Today, Al Mezan hosted an exhibition and screening event to bring awareness about the repercussions of Israel’s unilaterally imposed closure restrictions on Palestinian fishermen’s right to work and to an adequate standard of living. The event, supported and attended by the European Union Delegation, along with Gaza’s Fishermen’s Syndicate, was held in the run-up to the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Poverty is often a symptom of human rights abuses and requires duty bearers to collaborate for its elimination—a call echoed by Al Mezan to the Israeli government, as occupying power, and to the Palestinian authorities in as much as they can have a positive impact on the lives of fishermen.
The fishing sector in the Gaza Strip has experienced an accelerated deterioration in economic and social conditions in recent years, making it now one of the most vulnerable communities in Gaza. Poverty in the fishing community is marked not just by low income levels and instability, but also by chronic food insecurity, lack of access to education and healthcare, and by social exclusion and lack of opportunities to influence decision-making.
Years of illegal and unwarranted attacks, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on fishers by the Israeli authorities have made fishing a risk to life and safety, and created a reality marked by boat confiscations, destruction and damage, banning of materials for repairs, and severely reduced fishing zones. Accordingly, the fishing community endures extreme poverty, with 80% living below the poverty line.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since 2015, the Israeli navy has killed five fishermen, injured 105 and arbitrarily arrested 374. They detainees reported physical and verbal abuse during interrogation at Ashdod port. The Israeli authorities confiscated 113 boats during this period, with its equipment, and damaged or destroyed boats in 55 separate incidents.
At the event—supported by a European Union project—Al Mezan is exhibiting a photo gallery of fishermen, short interview-based videos with fishers, and releasing a fact sheet on the human and economic costs of Israel’s treatment of fishermen.
Samir Zaqout, Al Mezan’s deputy director, spoke at the event and called on the “Israeli authorities to stop imposing arbitrary restrictions on the movement of fishers; to halt arbitrary arrests and unlawful use of live fire and to promptly refrain from seizing, damaging and destroying fishing equipment and boats”. He added that, “the international community must provide protection for fishermen and enable them to work freely, in order to contribute to their own economic benefit as well as that of the Palestinian economy.
"On this day, we remind ourselves and the world that Gaza is still living under complete closure with continuous human rights violations. During long years of closure, Gazans have been suffering, on a daily basis, from a deteriorating economic, social, cultural and political situation. This situation contributed to increasing poverty and deep poverty rates in the Gaza Strip. Poverty deprives the population in Gaza from accessing basic human rights and from living in dignity," said the European Union Acting Representative Tomas Niklasson during the event. "The European Union remains committed to supporting Palestinians in Gaza so that they can see their human rights being respected. A political solution must be found to re-unite the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to continue building a future independent Palestinian State, as part of the two-state solution based on well-known parameters," he added.
With project support from the European Union, Al Mezan defends fishers before Israeli courts and advocates for their basic and fundamental rights to be upheld.
 The UN defined the extreme poverty in 1995 as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information”
The contents of this press release are the sole responsibility of Al Mezan and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.