"GAZA UNDER THE ISRAELI BLOCKADE"
In 2010, after Israeli naval commandos attacked a Turkish flotilla off the Gaza coast, to international outrage, Israel said it had relaxed the blockade. But today there is still only one ill-equipped access point for goods, whereas the West Bank has many more. Israel makes it extremely difficult and expensive for the UN’s Relief and Works Agency and other aid agencies—the source of life and livelihood for thousands of the 1.6 million Gazans—to import basic materials for rebuilding projects, such as machinery, fuel, cement, and rebar. The UN estimates that Operation Cast Lead created more than half a million tons of rubble, which has become a currency in its own right. It’s everywhere, and the rubble collectors are usually teams of children wielding mallets and hammers, breaking down the stuff, sifting it, loading it onto donkey carts, and bringing it to one of the many concrete-block factories that have sprung up. This is how Gazans, unable to legally import construction materials, are rebuilding. A government economist said that rubble alone accounted for a 6 percent drop in unemployment in 2010. According to a Gazan customs official I spoke with, the spring of 2011 saw imports at their lowest level since the blockade began. And what did get through, he said, was often degraded: used clothing and appliances, junk food, castoff produce. It was impossible “to meet basic needs,” the official said, insisting that the hesar, or siege, as Gazans call it, was crippling them. Even some of Israel’s oldest supporters agreed. British Prime Minister David Cameron lamented that under the blockade, Gaza had come to resemble a “prison camp.”
A worker emerges from one of hundreds of smuggling tunnels that connect the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Gaza, Palestine 2011