2018 marks the 51st year of the occupation of Palestinian territory. Approximately 80% of the Palestinian population in Gaza are completely reliant on international aid. Palestinians here live in an undeniable state of inescapable poverty, uncertainty and without reliable opportunities outside of their neighbourhoods. Not only do they have very limited access to employment, education, healthcare, and basic resources, these prospects alone are very tightly controlled. Over half of the Palestinian population, living within historic Palestine, reside within Gaza. Over three quarters of these people live in a state of perpetual economic, social and political uncertainty. The Palestinian territories are not an example of a failed state due to a corrupt government. Rather, what we see in Gaza today is the absolute culmination of decades of occupation and a continual lack of basic human freedoms.
The Six-day war took place between in June 1967 between Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria, and to a lesser extent Iraq and Lebanon. It occurred at a time of heightened tensions between both sides. The war resulted in a swift and decisive Israeli victory. Gaza has been occupied by the Israeli state since; military occupation and rule continues here and shows no signs of subsiding, despite having been regarded as illegal under international law ever since its very inception. Palestinians who remained in Israel after 1948 were placed under military occupation until 1966, so in many ways the occupation we see today is a continuation of an established socio-political policy exercised beforehand. The Israeli Defense forces also occupied the West Bank, Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, as well as annexing the whole of Jerusalem. Since 1967, the only territory that Israel has fully relinquished control of is Sinai, following the signing of the Camp David agreement in 1979.
The occupation intensified further still in 1994, through the Israeli construction of the separation barrier. Despite the fact that Palestinians were largely successful in destroying parts of this barrier during the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000, it was almost immediately rebuilt between 2000-2001. In 2005, the Israeli state appeared to free Gazan Palestinians of military rule, when they withdrew settlements and military apparatus from the territory. However, settlements were replaced by an even harsher blockade of Gaza under the regime of Ariel Sharon.
The present-day situation on the ground in Gaza has been largely determined by Operation Protective Edge in 2014. Over 1,500 Palestinian civilians were killed or severely injured by the conflict. The deliberate confinement of Palestinians to the Gaza strip means that civilians are trapped within the conflict itself. In other words, they have nowhere to find safety and no way out. Checkpoints, surveillance and deprivation continue to dominate life in Gaza. In fact, international charities have repeatedly stressed that Gaza is almost completely unliveable. The blockade of Gaza has historically curtailed, and continues to hinder Palestinian exports, farming and fishing rights. On a more general level, the territorial incongruity between Gaza and other internationally recognised Palestinian areas has remained detrimental to resolving one of the most deadly and destructive conflicts in modern human history. The separation barrier is central to this issue, both physically and legally blocking Palestinian civilians from leaving and entering the Gaza strip. Today, the occupation stands as physical evidence for Israeli dominance over Palestinians in such a way that their basic rights and freedoms have never been able to fully materialise. Unless the occupation ends, Palestinians will continue to live an exceedingly unjustified and limited quality of life.