240108 - Palestine
Monitor factsheet: Poverty
“46% of Palestinians do not have enough food to meet their needs.
The number of people in deep poverty, defined as those living on
less than 50 cents a day, nearly doubled in 2006 to over 1
million, according to the United Nations Relief and works Agency
Poverty in Palestine: the human cost of the
financial boycott, Oxfam International, April 2007
Suspending Aid to Palestine: The Facts
- In January 2006 Hamas decisively won the Palestinian
parliamentary elections, internationally recognized as free and
fair. In February 2006, the Israeli Government began withholding
Palestinian VAT revenues of some US$ 60 million per month from
the Palestinian Authority (PA), which represented 55% of the
PA’s annual budget.
- Two months later, a number of key donors including the
European Union (EU), Canada and the United States suspended aid
to the PA.
- This aid suspension left a 25% deficit in the PA’s annual
budget. The PA was therefore denied approximately 80% of its
- In July 2006, 3 months after the suspension of donor aid, the
EU established a Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), which
was designed to provide direct support to Palestinians whilst
circumventing Palestinian government channels.
- According to Oxfam International, the TIM was “unable to
prevent the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the financial
boycott and by the violence” whilst at the same time massively
undermining the Palestinian public sector whose development the
international community itself funded during the Oslo years.
- Oxfam reported “immense suffering” and insecurity as a result
of the donor aid embargo and the withholding of VAT revenue from
- John Dugard is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. In
January 2007 he presented a report to the UN Human Rights
Council in which he described these funding cuts as “possibly
the most rigorous form of international sanctions imposed in
modern times” and stated that this is “the first time an
occupied people have been so treated.”
- On July 1st 2007, Israel announced that it intended to return
the VAT revenue it owes to the PA, starting with an initial
payment of $120 million. Israel will apparently transfer the
remaining funds to the PA over the next 6 months, though there
are disagreements over how much Israel owes the PA in total.
Poverty in the West Bank and Gaza
- When internal political divisions, deepened by the sanctions,
deteriorated into heavy internal fighting in the Gaza Strip in
early June 2007, ending in the dissolution of the Palestinian
National Unity Government and the establishment of a Fatah-dominated
Emergency Government, the EU announced on June 18 it would end
its 15 month embargo of the Palestinian Authority and resume
- The PA is the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza,
employing 161,000 people, who in turn support almost 1 million
dependents. The majority of these PA employees have not been
regularly paid for more than a year due to Israeli withholding
of Palestinian Authority VAT revenue. In October 2006
Palestinian banks reported an average debt of $2,000 for PA
- In the West Bank up to 67% of Palestinians are classified as
living in poverty. In Gaza approximately 88% of Palestinians
live in poverty: 35% of them are classified as ‘extremely
- 50% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza currently rely
on donor food aid for at least some of their food. This means
that 1.8 million Palestinians are now partially or fully
dependent on food aid.
- Increasing numbers of Palestinian children are now working to
support their families instead of attending school. Children
under fourteen can cross Israeli checkpoints without permits,
and at least 1,000 Palestinian children a day cross into Israel,
to work in garbage tips salvaging glass and metal.
- Filippo Grandi, Deputy Commissioner General, United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) declared after visiting the Gaza
Strip on 9 August 2007: “Gaza risks becoming a virtually one
hundred per cent aid dependent, closed down and isolated
community within a matter of months, or even weeks, if the
present regime of closures continues.”
Freedom of Movement and Poverty
- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA) cites Israel’s matrix of movement restrictions as
“a primary cause of poverty and the humanitarian crisis in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
- Following Israel’s redeployment from the Gaza Strip in August
2005, border closures were enforced by the Israeli military at
all crossings between Gaza and Israel, and Gaza and Egypt. This
seriously damaged the residual Gazan economy.
- On 18 November 2005, the Government of Israel (GOI) and the PA
signed an Agreement on Movement Access (AMA) brokered by US
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. This was designed to
facilitate the movement of people and goods within the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (OPT), and to open Rafah Crossing on the
Gaza-Egypt border in order to “promote peaceful economic
development” and improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
- The Rafah Crossing is vitally important to the Gazan economy,
since it is the Gaza Strip’s only border crossing with a country
other than Israel.
- Under the AMA, the Israeli Government clarified that it would
not close a passage due to a security incident unconnected with
the passage itself.
- However, between June 2006 and March 2007, the Rafah crossing
opened just 16% of scheduled working hours. Each day the
crossing was closed Palestinians in Gaza lost approximately
$500,000 worth of exports. The vast majority of exports from
Gaza are perishable food items, such as fish and fruit.
- Gaza now has the highest poverty rates in Palestine, a factor
directly related to prolonged Israeli border closures.
- In November 2006, OCHA reported that 60% of Palestinian
families who own land in the ‘seam zone’ area of the northern
West Bank were being denied access by the GOI. Seam zones are
land lying between the Wall and the 1967 Green Line that are
occupied by Israel.
According to OCHA:
Traditional travel routes have been severed in 90% of these
More than 50% of communities surveyed no longer had direct,
regular access to their land.
22% of land was accessible only by foot, so no vehicles could be
used to transport produce grown there.
- In May 2007 the World Bank researched movement and access
restrictions across the West Bank. The Bank concluded that “…without
efficient and predictable movement of people and goods, there is
very little prospect of sustainable Palestinian economic
recovery….only through a fundamental reassessment of closure and
a restoration of the principle of presumption of movement… will
the Palestinian private sector be able to recover and fuel