Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Remembering Gaza

No, I don’t mean the December, 2008 attack by Israeli bombers and ground troops. The exploding buildings, bombed-out homes, the dead and wounded piled in hospital corridors—those horrific scenes, thankfully, are history.

But Gazans are still suffering, and our tax dollars support the soldiers who stand at the checkpoints, deciding who and what can enter or leave Gaza.

I often hear people lament the lack of Palestinian leadership. They wonder why the Palestinians can’t create a healthier economy. The worst scenario is in Gaza, but the problems of Gaza are similar to the barriers to business development throughout the West Bank as well.

Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in June 2007, following the election of a Hamas-majority government (in elections, by the way, cited this week by former President Jimmy Carter: “The three most perfect elections that we have monitored have been in Palestine.”). For three years the people of Gaza have endured a blockade of their port and all the entry points into Gaza—from Egypt and from Israel.

Last week, there was news of a lifting of the blockade, but the report of Paltrade, the Palestine Trade Center, published on April 12, shows that the news we heard was not the whole story…..

Israel granted entry for only two categories of products: clothes and shoes. The containers that arrived, however, having been held at Israeli ports for three years, were badly damaged, much of the clothing and shoes ruined. Losses were estimated at 30%. The stories of two Gazan businessmen illustrate what happened.

One merchant received delivery of one of ten containers the Israelis have been holding. Another received one of nine containers. In both cases the merchandise was badly damaged, the packages were ripped open, the goods dirty and not fit for sale. They estimate that, in addition to losing the goods for the past three years, 30% of the merchandise they have now finally received is a total loss. Pictures of the goods can be seen on the above web page.

No wonder the economy is so bad in Gaza. Even though Israeli troops have officially withdrawn from Gaza, troops at the checkpoints at the border continue to block, not only clothing, but food and school supplies, building materials and many other items. They, not the elected officials of the Palestinian Authority, have total control of what comes into or goes out of Gaza.

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