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Argument: Gaza blockade causes economic and humanitarian suffering

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Supporting quotations

Jimmy Carter says the raid is a reminder that "the failed policy of besieging Gaza mainly hurts civilians."[1]

"WSJIDEBATE: Israel’s Gaza Blockade Is Justified. Shikhar Singh: Yes, Legally and Morally." June 8, 2010: "Palestine receives $3 billion in aid overall. Unemployment in the West Bank is 18% and 44% in Gaza. Some 70% of the population of Gaza is below the poverty line (a dollar a day), and 80% is dependent on aid. The social pressures are dire.

Rama Chakaki of the UAE-based Palestine Children’s Relief Fund said in a media interview that the blockade has seriously impaired medical treatment in the region. Her organization works to help bring physicians to the region and to bring those who need immediate care out. But all attempts are thwarted by permits that require months of waiting, even in the most urgent situations. The blockade itself is deeply damaging, and that is what should be at the centre of this debate."

The US Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter calling for lifting the blockade after the flotilla raid. It argued: "The United States must also work with its allies to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Recent events are undoubtedly linked to the counterproductive blockade on Gaza, which punishes ordinary citizens and strengthens Hamas’s control over commerce. The Israeli blockade on Gaza has left more than 80 percent of Gazans dependent on some form of food aid."[2]

Gregg Carlstrom. "Gaza's real humanitarian crisis." Al Jazeera. June 3, 2010. Al Jazeera: "Israel usually allows 81 items into Gaza, a list which is subject to revision on a near-daily basis. It is riddled with contradictions: Zaatar, a mix of dried spices, is allowed into the territory; coriander and cumin are not. Chick peas are allowed, while tahini was barred until March 2010.

'Luxury goods,' things like chocolate, are prohibited altogether.

So are most construction materials, though Israel has relaxed this prohibition slightly over the last few weeks. The United Nations refugee agency has resorted to constructing houses out of mud because other building material are unavailable.

And those products allowed to enter Gaza are permitted only in modest quantities. In January 2007, Gaza received more than 10,000 truckloads of goods each month; by January 2009, that number was down to roughly 3,000.

A 2008 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) found that 70 per cent of Gaza's population suffered from "food insecurity." As Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros reported last week, the Israeli authorities allow little meat and fresh produce into Gaza, leading to widespread malnutrition in the territory." [See article for further analysis]

Medical goods, too, are in short supply. The World Health Organisation says dozens of basic medicines are unavailable in Gaza because of the blockade.

In 2008, Gaza had only 133 hospital beds per 100,000 people, less than one-fourth the hospital capacity of Israel. That capacity was further reduced during Operation Cast Lead - Israel's three-week war in Gaza, launched in December 2008 - which damaged a number of hospitals.

"The situation is deteriorating due to the closure - there are restrictions of movement, restrictions of food - it causes problems in areas of health, water, [and] sanitation," Cecilia Goin, a spokeswoman for the ICRC, said on Monday."

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association in London. “There is a clear link between conditions in Gaza and international law that is relevant this week. At the heart of humanitarian law, the laws of war, and human rights law is a need to ensure that civilians are protected and do not disproportionately suffer from the actions of a state. Right now, every objective assessment is that Gazans are suffering. The elephant in the room in flotilla-attack legal debates is the blockade. The real need is a focus on the legality of the conditions of people in Gaza."[3]

Janine Zacharia. "Life Behind the Gaza Blockade." The Washington Post. June 3, 2010: "Gazans lament where they can't go more than what they can't buy. They also decry the lack of employment -- with no building supplies and few trade possibilities, joblessness is rampant. Once an exporter of fruits and other goods, Gaza has been turned into a mini-welfare state with a broken economy where food and daily goods are plentiful, but where 80 percent of the population depends on charity. Hospitals, schools, electricity systems and sewage treatment facilities are all in deep disrepair. Yet if you walk down Gaza City's main thoroughfare -- Salah al-Din Street -- grocery stores are stocked wall-to-wall with everything from fresh Israeli yogurts and hummus to Cocoa Puffs smuggled in from Egypt. Pharmacies look as well-supplied as a typical Rite Aid in the United States."

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