A Gaza Sob Story – and the Truth

A foreign news agency features a sob story about Gazans forced to buy used clothes because of Israeli restrictions. One problem: there are none.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 21:30

Second-hand clothing store in Paris
Second-hand clothing store in Paris
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The French-based international news agency AFP featured a sob story on Sunday about poor Gaza Arabs forced to buy second-hand clothes because “the flow of imports is restricted by Israeli regulations." The reader is not told that there is no embargo on clothes for Gaza, unless he continues reading for another six paragraphs.

The 767-word article reported that second-hand clothes are auctioned after being shipped in from Israel. “The cheap second-hand clothes are a boon for the poorest residents in Gaza, where the flow of imports is restricted by Israeli regulations,” according to  AFP.

The news agency told readers that “although Gaza is now receiving more goods from Israel, the market for cheap, second-hand clothing hasn't disappeared,” implying some kind of connection with the non-embargo second hand stores, which exist all over the world, many of them run by charitable organizations and some as profitable businesses.

“There are no restrictions whatsoever on clothes or other non dual-use items," Coordination and Liaison spokeswoman Nili Aharon told Israel National News Monday. Israel also supervises the daily shipment into Gaza of tons of humanitarian aid and general merchandise.

The AFP feature tried to shift the focus of the problem from the non-existent embargo to poverty, which is a function of unemployment, stating that besides the supposed “restrictions by Israeli regulations,” United Nations figures show that unemployment stands at 45.5 percent.  The fact is that Gaza is booming, as can be seen by photos of hotels, restaurants, markets and beach resorts, but the unequal distribution of wealth leaves many living in poverty, especially those who are Fatah and not Hamas supporters.

“Before the embargo, I sold second-hand clothes to customers who were looking for certain brand names, but the number of customers has gone up enormously since the blockade because more people are unemployed or poor,” one vendor was quoted as saying. 

The feature article made no mention of the unprecedented economic growth in Gaza during the Israeli “occupation,” from 1967  onwards, when tens of thousands Gaza residents worked for Gush Katif farmers and for Israeli construction firms. Before 1967, Gaza was poverty stricken under the rule of Egypt, which systematically ignored Gaza's society and economy.

Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Cairo has rejected any suggestion it shoulder responsibility for the crowded Gaza region, a major drug and weapons trafficking center.

After the outbreak of the Oslo War, also known as the Second Intifada, in 2000, massive terrorist attacks against Israelis put an end to employment of most Gaza Arabs. The 2005 'disengagement' from Gaza ended the little employment that remained. Following the Hamas militia's coup four years ago, when it overwhelmed the rival Fatah faction headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the economy plunged further into a deep recession.

Israel then imposed a blockade to prevent the continuing smuggling of hundreds of tons of explosives for suicide bombs and the flow of advanced weapons, including long-range missiles, many of them smuggled from Iran and Syria.

Although shopping at second-hand clothes stores is common and even fashionable in Israel and around the world, among the poor but even among middle-income families, AFP featured the Gaza second-hand store as if it were out of the ordinary.

As for the used clothes coming from Israel, buyers pointed out that new clothes shipped into Gaza also are made in Israel. The labels can be seen in Gaza markets.