Small Businesses, Big Dreams: Gaza entrepreneurs discuss obstacles to success. New report by Gisha calls on Israel to remove the sweeping restrictions on movement impeding their development

Thursday, February 7, 2019: A new report published today, Small Businesses, Big Dreams, analyzes challenges facing small business owners in Gaza. Israel’s ongoing and sweeping restrictions on movement of people and goods to and from the Strip, as well as other factors, have contributed to economic stagnation in the Strip: Global restrictions on money transfers to the Strip, restrictions on travel via Rafah Crossing, dramatic cuts to the humanitarian aid, and economic sanctions introduced by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Despite skyrocketing unemployment rates and a myriad of other challenges, people in Gaza are engaged in entrepreneurship in a variety of fields. The research conducted by Gisha for the purpose of this report included in-depth interviews with women and men who own small businesses in the Gaza Strip: A pastry chef, a high-tech project manager, a seamstress, a software engineer, the owner of an embroidery business, a jewelry designer, a cellular phone shop owner, a hair and beauty salon owner, and a digital marketing consultant.

It is critical that small businesses in Gaza be able to engage in trade with their geographically closest markets, the West Bank and Israel, as well as export abroad. Professionals who want to grow their businesses, build networks, provide for their families in dignity and fulfill basic professional ambitions face three major obstacles:

  • Restrictions on travel for business – The vast majority of professionals in Gaza seeking to travel for work do not meet Israel’s stringent, arbitrary criteria for receiving a permit to travel through Erez Crossing. In the absence of a criterion for work-related travel, countless permit applications filed by professionals are denied by Israel, discouraging people from applying and thus contributing to an overall chilling effect.
  • Restrictions on movement of goods to and from Gaza – Kerem Shalom Crossing, Gaza’s only commercial crossing and controlled by Israel, does not allow for trade in small quantities. Israel also prohibits commercial mail from exiting the Strip via Erez Crossing. Medium and small businesses, and the families supported by them, are hindered by this reality.
  • Diminished purchasing power – Given the access restrictions enforced by Israel and Egypt, small businesses in Gaza rely almost completely on the local market. Increasing rates of poverty, food insecurity and the cash flow crisis, further exacerbated by aid cuts and sanctions imposed by the PA in recent years, have severely impacted small businesses, which struggle to survive, let alone grow, in such a hostile economic climate.

The report cites a list of measures that Israel must take in order to remove obstacles unnecessarily impeding the development of small businesses and preventing people from fulfilling professional ambitions and driving economic activity in the Strip: Israel must revoke the stringent criteria on movement of people and sweeping restrictions on movement of goods to and from the Gaza Strip, and immediately allow work-related travel and enable small-scale shipment of commercial goods from the Strip.

To read the report and the stories of the small business owners it features, click here.

See here for PDF version.