Hamas’ Siege on Gaza

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In Al-Ahram, Egypt’s largest daily, journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl wrote (translated by MEMRI) on July 18:

I was last in Gaza in mid-February. Returning three weeks ago, I found it almost unrecognizable…. A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza’s coast. Further, the sight of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me.

Abu Al-Houl goes on to make an admission of sorts:

The reality [in Gaza] proves that the siege was broken even before Israel’s crime against the ships of the Freedom Flotilla in late May; everything already was coming into the Gaza Strip [through smuggler tunnels] from Egypt. If this weren’t the case, businessmen would not have been able to build so many resorts in under four months.

Though clearly taken with what he sees, however, Abu Al-Houl later asserts that it is no egalitarian paradise:

The Gaza resorts paint a picture of prosperity enjoyed by only a few groups, most of which have become rich from the blockade, because they either own tunnels or else work for the many international organizations in Gaza, headed by UNRWA…. Most of [the resorts] are owned by members, or associates, of Hamas. In addition, the Hamas municipalities [also] charge high fees, in Gaza terms, for the use of public beaches.

Finally Abu Al-Houl complains that “this huge investment in the leisure industry is taking place today in Gaza at a time when 80% of the residents depend on aid from UNRWA and other organizations, and unemployment is at 45%….”

In other words, after his initial enthusiasm about “absolute prosperity” and “merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops,” Abu Al-Houl is saying the wealth is only enjoyed at the top by professional smugglers (i.e., tunnel owners), UNRWA people, and Hamas itself.

That portrayal was further buttressed by an AFP report appearing a few days later, on July 25, called “Hamas thrives in Gaza’s besieged economy.” It opens:

The tranquil lawns of the seaside Garden Resort are a high-end oasis in the impoverished Gaza Strip – and a source of income for the Hamas-linked charity that owns it.

The beach club, one of several commercial ventures recently launched by groups and individuals linked to Hamas, illustrates the Islamist movement’s growing dominance of an economy crippled by a four-year-old Israeli blockade.

The article goes on to claim:

Israeli and Egyptian border closures imposed after the capture of an Israeli soldier in June 2006 and tightened when Hamas seized power a year later have devastated Gaza’s private sector, sending unemployment above 40 percent.” And yet, “the sanctions have had little visible impact on Hamas, which taxes and regulates a thriving trade carried out through hundreds of smuggler tunnels beneath the Egyptian border that supply most of Gaza’s daily needs.

Hamas economy minister Ziad al-Zada is cited as “attribut[ing] Hamas members’ growing role in the economy to the ouster of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by the rival Fatah movement…in June 2007,” and as saying, “The sons of Hamas were prevented in the past from working and participating, but today there are opportunities for them.”

The article ends by quoting some ordinary Gazans complaining about the prices charged at Hamas-run resorts.

A few things are worth noting here.

One is that when Westerners have railed against the “humanitarian crisis” caused by the “Israeli siege” of Gaza, they generally have neither known nor cared very much what they were talking about. Both the Al-Ahram and AFP stories depict opulent scenarios of beach resorts and malls while decrying – Abu Al-Houl less consistently – a wider context of unemployment but not of severe deprivation. Abu Al-Houl says at first that the siege conditions had, thanks to the smuggling, already ended even before Israel relaxed its blockade.

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  • BS77

    Aren't rocket attacks the prelude to "peace talks"???? T

  • kiwicris

    From memory I Dont Think Hamas "seized" power . .they were elected, by an overwhelming majority I seem to recall, and the take over came about through Fatah' s Mohameed Dahlan's men, backed by the white house and the cia and probably Israel trying to oust hamas from power.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/WildJew WildJew

      I believe you are right. Furthermore, Hamas' popularity amongst the people was largely driven by the perception that Hamas was an incorruptible religious movement; a grassroots, egalitarian, charitable movement that did not hold itself above the people like corrupt Fatah leaders and officials do. According to this piece, Hamas is now little different from Fatah in terms of its corrupt practices.

    • welldoneson

      Wow! Blaming the CIA, the White House, and Israel for Gaza being ruled by murderous genocidal cowards. That takes the cake, for sure. In fact Hamas murdered so many Fatah candidates and voters that anyone who didn't vote Hamas risked the death of his family. Hamas is an abomination of the political world, fueled by Islamists and their hatred of any non-Moslem.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/imnokuffar imnokuffar

    Speaking as a Brit I am ashamed and enraged by Cormorants blatant anti-semitic attack on Israel. This cretinous moron knows nothing about the situation facing Israel and has given succour to HAMAS that is a terrorist organisation. As to the Gazans, well the old saying that you get the government you deserve seems apt. A lot of Brits are now coming to realise just what a bloody mess this government is getting us further into. Cormorant and Cligg are two sides of the same coin the treacherous bastards.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/WildJew WildJew

      Here here!

  • USMCSniper

    The Palestinians are an Islamic subculture used as proxy terrorists by Iran and the Arab Muslim states that strap munitions on their own women and children and send them out on homicide-suicide mission to murder other innocent wome and children in supermarkets, restuarants, and even on school buses. It the EU's and America's shame that there is one ounce of legitimacy given to these migrant workers and the descendants who are either terrorists themselves or support the jihadists.

  • USMCSniper

    We just spent $20,000,000 to move members/supporters of Hamas, a terrorist organization, to the United States ; housing, food, the whole enchilada. HB 1388 PASSED! Whether you are an Obama fan, or not, EVERYONE IN THE U.S. needs to know. Something happened… H.B. 1388 was passed, behind our backs. You may want to read about it… It wasn't mentioned on the news. Obama funds $20M in tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA. This is the news that didn't make the headlines. By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in "migration assistance" to the Palestinian refugees and "conflict victims" in Gaza. The "presidential determination," which allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with ties to Hamas to resettle in the United States, was signed and appears in the Federal Register. Now we learn that he is allowing thousands of Palestinian refuges to move to, and live in, the US at American taxpayer expense. Doubtful? To verify this for yourself: http://www.thefederalregister.com/d.p/2009-02-04-E9-248 8http://www.thefederalregister.com/d.p/2009-02-04-E9-2488