levels of domestic violence and divorce; for children, the impacts are nightmares, bed-wetting, difficulty concentrating and even completing school.
Gaza 2015

Many Gazans continue to live in makeshift shelters like this one. MCC photo/Jesse Bergen

A major reason for the lack of progress in Gaza’s reconstruction is because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza – a blockade on land, sea and air that has been in place for nearly a decade. The blockade has crippled the Gazan economy and isolated the people of Gaza politically and socially. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that “the closure of Gaza suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts.” People frequently refer to Gaza as an open air prison with 1.8 million prisoners.

Israel says that the blockade is needed to limit Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli cities and towns, and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. But critics say that the blockade actually fuels the rocket attacks and increases insecurity for Israelis; moreover, the blockade constitutes a form of collective punishment and a violation of international law.

A specific impediment to Gaza’s recovery is the restrictions placed by the blockade on the entry of basic building materials such as wood, cement, steel bars. The lifting of these restrictions would go a long way to rebuilding homes, even while a full end to the blockade is critical to a long-term solution for Gaza and for Israel.

MCC has joined the Association of International Aid Agencies in calling for action that will lift the Israeli blockade and specifically the restrictions on building materials.  Please join us by viewing this video and signing this petition.

Children constitute half the population of Gaza. Many of them have lived their entire life under the blockade. Please support a future for them.

Open Gaza

* MCC’s response to the 2014 crisis included emergency food assistance, the distribution of essential non-food items, and repair of 70 houses that had been damaged but not completely destroyed.

By Esther Epp-Tiessen, Public Engagement Coordinator for the Ottawa Office.

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Putting Faces to the Facts: The Last Five Years of the Gaza Blockade

This summer we have occasionally re-posted material from MCC colleagues
and partner organisations. This photo essay, by MCC Palestine service worker
Ryan Rodrick Beiler, was first published in the MCC Palestine Update.

A Palestinian worker scavenges for recyclable materials near the restricted access zone along the wall on Gaza’s northern border. Israeli troops often open fire on such workers and several have injured or killed. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Five years ago, Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza as a form of “economic warfare”against the de facto Hamas government which controls the densely populated Palestinian enclave. As in all forms of warfare, civilians, especially children, suffer the worst consequences of actions taken by those in power. As part of a coordinated advocacy effort by the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), MCC has joined more than 50 other humanitarian NGOs in endorsing a simple statement:

For over five years in Gaza, more than 1.6 million people have been under blockade in violation of international law. More than half of these people are children. We the undersigned say with one voice: “end the blockade now.”

The United Nations also recently released a clear and concise fact sheet on the impact of the Gaza blockade. But while facts are important, it’s even more critical to remember that real people face these facts on a daily basis. So here are a few key selections from the UN report, accompanied by photos of Gazans struggling to overcome these conditions:

44% of Gazans are food insecure and about 80% are aid recipients.

Aysha Qaramesh and her son Ayman (6), beneficiaries in a food security project raising rabbits with MCC partner Al Najd Development Forum in the eastern border area of Gaza. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

34% of Gaza’s workforce, including over half its youth, is unemployed.

Mahmoud Abdim, age 20 (left), is a second year student studying to be an electrician through a vocational training center run by MCC partner, Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work (NECCCRW), in the Qarara area of Khan Younis, Gaza. Mahmoud did not finish secondary school in order to work to support his family which includes his parents, four brothers, and four sisters. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

During this period, nearly 2,300 Palestinians have been killed and 7,700 injured by Israeli forces, about two thirds of them during the “Cast Lead” offensive. Over a quarter (27%) of all Palestinian fatalities were women and children. Since June 2007, 37 Israelis have been killed and 380 injured in attacks launched from Gaza, 40% of whom were civilians.

Artwork by children at the Nuwar Center of MCC partner Culture and Free Thought Association depicts the bombardment of Gaza by Israeli helicopters. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The productive capacity of Gaza’s economy has shown almost no recovery, rendering recent economic growth unsustainable. … The continued ban on the transfer of goods from Gaza to its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, along with the severe restrictions on access to agricultural land and fishing waters, prevents sustainable growth and perpetuates the high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency.

(l-r) Khaled Albieri , his brother Ibrahim, and Mohammed Ashenbari use a pivot and levers to straighten iron reinforcement bars recovered from buildings bombed by Israel in Gaza City. Such recycling of building materials is necessary because of Israeli restrictions on goods entering Gaza. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The quality of infrastructure and vital services, including in the areas of health, education and water and sanitation, have significantly declined as a result of the import restrictions and the rapid population growth. A failure to address existing gaps would increase the humanitarian vulnerability of the people. Despite the June 2010 measures to ease the blockade, international organisations continue to face challenges in responding to the most urgent humanitarian needs in these fields, due to the complex approval system for projects put in place by the Israeli authorities.

Zeina Mefij, age 1 month, bravely awaits the prick of a blood test administered by Nabila Adnan (left) and Sihan Abu Hasan as part of a well baby program at a medical clinic run by MCC partner NECCCRW in the Deraj neighborhood of Gaza City. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Since 2009, the Israeli naval forces have prevented fishermen from accessing sea areas beyond three nautical miles from Gaza’s coast, where the main sardine shoals are found. This has severely undermined the livelihoods of 35,000 people.

Gazan fishermen cast their nets off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast near Gaza City. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

Farmland located within 500 meters from the perimeter fence is totally inaccessible, while access to areas up to 1500 meters is risky due to frequent ‘warning shots’ by the Israeli army.  An estimated 75,000 metric tonnes of produce are lost each year as result of limited access.

Farmer Nizar Abu-Halim of Beit Lahia points toward the northern border zone from among rows of strawberries on his farm supported by MCC partner Al Najd Development Forum. Smokestacks from a coal-fired power plant across the border in Ashkelon, Israel, are visible on the horizon. (photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

To learn more about AIDA’s campaign, click on the following links:

Press Release – International Pressure Mounts Over Gaza Blockade

5 Fallacies in Gaza and the Facts of Life 5 Years in to the Blockade: Trapped by Land, Air and Sea

5 Years Lost: Case studies looking back at life under blockade