Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gaza lives on

Since 2007, most of the approximately 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip have suffered gravely from an intensified land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel.

The blockade, deemed illegal by the United Nations, was implemented after Hamas, a Palestinian faction labelled a terrorist organisation by Tel Aviv, took control over the territory and ousted Fatah officials from power in the battle of Gaza.

After more than two decades of tight sanctions and even though Israel eased the restrictions on non-military goods in 2010, the blockade continues to take a heavy toll on Gaza's civilian population, with many essential and basic goods banned from being exported or imported. This has led to rampant poverty and a massive unemployment rate in Gaza.

But Gaza once had thriving economy and was a major exporter of key staple foods, including fruits and vegetables, to countries across the world. Israel's policies since the occupation, however, have forced the vast majority of Gazans to rely on foreign humanitarian aid for survival.

According to the UN, about one-third of Gaza's arable land and 85 per cent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to the Israeli blockade.

Abu Anwar Jahjouh, who has worked as a corn seller for the past 15 years and lives in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, says it is a daily struggle to scrape out a living: "Back in the 1960s, we used to export oranges. Ships would come from Turkey, Spain, Germany and all of Europe. We used to export oranges, lemons, clementines and grapefruits. But those ships stopped coming to Gaza after 1967. No one comes to Gaza anymore. We can't export anything. That's why we started selling corn here on the beach. We sell anything." More