Jobless Gaza Arabs Miss Jewish Employers, Turn to Drugs

Gaza Arabs, left jobless by the Oslo War and by last year's expulsion of Gush Katif farmers, have turned to drugs that are smuggled from Lebanon and Egypt, the United Nations reports.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 23:31

Tens of thousands of Arabs worked throughout Israel in factories and in construction until the Oslo War broke out in 2000. The constant flow of terrorists from Gaza forced Israel to severely restrict traffic and to withdraw work permits, in an attempt to prevent terrorists from abusing them to carry out attacks.

Thousands of Arabs were still able to work for Jewish farmers in Gush Katif until the summer of 2005, when the government forced the nearly 10,000 Jewish residents out of their homes and destroyed their flourishing communities.

Hopes for a robust PA economy following the eviction of the Jews turned to dust, however, and the former greenhouses (pictured above) became training grounds for terrorists. The situation has fostered a drug problem among the poor and jobless, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The U.N. agency cited the example of a 35-year-old man, Hassan, who worked for Jewish shippers and was left jobless after the Oslo War. "My life was normal," he said. "Everything was normal, but unemployment is difficult and poverty is more difficult. Bad conditions led me down a worse path. I have even had to beg for money."

Since then he has been unemployed, a situation that drove him to drug addiction. To fund his habit, he first sold his wife's and children's clothes, then stole his brother's property to be able to pay for his drugs.

"Overall, drug dependency... is on the rise, according to... police and doctors," the U.N. report said. "This, they say, is due to a sense of hopelessness among ordinary Palestinians and the lack of both effective policing to catch the dealers and of a clinical safety net to help those already addicted."

Husni Shaheen, secretary general of the Palestinian Supreme National Committee against Drugs, blamed Israel for the poor economic conditions in Gaza. He added, however, that most of the drugs come from Lebanon and the Sinai desert in Egypt.

Arabs who still were working for Gush Katif farmers banked on a government and European Union plan to foster a PA agriculture economy.

International donors, headed by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, paid $14 million for the greenhouses of Jewish farmers, hoping that Arab farmers would use them profitably. The Christian Science Monitor reported last year, "That hope was jeopardized when Palestinian looters damaged many of the greenhouses, stripping them bare, for instance, of computers that the settlers used to monitor crops. Irrigation pumps were stolen, electricity networks paralyzed, and protective sheeting for the hothouses was torn.

"Before Israel forced them to relocate, Israeli settlers cultivated 1,125 acres of land," the report notes. "The greenhouses once employed 3,600 workers, the overwhelming majority of them Palestinians."

The report noted that one worker named Awad "said he was tempted to join his Jewish employers in their re-located farm."



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