The de-development of Gaza

Within the past six years, Gaza has gone through three consecutive military operations: the first from Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009, the second between Nov. 14 and 21, 2012, and the third for 50 days from July 7 to Aug. 26, 2014. With such violence occurring over a short period of time, the small Palestinian territory continues to persevere. As the marking of one year passes since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, most have hoped to start over once again. Unfortunately, with the current economic and political state today, those 1.8 million Palestinians living on the Gaza Strip have bleak prospects of reconstruction.

A recently published article from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said Gaza could become uninhabitable in less than five years if current economic and population trends continue, classifying the strip as being in a state of “de-development”—meaning that the current state of Gaza is deteriorating rather than improving.

Gaza’s economy still continues to suffer tremendously. Forty-three percent of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are unemployed, with youth unemployment reaching an alarming 60 percent. Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank country director for the West Bank and Gaza, stated that “the ongoing blockade and the 2014 war have taken a toll on Gaza’s economy and people’s livelihoods. Gaza’s exports virtually disappeared and the manufacturing sector has shrunk by as much as 60 percent. The economy cannot survive without being connected to the outside world.”

One of the ways they’ve continued to stay connected is through Hamas’ sophisticated smuggling tunnels, which cross under both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Since the land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007, those tunnels were used to smuggle supplies and goods necessary for survival, as well as weapon smuggling.

Egypt responded by creating a buffer zone that has demolished around three thousand homes in order to seal off the tunnels. Egypt also flooded the nine-mile border area twice, which has caused tunnels to cave in and become unavailable for use. Without this source of smuggling, Gaza and its citizens continue to be economically crippled.

Violence has escalated and spread throughout both sides of the conflict. Four Israelis were killed in stabbings in Jerusalem, a drive-by shooting in the West Bank on Thursday, Oct. 1, and two Palestinians have been shot dead and multiple others wounded in fights with Israeli security services. Stabbings have now occurred in various places in Jerusalem and its Old City, and in Tel Aviv, Hebron, Kiryat Gat, Beit Sahour and Beit El.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increased military presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to recent clashes. Tensions are continuing to escalate as each day passes.

While this vicious cycle of violence continues to make its rounds, many Palestinians are helplessly stuck in the middle of it all.

One local organization in Portland that works to help those in need is Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), an association united by a mutual concern for human rights, as well as Palestinians specifically. They post news, resources and calendars with event highlights of ongoing conflict in the occupied region.