In early 2007, Israel, backed by the U.S., imposed a full blockade over Gaza following the Hamas-Fatah split. The blockade not only has restricted the free movement of the 1.6 million people who live in Gaza, but also has prevented medical supplies, raw materials for industrial production, electronic equipment, and other basic goods from entering Gaza. Thus the majority of industrial operations have ceased. Combined with lack of electricity, production materials, and the ability to export goods, this crippled economy has led to Gaza's 40 percent unemployment rate, and has left most of the population living below the poverty line of $2 per day.
In 2010, the Israeli government announced an "ease" to the blockade, allowing for a limited increase in imports such as clothing and food. However restrictions on many essential goods still exist, exacerbating the sense of helplessness in many strained communities.
AFSC currently supports a youth program in Gaza that provides high school and college age students’ opportunities to address problems and issues of importance to them in their communities – such as the blockade’s impact. Youth engaged in AFSC’s program have helped clean up and repair schools, built community gardens to benefit hungry families in their communities, constructed playgrounds, and painted community murals.
While important, this kind of program can do little to address the larger social and political problem faced by Gaza’s youth including the poverty, displacement, and hunger that result from the blockade. Through our work in Gaza, AFSC bears witness to the incredible suffering brought about by the blockade. This suffering will not be ended by humanitarian or development programs alone, but through political action. It is this experience in Gaza that has led AFSC to join dozens of other groups in issuing this joint statement to end the blockade.