Daily Israel Report

Lose-Lose: Brit Paper Slams Israel for Easing Gaza Closure

After demanding that Israel ease its closure on Gaza, the London Independent finds that this move, too, hurts Gazans.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 10/12/2010, 3:55 PM / Last Update: 10/12/2010, 4:50 PM

Flash 90

The British newspaper Independent has found a way to make Israel look bad for easing its blockade on Gaza. In its Sunday edition, the newspaper features the story of a Gaza garment manufacturer, Hasan Abu Dan, who suffered from the closure imposed on Gaza – but says he is now even worse off with the closure partially lifted.

Israel eased the blockade after the intense world pressure that followed the killing of nine terrorists on board the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara on May 31. Ironically, the Independent was among the news outlets that pressured Israel to ease the closure at that time.
 
Abu Dan's firm used to export 90 percent of its finished goods to the Israeli clothing market. This ended in 2007, when Hamas took over control of Gaza after a bloody struggle with Fatah, its rival terror group. Israel closed the main cargo crossing, Karni, and Abu Dan could no longer import raw materials through it, or export finished clothes to Israel. Israel allowed ample amounts of necessary, humanitarian cargo to enter Gaza and allowed Gazans who needed medical care to enter Israel..
 
In June 2010, due to pressure in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla, Israel reviewed its lists and agreed to allow imports to Gaza of most goods except those deemed security risks in order to prevent further flotillas.
 
Following this easing, the increased imports to Gaza were still less than 40 percent of pre-closure levels, the Independent explained, but previously banned consumer goods now flowed into Gaza. “Moreover, some unbanned raw materials including cloth for the imploded garment industry slowly began to move into the Strip, allowing some production to restart – albeit at a fraction of pre-2007 levels.”
 
Yet for the large manufacturers like Abu Dan, the easing of the embargo had “a perverse effect,” the report says. “With the ban on exports still in force, the family was now hard pressed even to sell to the local market, because of its flooding by cheap clothing, often Chinese-made, coming through Israel."
 
"They talk about easing the embargo, but that means allowing in finished goods which we cannot compete with. Believe me, things are worse for us now than before it happened," Abu Dan told the newspaper.
 
Amr Hamad, Gaza director of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, told the newspaper that while sectors like plastics have seen a marked improvement, the net effect of the easing of the blockade has been “neutral for industry.” He explained: "We are a small piece of one economic entity, one that has always planned on working with a stronger economy, that of Israel.”
 
The article winds up with quotes from a radical leftist Israeli group, Gisha, which accuses Israel's government of having devised a policy of "economic warfare," and from Abu Dan, who says that "Israel wants to destroy the infrastructure of Gaza's economy." 
 
Interestingly, it was the Independent itself, on June 6, that ran a leading editorial calling on Israel to lift its closure of Gaza. 
 
“The idea that a people will respond constructively to ever harsher treatment is not supported by many historical examples,” it wrote, and “the only hope in the Middle East is that Israelis can be brought to see that the blockade is isolating the people of Gaza and helping the extremists.”
 
The latest turn for the worse for Gaza residents is one of a long string of events since the first Intifada in the 1980s, which resulted in a strong and growing economy sinking into depression as Jewish employers could no longer employ Arabs because of constant terrorist attacks. Jews also were frightened away from shopping in Gaza markets.
 
After the Israeli government expelled 9,000 Jews from the Gaza region in 2005, more Gaza workers were thrown out of work. Israel and numerous other countries invested in infrastructures that were to turn Gaza into "the Singapore of the Middle East," but the Arabs chose another course. The barbaric terror onslaught known as the Oslo War, also known as the Second Intifada, left thousands of Gaza construction workers without work in Israel.
 
The Hamas overthrow of the Fatah government nearly four years ago tightened the terrorist organization's grip on the local economy as Israel clamped down on the flow of goods to prevent the smuggling of advanced weapons into Gaza. Countless times, Israel tried to reopen the crossings into Gaza despite horrific terror attacks, but Hamas and other groups prevented this by bombing the crossings.