Approximately 1.8 million people live in the Gaza Strip. After almost a decade of siege and repeated rounds of bombardments, the economic situation is on the verge of collapse. The unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world, civilian infrastructure is in ruins, water supply is contaminated, and poverty is widespread.
Food distribution in Gaza, 5 July 2006. Photo by Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Gaza
International aid organizations have addressed this reality for years, displaying tireless commitment in extremely difficult conditions. Given that Israel imposes conditions of poverty and isolation on residents of the Gaza Strip, the activities of humanitarian organizations are vital. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza residents are dependent on humanitarian aid.
The Israeli authorities recently indicted two employees of international aid organizations active in the Gaza Strip. On the basis of these indictments, Israeli authorities have made sweeping, far-reaching, and irresponsible allegations claiming that humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip as a whole are connected to Hamas and serve the organization.
Any use of funds intended for humanitarian aid to support violence is illegal and is an extremely grave matter. Even if the defendants are found guilty – at present they should benefit from the presumption of innocence – this will not detract from the importance, integrity, and dedication of international humanitarian organizations assisting residents of the Gaza Strip.
We, the undersigned Israeli human rights organizations, attach great importance to the work of international aid organizations active in assisting residents of Gaza, so many of whom live in extremely dire conditions. We urge the Israeli government to refrain from impeding the activities of these organizations, and to avoid vilifying the vital work of the aid community.
Adalah – The Legal Center for the Rights of the Arab Minority in Israel - Akevot Institute for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Research - Amnesty International – Israel section - Association for Civil Rights in Israel - Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights - Breaking the Silence B'Tselem - Coalition of Women for Peace - Gisha - HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual - Human Rights Defenders Fund