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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) held a conference on August 27th entitled “Will the Gaza Strip be Viable in 2020?” The conclusion, predictably, was that the Israeli government was fully responsible for the difficult human living conditions in the Gaza Strip and that the Gaza population will face a real disaster on all levels by 2020 if the Israeli “siege” were not immediately ended.
In attendance at the Israel-bashing conference were the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Maxwell Gaylard, Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza Robert Turner, and UNICEF Special Representative in the Palestinian Territory, Jean Gough.
Gaylard said that the Gaza population is expected to expand by a half million, reaching 2.1 million in 2020, while access to water and electricity, education and health resources will get worse over the same period, unless major remedial action is taken immediately.
“Despite their best efforts the Palestinians in Gaza still need help,” Gaylard said. “They are under blockade. They are under occupation and they need our help both politically and practically on the ground.”
Best efforts? Gaylard may not have noticed, but Gaza is not under Israeli occupation today. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas has controlled Gaza for the last five years after its forcible ejection of its Fatah rivals. Gaylard neglected to point out the reason for what remains of the Israeli blockade. Hamas and other Islamist terrorist groups have used Gaza to launch thousands of rockets, missiles and mortars into Israel during the years of Hamas control – 542 this year alone to date. Indeed, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired seven rockets into Israel in the past few days. Two of them narrowly missed a school just as the new Israeli school year got underway.
Despite the Palestinian terrorists’ continuing onslaught of unprovoked attacks, Israel has relaxed its defensive blockade at great risk to the security of its citizens. Building materials and many goods are regularly imported into the Gaza Strip without Israeli interference. Tons of agricultural products are exported without Israeli interference. And Israel is helping the Gaza economy by supplying six times as many megawatts of electricity to the Gaza Strip as Egypt does.
As a consequence, Gaza’s economic situation is not the dire catastrophe that Gaylard makes it out to be. In 2011 the Gaza Strip enjoyed a 27% growth rate compared to 2010. This growth contributed to a rise of about 23% in the per capita Gross Domestic Product. In the first quarter of 2012, the Gaza Strip showed 6% growth compared to the first quarter of the previous year. By comparison, the Gross Domestic Product in Egypt expanded 5.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 over the same quarter of the previous year. Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product grew 5.94 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period a year ago.
Unemployment in the Gaza Strip dropped to 28.4% in the second quarter of 2012 – very high to be sure, but not that much higher than Spain’s and South Africa’s unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent during the same period.
What about the critical water shortage in Gaza? Jean Gough, the UNICEF Special Representative in the Palestinian Territory, warned that there may not be any drinking water in Gaza by 2016. Water demand is expected to increase by 60% in the upcoming years, while, according to UNRWA, only a quarter of Gaza waste water is treated. Seventy-five percent of waste water, including raw sewage, is being pumped into the Mediterranean Sea or contaminating underground water sources.
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