Posted tagged ‘Hamas’

Hamas or Israel? The answer is in the economy

November 19, 2012

Pick up any UN analysis or a report from a relevant NGO, you will find details of how Gaza’s economy is struggling. The facts seem overwhelming – how unemployment, low exports, little private sector growth.

For all the pages of statistics, something does not add up. According to the World Bank, under 30 years of Israeli sovereignty, the Palestinian economy grew by 5.5% annually in real terms until 1999. That is phenomenal by any standards, and Gaza was part of that achievement.

If you look for current information about Gaza, which has not been tampered by officials with an agenda to grind, then there is much anecdotal evidence. I have reported on the new cars from China that have become very popular in recent months. These have probably been purchased by the new elite of millionaires club, identified by the Arab media. And all this has been reported by corporate journalists staying in some very comfortable boutique hotels.

Life for people in Gaza is not simple. Israel limits travel on its side, although even in times of war passage is not totally closed off. The Egyptian border is open, but Bedouin tribes control the territory beyond. And the Hamas government runs an agenda that bothers little with principles of democracy and pluralism.

If the citizens of Gaza complain that Israelis live in a secluded paradise, one can understand their frustration. Since freeing up the economy from tariffs in the mid 1980s, Israelis has experienced a leap forward in standards of living. Today, the economy is growing at around 3% annually, one of the better performers in the OECD. JVP in Jerusalem is one of the world’s most successful venture capital groups in the world, reinvesting profits in cross-ethnic projects. to take a specific industry, the biotech sector has boomed in the past decade, creating thousands of jobs and billions in wealth.

Historically, Gaza has been known as a fertile territory with an educated populace. When Israel departed in 2005, it left behind and intact a thriving greenhouse industry. Not only has that been ransacked and confined to the sand dunes or converted to military training grounds. The leading export in 2012 has been the 1,200 rockets hurtled towards Israeli civilian areas.

The Palestinian leadership in Gaza would have the world believe that the poverty of the territory is caused by the Israeli military. The pain of that fallacy is most felt by the residents themselves. However, if only the problem was a few gross inexactitudes over economic policy.

As Hamas has proven, if you can lie during peacetime, it does not take too much effort to cover up the self-inflicted horrors of war.

Will the real Gaza economy stand up and be counted?

August 31, 2012

The headline from the New York Times made for a simple summary of a UN report: “U.N. Sees Bleak Outlook for Gaza Unless Services Are Improved

The UN describes how this narrow fertile strip of land, which has been run by Hamas since 2007, may not be fit for habitation by 2020. Education, health and other basic services are on the point of collapse. Unemployment is high. It is sandwiched between geopolitical tensions of Egypt and Israel. Life is very difficult.

To emphasise the point, Maan News service, based in Ramallah, reports that yet again Palestinian Authority (PA) employees in Gaza may not be paid their salaries. The background appears to be a combination of reasons; lack of funds within the PA and also a dispute between the Palestinian Government and its supposed Hamas allies in Gaza.

So how does one reconcile this gloomy picture with new investigative journalism from Arab sources that of the 1.6 million people in Gaza, there are at least 600 millionaires. In fact, on the ground witnesses reveal a very different kind of Gaza than the one depicted in the UN report.

Informed Palestinian sources revealed that every day, in addition to weapons, thousands of tons of fuel, medicine, various types of merchandise, vehicles, electrical appliances, drugs, medicine and cigarettes are smuggled into the Gaza Strip through more than 400 tunnels. A former Sudanese government official who visited the Gaza Strip lately was quoted as saying that he found basic goods that were not available in Sudan. Almost all the tunnels are controlled by the Hamas government, which has established a special commission to oversee the smuggling business, which makes the Hamas government the biggest benefactor of the smuggling industry.

So what’s the truth? The bottom line of the UN report is that 99% of Gaza’s troubles are the fault of Israel. Well, nobody can argue that Israel finds Gaza a welcome neighbour. Daily rocket fire from the Hamas territory did not cease even as schools started up again this week. The problem was that this context was omitted by the authors of the UN document.

The UN also sw correct to underemphasise the large role that Egypt plays in the Gaza economy, such as providing much of its electricity. More recently, because of the increasing terrorism in Sinai, of which Hamas affiliated groups have a significant part, Egypt has been clamping down on its border with Gaza. Only 24 hours ago, CNN detailed how many smuggling tunnels, a core of Hamas’ revenue stream, have been shut down by Cairo.

For the record, I was talking to a journalist last week, who had recently been through some of these tunnels. He described what seemed to be large and growing centres of commerce, which would do proud any transportation highway around the world.

