Gaza’s floating economy

As I write, at least 9 ships are heading towards Gaza laden with humanitarian aid, activists, European politicians and soundbites. The aim is to help the population of Gaza, which continues to suffer from poverty and high unemployment. In addition, the voyagers and their supporters wish to protest against what they see as Israel’s irresponsible behaviour towards the territory.

If you google the phrase “Gaza economy”, you end up with very few serious analyses of what is the true situation in this tiny fertile strip of land. The Financial Times of London, a leading media beacon in international money matters and no friend of Israel, observes that

…the tunnels below Rafah have offered a unique lifeline to Gazans, who are otherwise deprived of all but the most basic humanitarian supplies. They have also allowed Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Strip, to replenish its coffers and rebuild its military arsenal, making the tunnels a target for Israel……Branded products such as Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup – long absent as a result of the Israeli blockade – are both cheap and widely available. However, the tunnel operators have also flooded Gaza with Korean refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units. Tunnel operators and traders alike complain of a saturated market – and falling prices.

This is not an isolated piece of reporting. If you pop into the Roots Club in Gaza, according to Lonely Planet, you can dine on “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”. Tom Gross documented the “after effects” of a previous flotilla, when the arrivals were seen purchasing souvenirs in well stocked shops.

Earlier this month, I wrote that:

According to the World Bank, the Palestinian economy is booming. During 2009, growth in the West Bank reached 8%, although Hamas controlled Gaza saw a more modest development of 1%.

 In fact, the World Bank had previously noted that up to the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000, the Palestinian economy grew at over 5% pa in real terms since 1968, shortly after the beginning of Israel’s control of the region. So, while Israel’s current restrictions cannot help economic growth, you have to wonder if the cause of the poverty lies elsewhere.

Ironically, it was the singer Elvis Costello, who indirectly pointed out the true fallacy. This pop icon has just cancelled a two-date performance tour of Israel in protest at Jerusalem’s continued humiliation of Palestinians. On the day of the announcement, Hamas authorities executed three Palestinians…in front of their own families. Who’s humiliating who?

Similarly, who’s starving who? As one Israeli blogger observed, the Palestinians are the recipients of billions annually in aid. We know the shops are full. The UN confirms that Israel sends in tons of aid near daily.

And then there is the housing issue. According to UN stats, just over 20% of Gazans live in refugee camps. Israeli towns in the Gaza Strip were closed down in 2005. Since then, not one person has been allowed to move out of the camps and into these former settlements. Why?

The flotilla will probably be stopped by the Israeli navy. The passengers will be off loaded, and in turn they will channel their vitriol towards the waiting microphones of the world’s media. And the people of Gaza will continue to buy a plethora of goods under the watchful eye of their fundamentalist Hamas masters.

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3 Comments on “Gaza’s floating economy”


  1. […] Gaza's floating economy « Afternoon Tea In Jerusalem […]

  2. Judy K. Warner Says:

    Thanks for this useful perspective. I just read it today, when the Israeli action against the flotilla is in the news and everyone is hyperventilating about the evil Israelis. I’ve sent your post out in a mass email.


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