Palestinians living in Gaza have endured severe restrictions on movement and access, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Israel and Egypt closed their border crossings, imposing strict and often arbitrary rules on what and who, can enter or leave Gaza. This effectively created an open air prison for two million people. The long-term humanitarian impacts of these restrictions have been devastating: 97% of Gaza’s tap water is contaminated, and many in Gaza have electricity for only a few hours a day.
The long-term humanitarian impacts of these restrictions have been devastating: 97% of Gaza’s tap water is contaminated.
In response to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) offered an important amendment highlighting the human toll of Israel’s sustained blockade of Gaza during consideration of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (FY22 NDAA).
The amendment would require a report on the humanitarian, economic, and psychological impact of the severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip, and potential solutions to the humanitarian crisis. It would also mandate an assessment of the efficacy of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and the feasibility of new internationally-supervised inspection measures.
“The proposed Gaza amendment is a milestone in overdue recognition that unconditional U.S. military and political support for Israel has helped enable the imprisonment and suffering of millions of Palestinians in Gaza during a 14-year Israeli blockade that stands as one of the longest-lasting acts of collective punishment in recent history,” said Raed Jarrar, Advocacy Director for Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). “The Sanders amendment is an important step forward to taking responsibility and seeking solutions for this human-caused crisis, including a long-overdue U.N. monitored border control mechanism.”
Introduction of this amendment to the FY22 NDAA comes at a critical time for Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli bombings of Gaza earlier this year resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries, including dozens of children. They caused significant damage to housing and infrastructure that still has not been repaired because of draconian restrictions on ports of entry.
The amendment would require a report on the humanitarian, economic, and psychological impact of the severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of the Gaza Strip.
The targeting of homes, roads, streets, sewer lines, and rainwater drainage has led to massive physical destruction and a desperate humanitarian crisis, exacerbating an already dire situation. The lack of reconstruction in advance of the winter months has intensified human suffering, as many homes that were destroyed during repeated attacks on Gaza have not yet been rebuilt. Not until the end of August did Israel begin allowing the entry of construction materials, industrial equipment, and electrical supplies into Gaza for recovery efforts, and many necessary supplies, such as concrete and water pipes, remain blocked.
“The 14-year Israeli siege of Gaza has created immense suffering for millions of Palestinians and fueled endless cycles of violence,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, FCNL’s legislative director for Middle East policy. “We urge the Senate to adopt this important amendment and support a new international agreement on movement and access for Gaza that lifts the siege, ends the humanitarian crisis, sustains a durable ceasefire, and helps bring about long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
In support of the Sanders amendment, the FCNL and DAWN organized a coalition letter signed by more than 70 national organizations. This diverse coalition was made up of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian organizations representing of millions of Americans, including American Muslims for Palestine, U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, J Street, IfNotNow, National Council of Churches and Churches for Middle East Peace. The letter was also signed by human rights groups such as Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch; political and grassroots organizations including MoveOn and the Working Families Party; and humanitarian organizations such as Oxfam America and the Norwegian Refugee Council. It received national coverage in Politico and Jewish Currents.