WHAT do women, food, medicine and aid have in common? They have all been blocked from entering Gaza by boat at some point, most recently this week. The Zaytouna-Oliva had set sail from Spain with an all-female crew and no aid and was said to be a symbolic gesture. The mission highlighted the decade-long blockade of “the world’s largest open-air prison.” Israel used this as yet another opportunity to remind the activism world as to who is in charge by intercepting the boat and diverting it.
Israeli had previously blocked similar missions by boat in 2010, and uses systematic hurdles to prolong aid deliver on a regular basis. Yet Israel does not only prevent symbolic emotional aid such as Zaytouna-Oliva from reaching Palestinians, rather physical aid as well. This is a costly business to the Palestinians from which the Israeli government and business benefit greatly.
In a September 2015 study published by Shir Hever, an Israeli economist, it was highlighted that a shocking 72 percent of aid intended for the Palestinian people is soaked into the Israeli economy. Through systematic abuse of legal loopholes, the Israeli government is managing to deprive necessary aids to Palestinians, introducing further stress on their livelihoods.
Campaign groups must recognize that their role must stretch beyond campaigning and into activism that challenges the legal system within Israel that allows it to act as a constant mediator to aid being delivered to the Palestinian people
The United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) paid $2.5 million in taxes to the Israeli government in 2002. In 2013, the World Bank estimated that the multiple layers and levels of land restrictions cost the Palestinian economy $3.4 billion, or 35 percent of Palestine’s total GDP. Aid must not be taxed, and systematic loopholes that engage with this mechanism must be plugged.
The international activism community has spent a lot of time, effort, and most importantly money, into highlighting the systematic injustices suffered by the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli government. This has been successful in garnering increased rates of sympathy toward the Palestinian people, as highlighted by Pew Research Center, which showed that between July 2014 and April 2016, the percentage of Americans sympathizing with Palestinians has increased from 14 percent to 19 percent.
Although five percentage points may seem relatively low, this shows a growing trend in the political views heightened by various Palestinian campaign groups in the United States.
Still, campaign groups must recognize that their role must stretch beyond campaigning and into activism that challenges the legal system within Israel that allows it to act as a constant mediator to aid being delivered to the Palestinian people. Various methodologies, including tax, diverting aid to storage warehouses, and transportation limitations are employed by Israel to divert financial aid as well as physical aid.
By sending physical aid to storage facilities, which are owned by Israeli businesses, using roads and transportation vehicles employed by Israeli companies, the Israeli economy is has become increasingly weary of the impact of prolonging the time it takes for aid delivery. The reasoning is simple: the longer it takes for aid to reach Palestinians, the more aid money is spent on unnecessary activities, such as renting storage capacity.
The blockade of the Zaytouna-Oliva to Gaza must be the last time that Israel exercises its powers to block aid. Although sending an all-female crew is symbolic, the Palestinians have a history of prevailing through disparity. Israel may have been able to block an all-female ship from entering the maritime borders of Gaza, but it must not forget that the women (and men) of Gaza and Palestine do not need inspirational figures arriving on boats, they are inspiration in themselves.
After all, Palestinians have managed to continue to live, innovate, and leave their mark on the world through teaching awards despite decades of occupation. Just imagine how much more successful they can be if they were allowed to access 100 percent of the aid donated to them. They will then probably not need any aid at all.
[Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir].