The humanitarian situation in Gaza has grown beyond intolerable. If you have any doubts, just read this devastatingly important article by Sara Roy, senior research scholar at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies:
Today, 96 percent of Gaza’s population of 1.4 million is dependent on humanitarian aid for basic needs. According to the World Food Programme, the Gaza Strip requires a minimum of 400 trucks of food every day just to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. Yet, despite a 22 March decision by the Israeli cabinet to lift all restrictions on foodstuffs entering Gaza, only 653 trucks of food and other supplies were allowed entry during the week of May 10, at best meeting 23 percent of required need.And now the news has just come in that Israel has seized the “Spirit of Humanity,” a boat carrying a cargo of humanitarian aid in international waters, and is forcibly towing it to an Israeli port. The boat contained 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It was bringing medicine, toys, and other much needed humanitarian relief.
Israel now allows only 30 to 40 commercial items to enter Gaza compared to 4,000 approved products prior to June 2006. According to the Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, Gazans still are denied many commodities (a policy in effect long before the December assault): Building materials (including wood for windows and doors), electrical appliances (such as refrigerators and washing machines), spare parts for cars and machines, fabrics, threads, needles, candles, matches, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses, musical instruments, books, tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, chocolate, sesame seeds, nuts, milk products in large packages, most baking products, light bulbs, crayons, clothing, and shoes.
What possible benefit can be derived from an increasingly impoverished, unhealthy, densely crowded, and furious Gaza alongside Israel? Gaza’s terrible injustice not only threatens Israeli and regional security, but it undermines America’s credibility, alienating our claim to democratic practice and the rule of law.
If you’re looking for a way to channel your upset over this dire situation into effective contribution to Gaza relief, I particularly recommmend American Near East Refugee Aid. Their projects in Gaza include:
- Delivery of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics;
- Distribution of fortified milk and high-energy biscuits to 25,200 children in 186 preschools.
- Water projects that bring water networks to families in need and pumping systems to keep raw sewage off the streets.
- A psychosocial program that helps thousands of children and parents struggling to survive the effects of war.
- Cash-for-work programs that employ workers to clear agricultural land of plastic waste and provide 200 families a means of self-reliance.