Ramallah – 20/02/2024 – On the World Day for Social Justice, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continued to face the most destructive war in recent history, without any hope of relief or finding a safe area. Nine out of ten Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing hunger, eight out of ten have been internally displaced, and about 110,000 have been injured, killed or are missing. A quarter of Gaza households are starving. For most of those who have survived until now, there are no homes to go back to, 60% of housing units have been damaged or destroyed. Factories, farms, shops, places of worship, schools, universities, medical facilities have been damaged or razed to the ground. Many areas of Gaza literally look like ground zero. Gaza’s children have already lost half a school year, while schools have become overcrowded shelters for the internally displaced. 17,000 children are estimated to be unaccompanied or separated from their parents, and many have to fend for themselves, as no surviving relatives have been found yet.
Prior to the war, over half the population in Gaza was living in poverty, 80% were already aid-dependent, and the unemployment rate reached 45% (68% for women and 73% for young graduates) due to the blockade imposed on Gaza since 2006. 93% of those employed as wage workers in the private sector in Gaza earned about 2.5 times less than the Palestinian monthly minimum wage, which itself is three times lower than the minimum wage in Israel. The average daily wage was 31 shekels in the private sector. Thus, most of Gaza’s working people were living from day to day on meager wages, without any savings or resources to deal with emergencies. Almost all economic activities have now been halted for four months. Those who have continued working, such as health workers, humanitarian workers, journalists, have done so at great risk for their lives. The poorest of the poor are the most affected. Any remaining food commodities are sold at exorbitant prices that few can afford. In the West Bank, 32% of jobs had been lost by the end of November 2023 as per ILO estimates. Prior to the war, the unemployment rate was 13%. The vast majority of Palestinian workers in Israel have been prevented from returning to their jobs by Israeli governmental decision, without having the benefit of unemployment allowances, as Israeli workers do. Workers in other sectors have been affected too, due to a generalized halt down or slowing of economic activities, such as in the tourism sector. Governmental sector workers have been affected by even greater salary cuts since the war started due to the growing fiscal deficit driven by withholding of increasing amounts from the monthly remittances that Israel should transfer to the Palestinian Authority.
While the absolute priority remains an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, in order to preserve lives and allow humanitarian aid to reach the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, who depend on it for their very survival, this unprecedented human rights and humanitarian crisis should be a wakeup call. Rules of law are only effective if there is a commitment to abide by them and enforce them on all parties and all actors, and this is also valid for international law. Blatant double standards in the application of international law erode the credibility of the entire system, and seriously jeopardize the pursuit of international peace and security, economic and social progress, and the realization of fundamental rights for all. Decade after decade, the Israeli Occupying Power has been allowed to commit grave violations of international humanitarian law, and systematically violate the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, without being held to account. This has resulted in a deepening of inequalities and discrimination for Palestinians, and a worsening of socio-economic indicators in the context of a captive economy subjected to the restrictions and collective punishment measures imposed by the Occupying Power.
Settler colonial occupation, and the necessary system of oppression and repression that allows it to sustain itself and expand, is truly incompatible with the pursuit of social justice, as it contravenes all its underlying principles. On February 19th, 2024, the International Court of Justice started its proceedings to examine the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem at the request of the UN General Assembly. Although non-binding, we hope that when the court renders its opinion, it will guide the international community towards finally taking actual measures to end the occupation and ensure that Palestinians are able to exercise their inalienable human rights, including the right to self-determination.
As an organization established to defend workers’ rights and promote social justice, the Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center in Palestine has striven for the past thirty years to empower female and male workers in the occupied Palestinian territories and beyond to defend and advance their rights. We are now facing the most severe and daunting challenges ever in our work, but with the support and solidarity of our partners, we are committed to continue serving and supporting our target groups, our partner unions and organizations under all circumstances, for the realization of the right to decent work and a decent life, and ending all forms of inequality and discrimination.
We are deeply grateful and appreciative of all the solidarity actions that have already taken place around the world, and we call on the international labor movement, labor organizations and other progressive forces to pursue their mobilization for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the recognition of the State of Palestine by countries that have failed to do so until now, and the end of the decades-long Israeli occupation and oppression.