'Gaza economy collapsing under siege'

B'tselem: 95% of factories are closed, 93% of water is polluted.

palestinian poverty 311 (photo credit: AP)
palestinian poverty 311
(photo credit: AP)
Most of Gaza’s factories have closed and its water is polluted as a result of Israel’s policy of closing land crossings to all but humanitarian aid, according to a new report being released Monday by the human rights group B’tselem.
The closure policy has “led to economic collapse in Gaza,” B’tselem charged in a 44-page report that looked at Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the period from January 2009 to the end of April 2010.
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According to the report, the prohibition on bringing in raw materials and exports into Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in June 2007, forced 95 percent of the factories and workshops in the area to close.
Before 2007, 4,000 types of goods were let into Gaza, compared with 150 that come in now. Among the restricted items are building materials such as iron and cement, which, according to the report, are needed to rebuild the 3,500 homes destroyed during Operation Cast Lead.
The quantity of goods that comes through the crossings is less than onequarter of what entered prior to the restrictions, the report says.
Before 2007, 70 trucks laden with export goods such as furniture, clothing and produce left Gaza daily for Israel. Now, only the export of strawberries and flowers to Europe is allowed in certain instances, according to the report, which notes that goods are coming into Gaza through a system of illegal tunnels set up under the border with Egypt, although the system is not enough to revive Gaza’s economy.
Electricity is a problem in Gaza, according to the report, which states that 98% of the residents suffer from blackouts ranging from eight to 10 hours a day, while the remaining 2% do not receive any electricity at all.
The power outages and the lack of spare parts have prevented the proper operation of wells and desalination plants, said B’tselem.
At the end of 2009, studies showed that 93% percent of the Gaza Strip’s water was polluted, with high quantities of chloride and nitrates, said B’tselem.
“The water supply is defective and thousands of residents are not even connected to the water grid. Waste treatment has also been affected. Every day, some 100,000 cubic meters of untreated or partially untreated waste-water flow into the sea,” the organization wrote in the report.
A lack of pesticides and spare parts for irrigation systems makes it hard for farmers, according to the report. Those with land near the border with Israel can no longer farm because access is forbidden or restricted, and those who violate these orders risk being shot.
Fisherman cannot go out farther than three nautical miles, which limits the Strip’s fish supply, according to the report.
Regarding the West Bank, the report noted that there had been some improvements for Palestinians, including an 81% drop in the number of people killed by the IDF since Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009.
According to the report, the number of Palestinian fatalities at the hands of the IDF dropped from 456 in 2008 to 83 from January 21, 2009, through the end of April 2010.
These numbers do not include Palestinian deaths that occurred during Operation Cast Lead.
The report added that restrictions on Palestinian movement and access had been reduced in the West Bank in the period covered. In early February 2010, there were 44 staffed checkpoints inside the West Bank, compared with 64 in 2008, according to the report.
The report also noted that only four additional kilometers of the security barrier had been constructed in 2010. It added that changes to the route could connect some of the Palestinian communities that had been separated for six years.
It noted that no Palestinian homes had been demolished in east Jerusalem in 2010, but that demolitions had continued in Area C of the West Bank, where from January 2009 to the end of April 2010, the Civil Administration had destroyed 44 residential structures built without a permit.
The demolitions left 317 Palestinians homeless. More than half of the demolitions took place in Beduin communities in the Jordan Valley, according to the report.
In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 48 buildings in east Jerusalem, in which 247 Palestinians lived, compared with 89 buildings in 2008.
The report notes that in spite of the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction, the IDF had not done enough to stop building in Judea and Samaria. It noted that no outposts had been removed. It added that the civil administration had handed out 423 notices of moratorium violations. The civil administration said that in many of those instances, people had stopped working after receiving the notices, although it did not provide numbers.
The B’tselem report also noted that the Gush Etzion Regional Council had filed plans to construct thousands of apartments for an area known as Gevaot, where it hopes to build a major city. The report did note that these plans had not yet been approved.
According to the report, very few IDF or police investigations into allegations of wrongdoing against Palestinians had actually lead to convictions.
From the start of the second intifada in September 2000 to the end of April 2010, B’tselem reported 255 cases of violence to the military advocate-general’s office. Only 11 indictments were filed, and one of those was canceled.
During that same period, B’tselem turned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department concerning 180 cases of violence, but only 12 indictments were filed.
Since September 2000, B’tselem has submitted 220 complaints to the Israel Police, demanding investigations of cases where Israelis harmed Palestinians or damaged their property. Only nine of these complaints resulted in indictments.
B’tselem executive director Jessica Montell said that the report was being released to mark “the 43rd anniversary” of the end of the Six Day War, which marked “the beginning” of Israel’s occupation.
“The ongoing occupation both violates” Palestinian rights and “poses clear dangers for Israel’s democracy,” Montell said. "For this reason we as Israelis must demand accountability for actions taken in our name in the occupied territories and work to change in policies that infringe human rights.”