This report is a study in response to the Israeli decision to suspend Gaza's customs code.
This decision has had a serious impact on the economic conditions in Gaza and on fundamental human rights of the Gazan population.
It brought about graver human rights violations, in particular, of economic, social and cultural rights in the Gaza Strip, and this report aims to outline certain aspects of these violations and give recommendations on urgent actions to be taken in this regard.
The population of the Gaza Strip is currently living in an exceptionally dire situation, due to the deterioration of economic and social conditions.
The population density in the Gaza Strip is classified as among the highest in the world, and the rising rates of unemployment and poverty have reached unprecedented levels.
The suffering of Gazans has been aggravated by the internal strife and political instability.
On a continual and daily basis, they are being subjected to violations of their civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights.
The right to freedom of movement is one of the fundamental rights that Gazans are being deprived of, through restrictions on movement to and from the Gaza Strip enforced by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).
Of particular concern is the ongoing Israeli closure of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which is currently the only outlet for Gazans to access the outside world.
Apart from exceptional cases with extreme humanitarian character, the vast majority of Gazans have been denied access to the West Bank.
In reality for Palestinians, movement between the West Bank to the Gaza Strip and vice versa has become more difficult than traveling to any other place in the world.
In fact, restrictions on freedom of movement of Gazans also include limitations on economic activities.
The Israeli authorities have intentionally hindered, through 40 years of occupation, all efforts towards reviving and developing the economy of the Gaza Strip by 'deliberate, systematic deconstruction of an indigenous economy by a dominant power' This is clearly illustrated by the statistics on commercial trade between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
In 2004, Israeli imports to the Gaza Strip had reached $1,748 million and constituted over 73% of total imports, while Gazan exports to Israel had reached $281 million, representing approximately 90% of total exports.
The fact that most external trade has been with Israel demonstrates the extent to which the Gazan economy depends almost entirely on Israel.
Moreover, Israel has oriented and invested the Palestinian economy for its own interests by imposing restrictions on trade and insisting on maintaining full control over the flow of trade from and into Gaza.
The dependency of Gaza's economy on Israel is a natural result of the economic policies adopted by Israel since the beginning of its occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
To give a few examples, prior to the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1994, Israel's Civil Administration frequently refused to give license to small industries in Gaza.
There have also been limitations on purchase of fuel and other materials, while other restrictions determined with whom Palestinians can trade with.
The arbitrary Israeli measures during the Second Intifada (since September 2000) should not be considered separately from their wider political context and objectives.
During this intifada, the Israeli military targeted the main body of Gaza's economy by destroying factories and workshops, destroying the infrastructure that is necessary for industry and economic development, and imposing severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
In line with such policies vis-أ -vis the Gaza Strip, Israel decided on 21 June 2007 to suspend Gaza's customs code, which, essentially, constitutes an elimination of Gaza from the economic map.
According to this decision, Gazan businessmen and traders are prevented from exporting or importing goods and raw materials via Israel's ports.
Details about this decision and its implications will be outlined in this report.