signed by 24 European and International human rights, development and peace-building organizations addressed
To: High Representative Catherine Ashton, EU foreign ministers
Foreign Affairs Council of 26 July: Further steps to ensure a complete lifting of the Gaza blockade
Dear High Representative, dear Ministers,
As a coalition of European and international humanitarian, development, human rights and peace-building organisations, many of us with operations or partners in the Gaza Strip, we welcome the EU’s recent high-level engagement on Gaza.
In order to achieve the ‘immediate, sustained, and unconditional opening of the crossings’ that the EU has repeatedly called for, we believe it is important to maintain this momentum to ensure the blockade of the Gaza Strip is completely lifted.
While the changes in the blockade policy announced by the Government of Israel on 20 June and 5 July represent steps forward, they fall short of what is needed to rebuild Gaza’s economy and what is required by international law.
It is therefore crucial that the EU continues to insist on a full lifting and not just easing of the blockade – while ensuring that the Israeli authorities can make legitimate security checks on goods and persons going through the crossings.
Even with the announced changes, the blockade continues to be in violation of Israel’s obligations as the occupying power under international law.
It condemns Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, half of whom are children, to poverty and violates their human rights.
And it undermines hopes for a just and durable resolution of the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With a view to the next Foreign Affairs Council on 26 July, we urge you to agree on coordinated political action to ensure the full lifting of the blockade and to enable rebuilding of Gaza’s economy, focusing on the following five essential steps:
1) ending the ban on exports from Gaza;
2) allowing movement of people into and out of Gaza;
3) ensuring sufficient capacity and efficiency of the crossings;
4) allowing the entry of construction materials for the private sector; and
5) ensuring access to Gaza’s agricultural land and fishing grounds.
We believe that securing clear commitments on these issues – rather than only the implementation of the announced changes - should now be a top priority.
The planned visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) including the Gaza Strip by the High Representative and by a group of EU foreign ministers will be important opportunities to advance these steps.
The EU should also work to ensure that they are central to the strategy of the whole Quartet and its envoy Tony Blair.
As the High Representative stated on 5 July, ‘private sector development and commercial activity, including exports, will be crucial for the recovery of Gaza.
The movement of persons and trade between Gaza and the West Bank should remain one of the key objectives.
’ It is indeed by focusing on these objectives and the other issues listed above that the EU can provide most added value.
We recognise that the idea of deploying EU monitors at the crossings is well-intentioned but it would have to be linked to a full lifting of the blockade in line with international law.
We have attached an annex detailing the above five steps, and urge you to ensure they are addressed at the Foreign Affairs Council and during the planned visits to Israel and oPt.
We thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations raised in this letter and remain at your disposal to discuss them in greater depth.
Representatives of the following 25 organisations: · Kate Allen
Amnesty International UK · Pol Degreve
Broederlijk Delen (Belgium) · Chris Bain
CAFOD (UK) · Andrea Wagner-Hager
CARE Österreich · Bernard PINAUD
Interim Managing Director
CCFD-Terre solidaire (France) · Paul Valentin
Christian Aid · Bo Forsberg
Diakonia (Sweden) · Kamel Jendoubi
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network · Dr.
Member of Board of Directors, International Programmes
Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (Germany) · Souhayr Belhassen
International Federation for Human Rights · Antti Pentikäinen
FinnChurchAid (Finland) · Patrizia Santillo
GVC Italia · Jean Baptiste Richardier
Handicap International · Steven James
Medical Aid for Palestinians · Thomas Gebauer
medico international (Germany) · Fiona Campbell
Head of Advocacy
Merlin (UK) · Dr.
Managing Director, Int’l Cooperation
Misereor (Germany) · Elisabeth Rasmusson
Norwegian Refugee Council · Jeremy Hobbs
Oxfam International · Liz Scurfield
Head of Office
Quaker Council for European Affairs · Greg Ramm
Director of Global Programmes
Save the Children · Rachid Lahlou
Secours Islamique France · Jan Gruiters
United Civilians for Peace (Netherlands)
(A coalition comprising Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO and IKV Pax Christi) · Mark Waddington
Chief Executive Officer
War Child UK
War Child Holland
Annex: Five priority steps for lifting the blockade and rebuilding Gaza’s economy
• Allowing exports to leave Gaza.
There can be no economic recovery and development without exports.
In the past Gaza’s economy was to a large degree reliant on exports of goods such as furniture, clothing and textiles, food and agricultural products, providing livelihoods to tens of thousands of workers and their families.
Even under the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) signed by Israel the target for exports from Gaza was set at 400 trucks per day.
In contrast, in three years under the blockade, only 259 truckloads of exports in total have been allowed out of the Gaza Strip.
• Allowing movement of people to and from Gaza.
The ban on movement of people must be removed to allow freedom of movement for Palestinians including to trade, work, study, receive medical treatment, and visit family members.
In particular, movement between Gaza and the West Bank, recognised as a single territorial unit by the international community, is essential for a healthy functioning of Palestinian society and for the development of its economy.
• Ensuring sufficient capacity and efficiency of the crossings.
Israel has expressed an intention to expand capacity at the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Even if the import capacity at Kerem Shalom is expanded, as announced, to 250 truckloads per day, it will not be sufficient to allow for the level of imports or exports required.
It is critical to re-open the Karni crossing, built and equipped with investment from the international community, which has been capable of processing over 750 truckloads in and out of Gaza per day and involves much lower shipping costs than Kerem Shalom.
• Allowing imports of construction materials for the private sector.
Israel’s new ‘negative list’ can expand the inflow of materials for projects authorised by the Palestinian Authority and implemented by the international community.
However, with the extensive coordination and monitoring procedures there will likely be a continuation of untenable delays.
Moreover, the negative list continues to prevent the private sector and other civilians from rebuilding their homes, businesses and other property, as imports of materials including concrete, asphalt, and most steel and lumber items are banned for private sector projects.
These items are not part of the internationally recognised Wassenaar Agreement list of dual use items which is also incorporated into Israel’s domestic legislation.
• Ensuring access to Gaza’s agricultural land and fishing grounds.
The buffer zone imposed by Israel effectively covers nearly a third of Gaza’s farmland and is hampering agricultural production.
The fishing grounds for Gaza have been successively reduced by Israel from 20 to just three nautical miles, resulting in meagre yields and contributing to the nearly 90% poverty rate among Gaza's 4,000 fishermen.
Palestinian civilians entering or nearing these zones have been shot at and in several cases killed.
Resolving these two issues - while ensuring security for both Israeli and Palestinian civilians - is urgently needed to rebuild the economy and allow for a dignified life in Gaza.