Released three months after the end of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, the statement, signed by CARE, Oxfam, Defense for Children International and more than a dozen other organizations, the statement offered scathing criticism to the international community.
More than “lip service to the needs of the people of Gaza” is required, the statement said. IT had particularly harsh words for the European Union, set to review its trade and economic relations with Israel in the coming weeks.
“If the EU does not put the brakes on the process to strengthen ties with Israel, it will be sending a dangerous signal to the world that maintaining a destructive policy of closure is acceptable,” said Martha Myers, country director of CARE West Bank and Gaza.
“Gaza’s industry, including the agricultural sector, has almost completely collapsed and reconstruction has proved a near impossible task. Operation Cast Lead destroyed Gaza’s economy which was already severely weakened after months of blockade. It makes no sense to continue depriving ordinary people the opportunity to earn a living and support their families. The crossings must be opened now to allow the normal flow of commerce. If they are not, the people of Gaza simply will not recover,” added Myers.
Reconstruction in Gaza is severely constrained. Materials such as cement and reinforced steel rods are still being denied entry by Israel, the statement said.
Highlighting the ramifications of the decision the joint statement said, “This means that the 20,000 families – or at least 140,000 people – whose homes were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable as a result of the conflict are unable to rebuild their lives. Many are living in tents and in makeshift shelters constructed with salvaged bricks and plastic sheeting, with no end in sight.”
Country Director for Oxfam Great Britain in Jerusalem John Prideaux-Brune said bluntly that “There has been zero progress in allowing construction materials in to help people rebuild their lives. This is unacceptable, full stop.”
He called on world leaders to “take practical steps to fully open the crossings and exert as much pressure on Israel and all parties to ensure that families can finally see a light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel. A drip-feed of food aid and medicines is simply not enough.”
The NGO coalition responsible for the statement includes:
- CARE West Bank and Gaza
- Oxfam International
- War Child Holland
- Medical Aid for Palestinians-UK
- Action Against Hunger
- Norwegian Refugee Council
- Caritas Jerusalem
- Lutheran World Federation
- Gruppo Volontariato Civile
- The Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief
- Defense for Children International/ Palestine Section
- Norwegian Church Aid
- ACSUR-Las Segovias
- Medico International
- Campaign for the Children of Palestine: CCP-JAPAN
- Paz con Dignidad
- Mennonite Central Committee
- CISS - Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud
- Japan International Volunteer Center
- MPDL: Movimiento por la Paz, el Desarme y la Libertad