May 28, 2010

The poverty of gaza

In Defying Blockade, Cargo and Passenger Vessels Head for Gaza, Isabel Kershner of the New York Times reports:

In a sarcastic e-mail message to reporters this week, Israel's Government Press Office recommended a high-end restaurant in Gaza, the Roots Club, attaching the menu and a link to its Web site. "We have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended," the office said. The restaurant would, of course, be out of reach for most of Gaza's 1.5 million residents. Israeli military officials put unemployment there at almost 40 percent.

International organizations active in Gaza paint a bleaker picture. A United Nations Development Program report published on Sunday determined that about three-quarters of the damage caused by Israel's military offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-9 had not yet been repaired. And a report by the United Nations humanitarian coordinator blamed the blockade for "suffocating" the agricultural sector in Gaza and said that insufficient food was now a problem in more than 60 percent of households.

Yes, international organizations in Gaza paint a bleaker picture. But is it a more accurate picture. The other day I noted a Financial Times report that mentioned that there's such a glut of luxury items in Gaza - smuggled through tunnels - that prices are falling! If Gazans are thriving without the relief organizations, the organizations have reason to deny that; they don't want to lose their or perceived usefulness.

Additionally, it's dishonest and unfar to portray Israel as being cruel for preventing building materials into Gaza, when Hamas would use construction materials to reinforce its military infrastructure:

With regard to the military networks: Hamas is rebuilding and strives to upgrade its military-terrorist wing (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades). That includes replacing the weapons lost with new ones (including advanced weapons) by smuggling them in through the tunnels (despite Egypt's intensive counter-activities). So far Hamas has smuggled in dozens of standard rockets, hundreds of mortar shells, dozens of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and tens of tons of standard explosives and raw materials for the manufacture of homemade weapons. The smuggling allows Hamas to extend the range of its rockets and to improve its anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities. In addition, the tunnel system in the Rafah region is in use again and is a vital channel for smuggling weapons (as well as food, equipment and fuel). Weapons are being manufactured again, and military training and instruction have been renewed (although for the time being theIzz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades are keeping a lower profile than they did before Operation Cast Lead).

With regard to security systems: Hamas is particularly concerned about restoring its internal security forces, which were severely damaged by the fighting, and to strengthen its control over the Gaza Strip. Five months after the end of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas succeeded in restoring the forces' daily functioning, as can be seen by their increased deployment and visibility. The oppression of Hamas opponents (primarily Fatah) has been renewed to ensure that they do not try to regroup. In addition, new operatives are being recruited and an emergency exercise was being held to simulate emergency deployment and dealing with an Israel attack (a lesson learned from the blow delivered by the IDF at the beginning of Operation Cast Lead). Headquarters have been assigned temporary quarters, most of them in civilian locations, to find solutions, even temporary, for the problems involved in restoring the apparatuses which were attacked.

Kershner also fails to acknowledge that Hamas, by now, is partly responsible for the housing crisis in Gaza.

Nidal Eid was praised by Hamas officials as an example of anti-Zionist resistance when he managed to build a house here last year despite an Israeli blockade that barred the import of any building materials. But earlier this week, his house was the first to be demolished by the Hamas government, which said it had been illegally built on public land.

Bulldozers, accompanied by Hamas forces and police officers who beat residents with sticks, razed at least 25 houses, including some concrete structures here in Rafah, the southernmost city of Gaza.

Even as Kershner reports on the poverty in Gaza, tthere is plenty of evidnece that goods are getting through. And there's good reason for Israel to prohibit the importing of construction materials. This reminds me of Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. Two years ago she went to Gaza claiming that it was a "concentration camp." Of course photographs of her in a fully stocked grocery store.

But Lauren Booth was an anti-Israel activist. Isn't Isabel Kershner supposed to be reporting the news? Even the information that contradicts the popular impression that Israel is starving the residents of Gaza.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Posted by SoccerDad at May 28, 2010 3:00 AM
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