Business and livelihoods grind to a halt in Gaza as blockade enters its 10th year

Anwar sits in his furniture workshop in Gaza. Photo: Sami Alhaw/Oxfam
Anwar sits in his furniture workshop in Gaza. The blockade has ground his business to a halt. Photo: Sami Alhaw/Oxfam

Anwar’s furniture business, like many others in Gaza before the blockade, once flourished. “I used to have a better income, I employed eight people along with my four sons. We had electricity and a work routine. Our life used to have a system. Now, if this situation continues, I will have to close my business.  Customers and raw materials have vanished,” he said.

The furniture sector in Gaza once made up 8 per cent of Palestinian exports, but since 2007, the sector, and with it Anwar’s business, has ground to a halt.

“My specialization was door carpentry, but in 2014, the wood I used for doors was entirely banned by Israel from entering Gaza. The only wood available here is what scrap is left over. I now usually make coffins instead of doors and I have no more workers other than my sons.”

A decimated economy

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007, placing heavy restrictions on the import and export of goods and the movement of people. The blockade has decimated Gaza’s economy and has severe implications for everyone living in Gaza.  Wood and other items known as ABCs (aggregates, steel bars and cement) are heavily restricted and form part of the ‘dual use’ list. This list, defined by the Government of Israel, refers to items that can be used for peaceful and military purposes.

The list for Gaza is far more extensive than international standards and limits the entry of items essential for reconstruction following three wars since 2008.  75,000 people are still unable to return to their homes because less than 10% of destroyed homes have been completely rebuilt. The Rafah crossing, operated by Egypt, has been open only 42 times since October 2014, preventing thousands of people from going in and out of Gaza

The blockade keeps people poor, denies them basic human rights and does not make Israel safer. The blockade must be lifted to ensure everyone in Gaza has the opportunity to live in freedom, peace and dignity.

For Anwar, it means his business is on the brink of collapse. “My customers are just three per cent of what I used to have, and the raw materials I can buy have increased in price by 380 per cent. Twenty people live in my house, and they all depend on this workshop. Many of my customers can’t afford to pay me, and I then can’t pay my bills.”

“This blockade is my greatest concern. If there are no jobs for people here, there is no work for me.”