From here to eternity: the Gaza blockade

If a week is a long time in politics, then six months must be close to an eternity.
 
It should (one would think) be enough time for Israel’s much-trumpeted “easing” of its blockade on Gaza to have brought some real improvements to the lives of 1.5 million Gazans.

Has it? Well, judge for yourself. In the last six months:

* There have been no exports allowed out of Gaza
* Israel has granted approval in 7% of projects submitted by the UN’s Refugee and Works Agency for constructing clinics and schools (though only a fraction of this small number green-lighted have actually had materials sent through)
* There is still no free movement of people in and out of Gaza (movement levels are 1% of those in the year 2000, for example)
* Imports into Gaza are still at 35% of pre-blockade levels

To gloss this a bit: the imports figure is up from 20% of pre-blockade levels but – obviously – still way down on what used to be allowed in before the blockade was put in place in 2007. (More details in a new briefing from Amnesty and 21 other organisations here).

So, we’re talking about small changes – the noose being loosened – not significant measures; nor, of course, are we even getting close to a lifting of the blockade (please support Amnesty's call on William Hague for it to be lifted).

And this is surely the point. If Israel is breaching international law by collectively punishing an entire population (as it is with the blockade of Gaza), then merely lessening the punishment somewhat doesn’t materially alter the fact that collective punishment is still taking place.

Actually, ask yourself: why is the world even prepared to accept the concept of this “easing” at all? As Amnesty’s Kate Allen says, the only substantial “easing” to come out of things since Israel announced the new regime in the summer has been in the field of international relations, with Israel able to talk about its easing measures whenever the blockade is raised. (Catherine Ashton's intervention last week was perhaps a sign that the EU at least is beginning to lose patience with the extreme gradualism of easing).

But, even if you’re willing to accept the easing approach, the figures show that Israel’s loosening of the screw is derisory.

To give you another figure: the UN has estimated that Gaza needs 670,000 truckloads of construction materials to rebuild its shattered infrastructure; in the last six months Israel’s “easing” has allowed in a grand total of 4,290. At this rate, then, it will take another 78 years to get those materials in. No quite an eternity, but to the people of Gaza it will probably feel like it. 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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