Daily Israel Report

A Tale of Two Worlds: Gaza and the Global Village

Gazans’ life expectancy is well above average; infant mortality rates are far higher in famine-plagued countries, but world aid pours in to PA.

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/9/2010, 2:16 PM / Last Update: 6/9/2010, 2:44 PM

Israel news photo montage

Readers, please note: Some of the pictures in this article are upsetting.

Gaza Arabs’ life expectancy is well above average, and infant mortality rates are far higher in famine-plagued countries, but world aid continues to pour in to the Hamas-controlled region, according to official data.

Yet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is asking U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday for more aid, in addition to the billons of dollars of foreign funds the PA has received the past few years. He has cited Israel’s partial blockade of Gaza as the main cause for alleged shortages in Gaza and in villages administered by the United Nations in Judea and Samaria.

Recent photos and statements by Arab sources deny any shortage of food or merchandise in Gaza. 

The Israeli government recently sent foreign journalists a link showing a fancy first-class restaurant in Gaza, noting "we have been told the beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup are highly recommended.".

Statistics provided by the United Nations and the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  show that while famine kills millions of small children in India (pictured), Guatemala and Africa, among other nations, the child mortality rate for Arab "refugees” is 35 per 1,000, compared with 180 per 1,000 in Angola and 116 in Niger.

The term "Palestinian refugees" refers to children who are descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in the 1948 War of Independence and the Six-Day War in 1967. Lebanon and Jordan, among other countries, prefer to keep the Arabs in “refugee camps” to prevent their integrating with the rest of the population, where they might pose a political challenge.

World hunger organizations report that 10-15 million below the age of 5 die each year, and 50,000 people die daily. One-third of all deaths in the world are due to poverty.

The life expectancy for Gaza Arabs is 72 years, nearly five years more than the world average, according to CIA World Factbook statistics. In Swaziland, the life expectancy is less than 40 years, and it is 42 years in Zambia. Photo: Gaza Arabs at sea.

Mainstream media have focused on Gaza as an area where the de facto Hamas government suffered from a lack of funds because of an American financial boycott. Attention also is given to the Israeli embargo, enforced to try to prevent Hamas from adding to its large arsenal of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, long-range rockets and rifles.

The Palestinian Authority, which contributes half of its budget to Gaza Arabs, has become more dependent on the massive foreign aid it has received since the beginning of the 2000 Second Intifada, also known as the Oslo War.

In contrast, 22 member countries of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, the world's major donors, provided $103.9 billion to fight poverty in 2006, while the Palestinian Authority receives one of the world’s highest foreign subsidies per capita.

It has received nearly $10 billion in foreign aid since 1994 when the PA was formally established. The European Union is the largest donor, followed by the United States, which contributes nearly twice as much as Saudi Arabia.

The aid has enabled the PA, which seeks to become an independent country though located within Israel's borders, to inflate its public payroll to more than 160,000 workers while its education system continues to incite violence against Israel. Donors currently contribute more than $1 billion a year.

The domestic output of the PA economy dropped by 30 percent on a per capita basis since 1999, one year before the Oslo War broke out. The local economy collapsed as neighboring Jewish communities were unable to employ thousands of Arab workers because of terrorist attacks.

However, the World Bank has cited security restrictions on trade in and out of Judea, Samaria and Gaza as one of the reasons for Gaza’s economic problems.

A previous report in the Middle East Quarterly concluded, "Perhaps aid itself does not cause violence, but there is strong evidence that it contributes to a culture of corruption, government malfeasance and terrorism that has had lethal consequences for both Israelis and Palestinians over the past decade."

The researcher, Steven Stotsky, a senior research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), wrote that foreign funding of the Palestinian Authority made it “less dependent on revenue derived from commerce, detaching the PA's solvency from the health of the economy. Thus, while the intifada sent the Palestinian economy into free fall, the PA's coffers swelled. The conditions were thus established that ensured the separation of Palestinian governance from responsibility for the economic health of the Palestinian people.

"Not only did the security forces fail to prevent terrorist attacks, in many cases they colluded with terrorist groups and sometimes perpetrated attacks themselves."