The Myth of the Siege of Gaza

Published: June 7th 2010
in News » Israel

Gaza Market
Pic: Islamic Jihad Website

Since 2007, Israel has maintained a legal maritime blockade around Gaza whose purpose is to keep rockets and other weapons out of the hands of Hamas, while letting food and other humanitarian aid in. Yet there have been a wide variety of officials and commentators who insist that Gaza is starving, setting the stage for the repeated efforts of "humanitarian" ships to break the Gaza blockade.


For example, John Ging, the director of operations for UNRWA, told the New York Times in early 2009 that Israel's blockade was choking off basic humanitarian supplies like medicine, clothing and blankets, as well as food supplies. The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory released a report in August 2009 arguing that "the blockade has ‘locked in' 1.15 million people." The same report asserted that 75 percent of Gaza's population is "food insecure." Recently, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) told Don Imus on the Fox Business Channel that Israel was "preventing food and medicine from going into Gaza." He said there are "people that are starving," and closed with a vile suggestion that the situation of the Gazans was "almost like in concentration camps."


Are the Gates of Gaza Closed?


The claims of a hermetic blockade of Gaza are inconsistent with the figures that emerge from Israeli and Palestinian sources alike. The Gaza Strip under Hamas control continues to receive supplies of goods via the border crossings with Israel and the network of tunnels with Egypt, which have become an established import channel that supplements the items not coming in from Israel, on a scale of hundreds of millions of dollars per year.


The continuing rise in imports via the tunnel network provides employment to thousands of Palestinians and lines the coffers of the Hamas government by taxes on operating the tunnels and on the goods that pass through them. The types of merchandise imported via the tunnels are determined by supply and demand, and the tunnel owners frequently create an artificial shortage so as to increase their profit share.


The Hamas government also enjoys funding from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and monies from the European Union (which financed the purchase of fuel for Gaza's power station) toward the purchase of Israeli-supplied electricity, in addition to aid from the Arab states.


Gaza's gates are open for exit and entry by Palestinian residents, subject to approval by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities and coordination with them. According to Palestinian figures, Israel and Egypt have approved more than 98% of Palestinian requests for medical treatment in their respective countries.


The tunnel network is also used by Hamas for military purposes, among them sending fighters for training in Iran and Syria, and for the import of advanced weapons systems (anti-aircraft and anti-missile), explosives, and ammunition.


Criminal activity in the tunnels includes drug running and trafficking in young girls for domestic work and marriage to wealthy, older Palestinians.


Related articles: (Gaza, siege, blockade, rockets, Hamas, food, humanitarian aid)

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