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Joint Statement: Israel’s Oppression of Palestinian Economy

01-01-2003 00:00

Habitat International Coalition and its member al-Mezan Center for Human Rights United Nations Commission on Human Rights, 59th Session (2003) Item 8, Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine This document reports Israel's procedures that restrict Palestinian economic activity within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and demonstrates how such procedures affect the human rights and well-being of civilians under occupation.
Israel systematically obstructs the function and development of the Palestinian economy, both as a practice of collective punishment and to serve its own economic advantage.
The OPT constitutes the primary market for Israeli exports.
(85% of Palestinian imports come from Israel.
) Israel seeks to impede any Palestinian enterprise that would compete with this advantage.
Nonetheless, Israel is obliged under the international human rights law and its agreements with the Palestinian Authority to allowing free economic activities in the OPT.
Israel imposed a comprehensive siege on the OPT on 9 October 2000 that resulted, inter alia, in 274,000 Palestinian workers losing their job opportunities.
Of those, 120,000 were employed inside Israel, 83,000 were employed inside the OPT, and 71,000 were already unemployed before 28 September 2000 and were denied any chance of obtaining a job.
Workers lost their job opportunities by Israel's prevention of movement to reach work places—both in Israel and within the OPT—and also its denial of Palestinian access to raw materials and equipment.
In mid-2002, Israel permitted an average of 15,000 Palestinians to return to their work inside Israel.
In 1999, the unemployment rate in the OPTs was estimated of 20.
9%.
In the 3rd quarter of 2002, the unemployment rate across the OPT jumped to 41.
5%, with a disproportionate 64.
3% in the Gaza Strip.
[1] Between September 2000 and September 2002, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) bulldozed an area of 18,280 dunums[2] of cultivated land and destroyed 183 water wells belonging to Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.
More areas of land were ruined without access to irrigation water.
As a result, 24,366 more people lost their source of income; 10,026 of whom are children.
Since the beginning of 2002, IOF razed another 4,270 dunams in the Gaza Strip and uprooted tens of thousands of fruit-bearing trees, mainly olive, almond, and citrus throughout the OPT.
The loss to the agricultural sector is astronomical, as the loss to the Palestinian economy overall.
Since 28 September 2000, the IOF wantonly targeted industrial and commercial enterprises, mostly owned by the Palestinian private sector.
In the Gaza Strip alone, they destroyed 143 industrial establishments and 269 commercial stores.
The IOF used helicopter-guided missiles, land-to-land missiles, tank shells, bulldozers and mines to destroy these establishments.
In many cases, the IOF looted equipment and raw materials upon searching industrial establishments.
During the last three months of 2002, Israel intensified its operations that targeted industrial establishments in the Gaza Strip.
The loss in the West Bank is even greater, particularly after the so-called “Operation Defensive Shield� in March and April 2002.
The siege also caused much loss in the trade sector.
Palestinians have to use Israeli sea and air ports for commercial transport, all of which are under Israeli control.
In addition, Palestinians have to import and export through Israeli agents.
Israel has imposed draconian restrictions on Palestinian imports, detaining goods for long periods, requiring back-to-back reloading and prohibiting Palestinian transport vehicles from reaching their destinations.
The costs of time and materials skyrocketed as Palestinian dealers were forced to pay for Israeli transporters and for the fees of detention.
In many cases, perishable goods were ruined by the time they reached market.
The construction sector in the OPTs is almost paralyzed due to Israel's restriction on the movement and productions of vital materials and equipment.
The lack of such materials has caused a significant increase in their prices.
Before 28 September 2000, 50.
3% of the Palestinian labor force in the OPTs worked in the important construction sector.
Israel's siege and attacks on the OPTs caused serious damage to the tourism sector, too.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians who live and work abroad used to visit their families in the summers, but stayed away in 2001–02 due to the security threats and of fear that they would not be able to return to their work.
In addition, Israel's procedures restricted the Christmas ceremonies for the last two years, particularly crippling the town of Bethlehem.
These two sources used to be very important for Palestinian tourism.
The transportation sector in the OPTs is suffering an estimated 80% loss in revenue.
The IOF has prohibited Palestinian trucks, and transporters, passage through the crossing points around the Gaza Strip.
Hence, Israel has severely impeded movement between Gaza and the West Bank.
Moreover, military occupation has brought vehicular movement to a halt hundreds of times as the IOF closed the roads between towns in the Gaza Strip.
Added to the destruction of hundreds of taxis and trucks during Israeli army and settler attacks, the transportation sector's loss is estimated at over a billion dollars.
It is worth noting that 4.
8% of the Palestinian labor force used to work in this sector.
The average rate of income in the Gaza Strip also has decreased sharply.
Prior to 28 September 2000, per capita income was lower than its counterparts in the neighboring countries (e.
g.
, 72% of the rate in Egypt, 45% of Syria,s, 49.
6% of Jordan,s).
On average, the per capita share in Gaza from the GDP used to be US$ 1,388.
However, that same share now has dropped to US$ 832, a decrease of over 40%.
The poverty rate in the Gaza Strip ranges between 70% and 85% of the total population.
Certain pockets within the Gaza Strip suffer relatively deeper poverty, particularly in the south.
In Rafah, described as the poorest town in the OPT, over 85% of the population is unable to afford the municipality fees, running water, and electricity services.
[3] Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights and Habitat International Coalition draw the Commission's attention to Israel's systematic economic rights violations in the OPT as breaches of its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law treaties.
We specifically call upon the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate Israel's procedures in the OPTs and take the necessary and effective measures to end Israeli violations against the civilian population in these territories.
We urge this Commission to call for the enforceable withdrawal of Israel from the OPT and international cooperation to reconstruct Palestine and its economy.
To do less only perpetuates the conditions of war in the region, and lead civilians to perpetual deprivation with all of its grave and ominous consequences for the region and beyond.
For further information, please consult the following websites: www.
hic-mena.
org and www.
mezan.
org
[1] According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics
[2] One dunum equals 1,000 square meters.

[3] As reported by the UN Special Coordinator's Office.

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