The closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, which entered its 6th year, has prevented a vast majority of Palestinians living in the strip from maintaining their livelihoods and realizing their right to an adequate standard of living. This closurebans imports of goods and materials in the Gaza Strip, including industrial and agricultural products. It also limits the possibility of reviving the economy in the strip which has been continuously deteriorating due to this ban A major impact of this closure is that it directly cause large-scale unemployment, especially among the Palestinian youth, which consist of almost 53% of Gaza’s population, and moreover 58% of Palestinians aged between 20 to 24 years of age in the strip are unemployed. Also 39% of the population in the Gaza Strip lives below the poverty line and unemployment is a primary reason for this.
Ahmed al-Akhras, a 26 years old Palestinian residing in Gaza, has completed a masters in journalism, and he says that, “I have always had a passion for journalism and wanted to build a career in it so that I can address the issues that affect the people in Palestine, but despite having studied journalism abroad from Mauritania, I am having unending difficulties in finding work.” He explains that, “After I completed a masters in 2011, I was offered a job at the Wafa News Agency in the West Bank, and I was very much looking forward to working there, but my application for traveling to the West Bank is stalled with the Israeli authorities. I gave a security interview in June 2011, but till date I have not heard anything in response. As a consequence my job was given to someone else.” Ahmed further says that, “After being disheartened with this lost opportunity I have been trying to find work in the Gaza Strip, but this has been a very frustrating experience because despite having completed a masters and having gained practical experience through internships, I still have no paid work.”
Ahmed has invested highly in his education. Ahmed says that, “It is extremely upsetting for me when I have to ask my parents for more money. The fact that they did not hesitate in spending on my education and even supported me financially when I went abroad for studying makes it embarrassing for all of us because ideally by now I should have gotten a job and become a bread winner in the family.” He adds that, “My university education cost me approximately 27,000 US Dollars and not just this, my parents even supported me while I did a 6 months internship in the media attaché of the Palestinian embassy in Mauritania. I did this internship so that I could get some practical experience. All my dreams were about to come true as, because of my hard work and dedication during this internship, I was offered the job in the West Bank, but nothing came out of it. My failure in finding employment is not because I am incapable. I know what I am proficient of doing and I also realize that I can learn a lot more and build a successful career. However, what I am left with today is the guilt of having spent all of my parents’ money on my education and still not being able to take care of them. What bothers me the most is that my parents invested not just financially in me, but also emotionally as they had expectations and hopes of watching me do something effective, becoming a good and responsible journalist, but even their dreams are shattered.”
Speaking about the difficulties he has been facing in finding work, Ahmed says, “I am so desperate for work that I even stopped mentioning that I have a masters in my job applications because many a times I got rejected under the pretext of being overqualified. Additionally I have to face challenges with issues like favoritism and bias, as sometimes I get rejected for jobs outside the Gaza Strip simply because of the fact that I am a Palestinian.”
Describing what he thinks can be done to solve his problems with unemployment, Ahmed says that, “I am not sure about the collective solution, if I knew it then I would have been working on it. But in my case it was clearly the closure as I lost out on a job because the Israeli authorities prevented me from going to the West Bank. It just seems so unfair that despite being competent enough to land a job, I have to struggle to meet my ends meet. I believe their system of assessment is defective, because if it was not then I would have been in the West Bank, doing a job, and fulfilling my dream just like every other individual wants to.”
The sadness in Ahmed’s voice was clearly felt when he said that, “I am not lazy, or incompetent, or uneducated, but I do feel like God does not care for me enough to let me control my life and live with my head held high.”
In the Gaza Strip, Israel has the duty to fulfil its obligations under all human rights treaties to which it is a party, and this has been established under international law by numerous arguments, state practice, jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice, as well as by the Human Rights Committee, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. With particular regard to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR], it has been affirmed that Israel is not only bound by its provisions as an Occupying Power in the Gaza Strip. Under international human rights law, Article 6 of the ICESCR recognizes the right to work as a fundamental right. Also, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has confirmed that every individual has the right to be able to work, allowing him/her to live in dignity. Also Article 39 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 provides that civilians should have an opportunity to carrying on their occupations subject to security measures that might be applied to them.