At the end of the day, the economies of Gaza and Ramallah may share a common trend. Life may not be comfortable for all, while there are still many who are doing well – in fact, really well. However,for the UN to argue that life is unbearable in the Palestinian territories and that is all the fault of Israel’s reminds one of those who print such racist tractates as the “Protocols of Zion”. Both contain the same level of hatred and distortion.

Gaza’s economy – one year on

December 28, 2009

It is a year since Israel invaded Gaza. Many NGOs report that the local Palestinian economy has been devasted. A closer inspection reveals a more complciated picture.

 Israel’s action was a response to the thousands of rockets that had been fired at southern towns since the withdrawl from Gaza in 2005. On the anniversary of the start of hostilities this week, Hamas organised a  “mass” demonstration of support. Estimates of the turnout vary, but as the Assocated Press commented:

…the Hamas call to rally was met with indifference. Ignoring a siren meant to call for a minute’s silence, cars whizzed by and pedestrians kept walking……”I wish they had commemorated the war by opening a factory. That would have been better than this,” said Gaza resident Rami Mohammed, 30.

And that is the problem for the Hamas leadership. Not all the people are stupid all the time. They will not continuously accept that Israel is to blame for their economic problems.

Take a look at the “tunnel economy”. First, it has created a new elite, where many of the members are linked to the Hamas leadership. And in true Orwellian irony, Hamas had ousted the previous Fatah leadership, which was seen as ridden with corruption.

Second, the underground economy has become an employer of child labour, a total contradiction of humanitarian ground rules, and thus a cause for more discontent.

There is another secret side to the economy. On the one hand, Hamas cries “poverty” to whoever will listen. And yet, when the time comes, it showers money on to the streets. Pictures from the Eid religious festival revealed shops full of produce.

Similarly, Hamas is thought to have invested around US$2 m in celebrating its battles against the Israeli army. But also this week,

…… sources in Gaza have reported of a new corruption affair in Hamas’ transportation ministry. According to one testimony, a senior ministry official named Ziad Harara took tens of thousands of dollars and disappeared……

This affair is related to the driving studies industry in the Strip. According to reports, senior transportation ministry officials take about $658-790 for issuing a driving license, even for people who do fail to meet the driving test’s demands. Hamas government workers receive a $100 bribe for letting people pass a theory driving test without taking it.

Palestinians deserve better

August 18, 2009

The Fatah Conference is over. United in its hatred of Israel and divided over any other subject, the result was a sham. Instead of talking about peace, more obstacles were placed in the way of progress.

In the immediate fall out, it is the average Palestinian who will suffer from this display of disunity.

With a great deal of irony, about the only togetherness took place when most delegates resigned quickly after the ballot results were announced. Former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) told the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper:-

The forgery in Iran’s recent presidential election was nothing compared to what happened in Fatah……There were behind-the-scenes arrangements that removed some names and added others to the winning list.

It will be interesting to see how President Obama handles President Abbas, who clearly does not possess the flowing confidence of his own party, Fatah; a party which has again reiterated the option of armed struggle against Israel.

Fatah’s stronghold is in the West Bank, having been evicted by Hamas from Gaza. Yet this former Egyptian territory raises its own human rights issues.

Last weekend, Hamas took out and slaughtered a rival political group, linked with Al-Qaida. Highly respected commentator, Tom Gross, reports that:

Hamas forces also stormed a mosque in Rafah on the Egyptian border, where about 100 members of Jund Ansar Allah, or “The Soldiers of the Companions of God,” were holed up. At least 150 Palestinians were injured.

Hamas, which regularly cons Western human rights groups into believing it doesn’t have any money, used a considerable array of weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, to attack the mosque. …

According to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, an Egyptian child was hit by a stray bullet fired during the exchange, and ten artillery shells also landed on the southern side of the Gaza-Egypt border, ….

This news is of considerable political significance because it shows that Hamas is determined to maintain absolute control over Gaza and allow no dissent whatever (thereby reducing the prospects of reconciliation with Fatah and the possibility that the Palestinians might be unified enough to form an independent state).

That Hamas has little respect for common law is no surprise. Two weeks ago, it commandeered 3 new ambulances, just as they were being delivered to UNRWA. That is several tens of thousands of international tax payers money, donated on behalf of Palestinians, which has been swallowed up into the heart of the Hamas organization.

As I end this piece, I have just recalled that back in April, Israel’s entry for the European Song Contest was entitled “There has to be another way”.

Oh, how the Palestinians deserve so much better

Tax breaks for Palestinians

May 17, 2009

It seems that the international community has finally found a way to channel money to the Palestinians in a manner that clearly gets around the “Hamas factor”.

