Thursday, 05 May 2016 10:34

Split apart: Civil society organizations in Gaza in their own words

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Civil society organizations operate in the vast space between government and the population, providing services, advancing legislation, and holding authorities accountable for their actions. Musically gifted children, youth-at-risk, women, athletes with disabilities and brilliant computer programmers alike rely on the services and expertise of the third sector. Dozens of civil society organizations operate in the Gaza Strip and answer to the diverse and critical needs of a large segment of the population. It is hard to grasp why Israel would overlook the importance of their work and deny them travel between the parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, as well as abroad, but this is the reality of the situation. Israel’s policy, which separates Palestinians living in Gaza and Palestinians living in the West Bank, has dire effects on everyday life. Only recently, we showed how the separation policy impacts the Palestinian economy, mostly, though not exclusively, in Gaza. We also demonstrated how it tears apart families with members living in either part of the Palestinian territory. Today we publish a new report, a unique, even ground-breaking document, which is the result of a series of meetings held in Gaza with dozens of representatives of civil society organizations, in which they were given the opportunity to speak about the situation in their own words. The report is based on focus groups and conversations with 32 organizations from five sectors: women’s organizations, cultural organizations, human rights organizations, humanitarian organizations that offer health and mental health services, particularly to persons with special needs, and development organizations. We heard from them about the difficulties access restrictions present, the heavy toll of the factional split on Palestinian society and the unfulfilled potential of their work and of Palestinian civil society in general. Since the last military operation, many people have been talking about the importance of economic development and reconstruction in Gaza, even Israel’s own security establishment. The gap between rhetoric and reality is wide, as we at Gisha often report, but in any case, recovery can’t be limited to building homes or strengthening the economy alone. Real recovery requires a strong, thriving civil society. So long as civil society organizations do not even feature in Israel’s criteria for who is eligible to ask for a travel permit and thus can’t travel for their work, the society these organizations help and support cannot enjoy the full wealth of their capacities and potential.
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Ramallah
Ras Al-Tahouneh ST, near Al-Muqata'a
Al-Bireh, Palestine
Phone: 02 297 4563/4
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Tomouh Building (Jawwal), Al-Jala'
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