Gisha presents analysis on impact of the closure on women in Gaza before Knesset committee

Discussion on the impact of the closure on women in Gaza. Photo by Gisha.

June 5, 2018. Yesterday morning, representatives of Gisha participated in a heated discussion on the impact of the Israeli-imposed closure on women in the Gaza Strip, held by the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, chaired by Member of Knesset Aida Touma-Sliman. At the opening of the discussion, Gisha presented information and analysis from its publication “Dreams Deferred,” released on International Women’s Day, earlier this year.

Many Members of Knesset attended the discussion, including several who are not members of the committee and arrived especially to express their support for Committee Chairperson Touma-Sliman’s decision to dedicate the discussion to the situation of women in Gaza. MK Touma-Sliman specified that government officials who had been invited to take part in the discussion chose not to attend the session.

Gisha Public Advocacy Coordinator Noa Galili opened the discussion by presenting the unemployment rate among women in the Strip, which currently stands at 71.5%. Galili stated that the number of women in Gaza able to work and seeking employment has increased dramatically by over 200%.

Gisha Research Coordinator Qamar Taha explained that only 2.5% of the valid trader permits, allowing access to Israel and the West Bank to conduct business, are currently held by women traders. Taha drew attention to the way in which Israel’s ongoing control over sea and land access to Gaza has also pushed women out of economic sectors they used to participate in before the closure was tightened: The number of women who work in the fishing and agriculture sectors, for example, plummeted from 36% in 2007 to just 4% today.

International Communications Coordinator Miriam Marmur spoke about the impact of Israel’s “separation policy” between Gaza and the West Bank on Palestinian families. “Restrictions imposed by Israel cut many women off from their families and compound the difficult situations they face by often making a woman’s journey to leave her home a one-way street. ”

During the discussion, representatives of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel pointed to the distress of cancer patients in Gaza who need medical treatments which are unavailable in the Strip, but are denied travel permits by Israel. “We have witnessed a decline in the number of permits issued by Israel to medical patients in 2017. The entire system seems to be very arbitrary,” noted Mor Efrat from PHR, adding that “due to the dire economic situation in Gaza, some patients can’t even afford the cost of the trip to the hospital or providing for the people who accompany them. ”

MK Touma-Sliman addressed the objections expressed by other MKs in the days before the committee session and during the discussion itself: “We all see the significance of women’s involvement in the discourse on key issues. It’s unfortunate that the committee is under attack for ‘engaging in politics’.” In her closing statements, Touma-Sliman stated that “Israel is responsible for this situation, make no mistake.”

Members of civil society joined the discussion as well, including Vivienne Silver, a member of the Beeri kibbutz community and an activist with Women Wage Peace and Yeela Raanan, a member of the Kisufim kibbutz community, located near Gaza’s perimeter fence. Raanan said: “I’m happy that this discussion is taking place. As far as I’m concerned, these women are my neighbors. Every effort must be made to reduce the distress of women in Gaza. Israel is party to a system that creates suffering for Gaza residents. It’s not the only one, but it is a part of it. The Israeli government has power to influence the situation. ”

MK Dov Hanin said: “The voices of Gaza’s women cannot be heard in this discussion. I’m very grateful to the representatives of the organizations for working to bring us some of these voices.”

Mariam Abu Alatta, a resident of Gaza who works at Aisha, an NGO devoted to protecting women and children in the Strip, addressed the committee in a short video-clip presented by Gisha before the committee. To watch her address, see here.