The aim seems to be to use UN institutions. Clearly even the Saudis have been worried, as there hundreds of millions is still in Riyahd as opposed to Palestinian bank accounts.

Certainly this is a positive step. But it begs one horrible question. What has happened to the money until now?

The Funding for Peace Coalition long campaigned for greater transparency and accountability of Western tax payers money going into Gaza and into Ramallah. EU, UNWRA, USAID and others have all invested billions.

We know that Arafat died as one of the wealthiest men in the Middle East. Crawl the web and you will find that he son of President Abbas has been censured for his new-found wealth. Hamas has finessed the art of smuggling, profiting on the building of the tunnel, their use, and the goods eventually sold.

A recent convert to this need for monitoring has been the Taxpayers Alliance. In a report released last month, the group detailed how the EU in particular funds a Palestinian educational curriculum filled with direct and indirect hatred.

To quote the key findings: –

  • Over €729 million of EU taxpayers’ money spent on aid to the Palestinian territories each year.
  • Donations to the Palestinian territories create a responsibility to ensure that the Palestinian Authority does not misuse its budget. That responsibility exists whether EU taxpayers are directly supporting the promotion of hatred and violence, providing the Palestinian Authority with funds that it can use to do the same or providing services that Palestinian authorities would otherwise be expected to provide, freeing up their budget to use as they like.
  • 42% of the Palestinian population are under 15 years old.
  • The Palestinian media is dominated by official newspapers, radio stations and television channels, paid for by the Palestinian Authority’s budget which is in turn supported by British donations. That media frequently broadcasts statements that advocate the continuation of violent struggle instead of pursuing peace.
  • Breakdown of the €729 million: €420m from the EU; €67m – France; €67m -Sweden; €55m -Germany; €27m -Italy; €93m – the UK.

The point? Well, tax collection by the Palestinian Authority and by Hamas is negligent. So if they are going to use other people’s money, especially in tight times as today, they should have the decency to use it on morally justifiable measures, which will feed into a genuine peace process.

Israel and hypocrisy – the new UNRWA?

May 1, 2009

I recently came across a wonderful book: “Not In My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy”, written by Chas Newkey-Burden and Julie Burchill, and published by Virgin Books.

The section on Israel was written by Burden and can be found at: http://www.oyvagoy.com/israel. The author asks a challenging question.

The anti-Israel brigade would have us believe that the motivation for this vitriolic hatred of Israel is a genuine, compassionate concern for the fate of the Palestinian people. But do they really care about the Palestinians, or is their compassion somewhat selective, to put it politely? In reality, are they only interested in Palestinian suffering for as long as it gives them an opportunity to bash Israel?

As Burden notes: When Palestinian women are stabbed to death in “honour killings” across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no anti-Israel Westerners lose a single moment’s sleep on their behalf.

So what?

Well, yesterday, I read about a new and challenging extension of this hypocrisy.

UNRWA was set up 60 years ago to help Palestinians and their social problems. It has a standing annual budget of over US$400m, which is regularly topped up for special campaigns. European taxpayers are particularly generous donors. Even since Israel left Gaza in 2005, UNRWA has still to resettle even one refugee outside the camps.

Israel and her supporters have been consistently critical of UNRWA and its increasingly political role. The Lindsay Report is the best documented comment to that effect.

In return, UNRWA through John Ging, its chief rep in Gaza, has never pulled its punches. The most notable occasion was during the January war in Gaza, when UNRWA claimed that Israel has deliberately shelled a school killing 42 civilians. UNRWA is proud of its record of supporting schools, funding school books, founding clinics and far more on behalf of Palestinians. It openly accepts that Hamas is its partner in Gaza, and works with this proscribed organisation.

And yet: Well, we all know that the 42 turned into 12, and 9 of those were Hamas operatives. Christopher Gunness, an UNRWA spokesperson, had to censure Hamas for stealing aid during the war. Ging has just called on the Western and Arab communities to deliver on its aid pledges to Gaza.

And now for the hypocrisy. For all the bending over backwards to help the Palestinians, often deliberately cooperating in tandem with militias, Ging has been censured by Hamas.

In effect, on 16th April, the Hamas paper “Felesteen” called on Ging to resign, as he opposes the “resistance”. His crime is his efforts to work within UN ethical standards. In other words, the man whose job is to funnel millions of Western money into Hamas projects is now seen as a traitor, because he is calling for transparency and opposing some of the violent methods.  

