Gisha staff speak to Israeli, Palestinian and international audiences about Israel’s responsibilities towards Gaza amid COVID-19

Over the last few weeks, as people around the world searched for new ways to connect, learn, and work together, Gisha staff participated in webinars, panels and briefings for Israeli, Palestinian and international audiences about the situation in Gaza both before and after the outbreak of COVID-19. In the various events, Gisha representatives focused on Israel’s responsibilities towards Gaza’s civilian population, especially as the Strip prepares to face further spread of the virus.

On March 31, 2020 Gisha’s Executive Director Tania Hary spoke on a webinar hosted by the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) and the Middle East Institute (MEI) on Gaza and the coronavirus, alongside Dr. Ghada Al Jadha from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, Omar Shaban from PalThink, Lara Friedman from FMEP, and Khaled Elgindy from MEI. Hary focused on Israel’s responsibility towards the civilian population in Gaza, including to protect the Strip’s economy during this crisis. “Like everywhere else in the world, the coronavirus is really exposing the fragility of Gaza’s healthcare system,” said Hary. “What is different about Gaza us that its economy has been strangled, on purpose, for many years. People have no safety net. We need to think about the economic aspects of the crisis too. There is a lot that can be done to remove trade barriers and protect Gaza’s economy.” To watch the webinar discussion, see here.

On May 28, Hary spoke on a webinar hosted by the Israel Policy Forum about the Israeli TV show Fauda, what annexation in the West Bank could mean for residents of the Strip, and the Israeli policies that need to change to protect the rights of Palestinians living under occupation. “People who are concerned about human rights and for the future of people living in this region should be looking at how to counter these policies,” Hary said. “I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to keep Palestinians divided, to prevent self-determination, to stop families from meeting and the economy from functioning. In the long term, all those things harm the stability of the region as a whole.” To watch the webinar, see here.

On April 2, Gisha’s Director of International Relations Beth Oppenheim took part in an emergency briefing on COVID-19 and Gaza for Yachad UK and the New Israel Fund, alongside journalist Donald Macintyre and Ghada Majadle from Physicians for Human Rights Israel. In her presentation, Oppenheim stated: “This is an opportunity to push Israel to lift the closure, to facilitate the free movement of goods at this time, and, looking forward, to facilitate free movement of people once this pandemic has subsided.” To watch Oppenheim’s contribution to the panel, see here.

On April 9, Oppenheim also spoke on a webinar about the situation in Gaza organized by the Telos Group, alongside Omar Shaban. To listen, see here.

On April 16, Gisha lawyer Adv. Muna Haddad took part in a panel organized by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, alongside Dr. Aeid Yagi, head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Gaza, and Issam Younis, the director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza. In her presentation, Haddad emphasized the impact of ongoing Israeli movement restrictions on the fishing and farming communities in the Strip.

On March 24, Gisha Public Advocacy Coordinator Noa Galili spoke to Other Voice (Kol Acher), a group of Israelis from communities bordering the Gaza Strip, focusing on the crossings, as well as the state of Gaza’s healthcare system and economy. On March 31, Galili briefed a group of Israeli parliamentary assistants to members of Knesset, and later the same day, she briefed a group of staff members from Rabbis for Human Rights.

On April 5, Galili spoke to a group of over 100 activists from Women Wage Peace, a local grassroots peace movement. Galili emphasized the broader context of the relationship between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. “By enforcing the political and physical separation between Gaza and the West Bank for years, Israel has deepened its hold over the West Bank towards de facto annexation. Meanwhile, Gaza’s isolation has been a central factor in the deterioration of living conditions for Gaza’s civilian population,” said Galili. On April 23, Galili spoke on a panel organized by Rabbis for Human Rights alongside Gisha field coordinator and Gaza resident, Mohammed Azaiza.