By: Amanda Qadri*

For decades, Israel and the State of Palestine have clashed. Putting aside the politics behind the ongoing conflict, there is a humanitarian issue that is overlooked: Palestinians are being deprived of the daily essentials necessary for survival. According to the United Nations (U.N.), Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020.[1]

Palestinians are denied their right to enjoy free and normal access to global markets.[2] A recent report published by the U.N. states that Palestinians are hindered by the 490 barriers installed by Israel, including checkpoints, roadblocks, trenches, and the Separation Barrier.[3] Additionally, Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and coast.[4] “Exports from Gaza have been almost completely banned, imports and transfers of cash severely restricted, and the flow of all but the most basic humanitarian goods suspended.”[5] These checkpoints, which have grown in popularity since the early 2000s, are “now part of everyday life for Palestinians, with thousands having to pass through them daily – for work, social or family visits, or medical treatment.”[6] Israel obstructs the movement of Palestinian people and goods, and as a result, Gaza remains isolated from the world and its traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel.[7]

Gaza has continued to endure eight years of economic blockade, as well as three full-scale Israeli military operations over the past six years.[8] Last year alone, Israel’s military operation on Gaza “caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services.”[9] The U.N. Report describes significant economic losses, such as the destruction or severe damage of more than 62,000 Palestinian homes, 148 schools, fifteen hospitals, and forty-five primary health-care centers.[10] Even Gaza’s staple fishing industry has been greatly affected by airstrikes and military conflict, with “at least 177 incidents of naval fire against fishermen,” leaving a fishing zone of only three miles from the shore.[11] “By May 2015, not a single destroyed home had been rebuilt and no progress had been achieved in the reconstruction and repair of the destroyed infrastructure, factories, houses, hospitals and schools.”[12]

The blockade’s devastating effects on the Palestinian people further include: food insecurity, water deprivation, and electricity shortages. Palestinians suffer with historically high food insecurity: one in three households struggles to put food on the table.[13] Seventy-two percent of households are affected by food insecurity, and Palestinians have no reliable source of clean water to drink.[14] Gaza mainly relies on a coastal aquifer for its freshwater; however, the ninety-five percent of the aquifer’s water is not safe for human consumption. Furthermore, “[a]ccess to water resources by Palestinians … is controlled by Israel and the amount of water available to Palestinians is restricted to a level which does not meet their needs and does not constitute a fair and equitable share of the shared water resources.”[15]

This economic blockade has also created shortages of electricity and fuel for Palestinians.[16] The Israeli occupation does not allow Palestinians to develop and use the offshore natural gas fields discovered – even though one of the high-quality gas fields entirely lies within the waters of Gaza.[17]

Gaza is one of the most densely populated tracts of land in the world.[18] Yet, Gaza’s population is only increasing. Within five years, the population in Gaza is expected to increase from 1.8 million to 2.1 million.[19] Accordingly, the blockades that “impos[e] collective punishment on the territory’s approximately 1.8 million, predominantly civilian, inhabitants, with all imports and exports, and any movements of people into or out of Gaza” will only continue to worsen, “unless the blockade is lifted to allow importation of the equipment and spare parts necessary for rebuilding infrastructure.”[20]

Three years before Israel’s 2014 military operation in Gaza, the U.N. conducted a study to forecast the living conditions in Gaza in 2020.[21] The study “[c]oncluded that for Gaza to be a liveable place in 2020 ‘herculean efforts’ needed to be accelerated in such sectors as health, education, energy, water and sanitation.”[22] However, in this last year alone, Gaza has only seen increased military activity in the region, leading to further deterioration to the region.[23] After the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process visited Gaza in April 2015, he described the destruction by stating that “no human being who visits can remain untouched by the terrible devastation that one sees here in Gaza,” and as shocking as the devastation of the buildings might be, “the devastation of peoples’ livelihoods is 10 times more shocking.”[24]

The U.N. believes, “while donor aid is important for extending a lifeline to the beleaguered people of Gaza, aid should not be viewed as a substitute for ending the blockade and calling on Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law.”[25] Israel is violating almost all of the sacred rights, recognized by the Fourth Geneva Convention, of Palestinians living in occupied Palestine.[26] Palestinians have a human right to development under international law; however, “[s]elf-sufficiency is impossible with Israel’s blockades and periodic destruction of infrastructure and private assets.”[27]

For the first time in history, the Palestinian flag was raised at the U.N. headquarters in New York.[28] This act highlights the increased attention to the devastation in Gaza and calls for an end to the continued violations of human rights and international law; the raising of the Palestinian flag paves the way for Palestine’s right to self-determination.

[1] U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, Report on UNCTAD Assistance to the Palestinian People: Developments in the Economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, U.N. Doc. TD/B/62/3 (July 6, 2015) [hereinafter U.N. Report].

[2] Id. at 13.

[3] Id. at 4.

[4] BBC News, Gaza: Population and Security, (last visited Oct. 25, 2015).

[5] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 7.

[6] See also BBC News, Guide to a West Bank Checkpoint,

[7] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 4.

[8] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 7.

[9] Amnesty International Report 2014/15: The State of the World’s Human Rights, Amnesty International, at 197,

[10] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 9.

[11] Arwa Mhanna, Airstrikes Destroying Gaza’s Fishing Industry, Oxfam International, (last visited Nov. 22, 2015).

[12] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 14; see also Israel and the Occupied Territories 2014 Human Rights Report, U.S. State Department 39 (2014) (relating the decline of Arab small business owners to the engagement of radical military groups in the Occupied Territories).

[13] Press Release, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Discriminatory Policies Lie Behind New Recession in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, U.N. Press Release UNCTAD/PRESS/PR/2015/027 (Sept. 1, 2015).

[14] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 8, 12.

[15] Troubled Waters – Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water, Amnesty International, at 9 (2009).

[16] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 12.

[17] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 13.

[18] BBC News, supra note 4.

[19] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 13.

[20] Amnesty International Report, supra note 12, at 199; U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 13.

[21] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 11.

[22] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 11.

[23] Amnesty International Report, supra note 12, at 197-99.

[24] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 9.

[25] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 15.

[26] Francis Boyle, The International Laws of Belligerent Occupation, If Americans Knew, (last visited Oct. 11, 2015).

[27] U.N. Report, supra note 1, at 15.

[28] BBC News, Palestinian Flag Raised at United Nations Headquarters, Sept. 30, 2015,

*Edited by N. Giovanni Bush & Christine Sanders