Fortunately for Hamas, Obama is currently trying to see it included in a new Fatah government. European politicians are also queuing up to visit its leaders, as they refuse to even consider recognising Israel. Phew, no hypocrisy here, either.

Why boycott Israel

April 11, 2009

I am increasingly asked why people want to boycott Israel.

Ignoring outright anti-semites, what makes somebody deliberately want to isolate the sole proclaimed democracy in the Middle East? So I invite you to take a few minutes and join me in analysing the background and to come up with a solid intellectual argument.

Background:

Briefly, Arab countries have been demanding a boycott of Israel, even prior to its creation in 1948, at least 19 years before the issue of the West Bank cropped up. And this demand includes a wish to force non-Arab countries to comply with sanctions against Israel.

Skipping forward to the current decade, left-wing activists have taken the lead in calling for a boycott, primarily in Britain.

1)      Trades Unions have repeatedly called for universities not to employ Israeli academics, specifically if they do not comply with a set political point of view.

2)      NGOs have encouraged the British government to demand from retailers that all goods manufactured in Palestinian territories are clearly labeled, way beyond what the EU has agreed with Israel. (The government has reverted to the spin of saying it is responding to consumer pressure, although that abstract has never been proven).

3)      The influential Cooperative Movement in the UK, which sponsors several MPs, is under increasing pressure to boycott Israeli goods.

4)      Where the UK leads, Canada follows. There is a growing movement to launch an academic boycott and stop the import of Israeli wines.

5)      A few Australian professors have also felt a need to climb on to the bandwagon.

6)      In America, Motorola (Israel) sales have been plagued by Palestinian campaigners.

7)      You can search utube for films of how campaigners violently tear Israeli goods of the shelves of French supermarkets or terrorise vendors of Israeli products in UK shopping malls.

8)      The Dutch Labour Party is demanding that Israel talks to Hamas or face sanctions.

So Why Boycott:

Let’s look at 4 possible reasons.

1)      To promote human rights.

Well in that case, there would be calls to boycott 50% of the countries in the world, yes? Type the word “boycott” into google. Around 95 out of the first 100 entries refer to Israel – note “Israel” and not just a call to boycott goods made in the Palestinian territories alone.

It can be assumed that most of these activists are content to accept the repression in Zimbabwe, the slaughter of Christians in Sudan, the racism of Venezuela, or even the totalitarianism of several Islamic regimes including Hamas. For example, the Dutch Labour Party has made no equivalent demand on any Arab party in the conflict.

2)      To help Palestinians.

Israel’s trade union organization, the Histadrut, has a long and strong tradition of working with minority sectors, including Palestinians. They have estimated that a boycott of Israeli products manufactured in Palestinian territories will immediately affect approx 25,000 Palestinian workers.

·         This figure does not include dependants and family member, ensuring that the figure rises towards 150,000.

·         Behind the stat is the fact that these wages are relatively high for the Palestinian sector.

·         Threatened economic instability will threaten new investment.

·         And a boycott of Israel is likely to hit at those sectors that employ tens of thousands of Palestinians working within the pre-1967 armistice agreements.

 

3)      To stop Israel’s violence towards the Palestinians.

This is certainly a noble objective. However, the narrative ignores that fact that most of Israel’s policy in Gaza or elsewhere is based on response. For example, the military action in Gaza in January 09 followed a refusal by Hamas to renew a ceasefire and after 8,000 rockets had landed in Israel over 8 years.

Sanction supporters might have created some credence if they issued a similar demand to boycott Fatah, Hamas and Hizbollah for their violence against Israeli and local civilians. But that balance is consistently lacking in all the arguments.

4)      To help peace

Again highly praiseworthy: But we know that trade between nations and peoples helps to foster understanding and progress. A boycott seals off those very opportunities for all sides.

Boycott’s Raison d’Etre:

So, once you tear away the spin of all these excuses, what are you left with? I looked at the website of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The senior team reads like a “who’s who” of participants of trendy causes since the early 1960s. With a couple of exceptions, I would not associate any of them with being anti-semitic. There are even some non-practicising Jews.

BUT, if you compare the language of the website, it reads strikingly similar to that of the Arab League of the 1940s. Then, these people called for: –

 “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable..” thus declared the Arab League Council on December 2, 1945. All Arab “institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals” were called upon “to refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods.”

 

And the difference with today’s cries against Israel? Very little, as PSC site describes. It is the same venomous hatred as 60+ years ago, except that the spin today is more subtle and comes from politically acceptable Western celebs.

History will judge any future boycott as a triumph of evil; a deliberately racist tool, based on a combination of misinformation, phobias and enmity.