Unemployed Palestinians demand jobs in front of the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza, 29 August 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)
Failing the Palestinian State, punishing its people: The impact of the economic strangulation on human rights within the Occupied Palestinian Territory
The current report is the outcome of an extensive research over the period from June to October 2006. A mission of the International Federation for Human Rights visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) between 25 June and 2 July 2006. The mission was in close coordination with Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World), which in parallel conducted an evaluation of the evolution of the health situation in the Gaza Strip on the basis of a large inquiry among the medical and health care personnel of hospitals and clinics. The mission was set up in order to examine the situation of economic and social rights in Gaza and the West Bank almost a year after Israel ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza strip and three months after Israel and the international community decided to suspend all contact with the Palestinian Authority government and to interrupt all aid channelled to and via that government. This was because a Hamas-led government had come to power on 29 March 2006 following elections held on 25 January 2006. The mission’s goal was to determine how the conditions under which the ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip took place impacted the economic and social rights of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. It also set out to determine the impact on the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the policies adopted by Israel and the international community following Hamas’ being voted into power.
Members of the mission met with a wide panel of actors in the field representing a wide variety of movements. They met at the Israeli Ministry of foreign affairs with Ms Orli Gil, Head of NGO Unit, Division of International Orgaisations; Mr Daniel Taub, Principal Deputy Legal Adviser; and Mr Eli Avidar, in charge of humanitarian and economic relations with the Palestinian Authority. The members also met with representatives of several ministerial departments of the Palestinian Authority, including the Minister of Finance Mr. Omar Abdel-Razeq ; Mr. Ahmad Abbas and Mr. Khalil Nijem from the Ministry of Planning; Mr. Fawas Sh. Muhahed from the Ministry of education. They met with several persons from the Palestinian legislative council, including its president, Mr. Aziz Dweik and Mr. Iyad Muhammad, director of the legislative council in charge of protocol services. They also met with Mrs. Khalida Jarrar, member of the legislative council and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Members of the mission also met with, and received information from, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, where they met with its president, Mr. Luay Shabaneth, as well as with several of his close co-workers. The members of the mission also has meetings with members of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, including Dr. Wael Qadan, director of health services at Ramallah hospital, and Mr. Mutasem Awad, international humanitarian law coordinator; several Palestinian civil society organisations, among which the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions and human rights organisations such as Al-Haq, FIDH member organization; and representatives of the business world, including representatives of the banking sector. They also met with several Israeli NGOs, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, member of the FIDH.
During the mission, and since returning from their mission, the members of the mission met with a large number of representatives of international agencies, including the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA. They had several meetings with workers from the European Union from the General Direction of humanitarian aid (ECHO) and the European Commission’s Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as members of the cabinet of Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations & European Neighbourhood Policy. A contact sought with the cabinet of Commissioner Louis Michel, Commissioner for development aid, did not lead to a meeting. They met with Ambassador Marc Otte, the European Union’s special representative for the peace process in the Middle East. The members of the mission also met with a member of Finland’s permanent mission to the European Union and councsellor of the Finnish presidency of the Union at a time when Finland was just taking over the presidency. Lastly, they met with several members of the Norwegian mission to the Palestinian Authority, including Norway’s representative, Mr. Sten Arne Rosnes. Throughout their visit, they received the support of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, to whom they wish to express their deepest gratitude.
This report will outline the general context in which the mission took place (II). It will then describe the state of economic and social rights in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as it was observed by the members of the mission (III). A specific section addresses the design and the implementation of the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), imagined by the European Union upon the request of the Quartet for the Middle East and approved by the Quartet in June 2006 in order to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population (IV).