Collecting an allowance of precious water in Gaza. Photo by Nasser Nawa’ja, B’Tselem
In a recent report examining the Israeli blockade on Gaza, the NGO Oxfam revealed how internationally-brokered measures have negatively impacted development in the Strip through import restrictions on “dual use” items: materials Israel says could be used in the construction of military infrastructure and weapons.
In the aftermath of the assault on Gaza in 2014 –Operation Protective Edge – a temporary measure was introduced in order to facilitate the rebuilding of Gaza: the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM). This measure was brokered in co-operation with the Palestinian National Authority, Israel, and the United Nations (UN) and was formulated to regulate entry into Gaza of construction supplies that Israel classifies as “dual use”.
However, the report found that the GRM has actually delayed, and has been detrimental to, the reconstruction of Gaza. Critics have argued that the GRM itself serves to legitimize the blockade on Gaza by formalizing the process of limiting the import of vital materials into the Strip, thus validating Israeli control over the area. The report details the humanitarian crisis resulting from the GRM as well as its impact on sanitation and development infrastructures. According to Oxfam:
“the mechanism allows Israeli authorities the power to significantly delay or not approve projects at all, as well as to reject specific items essential for the delivery of infrastructure, despite stringent monitoring undertaken and funded by then international community.”
Oxfam have found that the existing water crisis in Gaza has only worsened since the GRM was formulated:
“Attacks in 2014 caused further significant damage to Gaza’s water and sanitation systems. Gaza’s only power plant was bombed, leaving water and wastewater pumps and treatment plants with extreme shortages of electricity.”
Over 3 000 various items, have been classified by Israeli authorities as “dual-use” and have thus been prohibited from entering, such as metal pipes, asphalt and raw materials for manufacturing, consequently delaying key hygiene and sanitation projects and detrimentally effecting various infrastructural sectors, most notably water sanitation.
Moreover, for the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, the 2014 Israeli assault constitutes the starting point of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, disregarding the infrastructural issues in sanitation and development, and the general health of the population, that have existed long before 2014.
Rather than condemning the blockade and Israel’s impact on the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations’ decision to work together with the Israeli government to implement it through the GRM has only worked to cover up what is a structural problem in Gaza.
Whilst the UN has publically opposed the blockade in Gaza, through brokered negotiations such as the GRM, the UN has in fact been complicit with Israel through overseeing and restricting basic supplies needed to rebuild. As the report states:
“The root cause of the failures of the GRM are the restrictions inherent in the blockade itself: the fact that the ‘dual use’ list is imposed and fully controlled by Israel. However, the GRM formalizes these restrictions, at best mitigating some of the violations of an inherently unlawful blockade but fundamentally failing to challenge it.”
Furthermore, the UN has reported that by 2020 the Gaza Strip will be unliveable as a result of the water crisis and various humanitarian and infrastructural emergencies. However, the UN were also a key facilitator in the brokering of the GRM, which has resulted in the de-development and worsening situation in the Gaza Strip.