Archive for unemployment in Gaza

No Gaza optimism over easing blockade

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20/06/2010 by 3071km

Written by Jon Donnison

Date published: Sunday 20th June 2010

Source: BBC News

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Fishing boats in Gaza City's harbour

“I don’t need ketchup or mayonnaise from Israel. I need my business back,” says Nasser al-Helo standing on a busy street in Gaza City.

Mr Helo used to run a business making steel doors in the Gaza Strip. Before the blockade he was able to import metal from Israel and would produce more than 300 doors a month.

“Now, it’s a big zero,” he says. “I’ve lost $300,000 in the past three years.”

Private industry has been devastated by Israel’s blockade, which was tightened in 2007 after the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal territory.

Factories making anything from furniture to textiles, floor tiles to biscuits have gone under.

The Israeli blockade has starved them of the raw materials they need to produce their goods.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. The United Nations estimates unemployment is at 40% in Gaza. Mr Helo used to employ 32 people at his factory. Now there are only four.

‘Not enough’

The overwhelming feeling among Gazans is that Israel’s announcement on Thursday that it is “easing the blockade” is simply not enough.

Omar Shabban

The details of how the blockade will be “liberalised” are still not clear, but reportedly the Israeli authorities will allow more civilian goods to enter, including all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels. Construction materials for civilian projects will be allowed in under international supervision.

“Of course it’s not enough,” says Omar Shabban, an economist at the Gaza-based think tank PalThink.

“What about the blockade on people for starters?” he asks.

“One-and-a-half million people are trapped in a prison unable to leave.”

Israel maintains tight control of the border with Gaza, only allowing out a limited number of people to seek medical treatment. Israel says this is needed to protect itself from “terrorist” attacks.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has also been closed since 2007, although special medical cases are also sporadically allowed to pass through it.

Desperate vendors

Mr Shabban argues that what is really needed in Gaza is not a few more food items – many of which are already available through smuggling tunnels running under the Egyptian border – but a total lifting of the blockade to allow people to work in Israel, as over 100,000 people used to do.

GOODS ALLOWED INTO GAZA

Coriander

  • Canned meat and tuna, but not canned fruit
  • Mineral water, but not fruit juice
  • Sesame paste (tahini) but not jam
  • Tea and coffee but not chocolate
  • Cinnamon but not coriander

Details of Gaza blockade revealed

Gaza also used to export many goods to Israel and beyond. Strawberries and flowers are still two of Gaza’s most famous products, but most of them never get beyond the barrier into Israel.

Instead, in strawberry season in January they are sold dirt-cheap off huge wheelbarrows on street corners, the vendors desperate to sell them at any price before they rot.

Israel has argued that the blockade is necessary to put pressure on Hamas.

The group came out top in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, but the EU, the US and Israel refused to recognise Hamas in government unless it renounced violence and its commitment to destroy Israel.

Then in June 2007, Hamas ousted its secular rival, Fatah, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces from Gaza.

Rockets

Over the past decade, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing more than 20 Israelis.

Man selling strawberries in Gaza

But since Israel’s major offensive on Gaza in 2009, which devastated the territory and left more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, the number has dropped dramatically. One person – a Thai farm worker – has been killed in southern Israel by a rocket fired from Gaza in the past 12 months.

Hamas has tried to rein in rocket fire, but it does not control all the militant groups in Gaza and sporadic, usually ineffective rocket fire continues.

Israel says it is the responsibility of the Hamas authorities to stop all rocket attacks, and that the blockade is necessary to stop weapons being brought into Gaza.

But at least until now the list of items banned from entering Gaza has gone far beyond weapons. Coriander, chocolate and children’s toys have famously been excluded.

Low expectations

In actual fact, such things are readily available in the supermarkets in Gaza.

Millions of dollars worth of goods are smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

Butcher in Gaza City

There is food on the shelves and in the markets but the blockade means it is too expensive for most people to afford. A kilo of beef smuggled from Egypt costs around $15, more than most Gazans earn in a day.

“We are living on a black-market economy,” says Mr Shabban.

Gazans have little faith in Israel’s announcement. At best, they will wait and see if anything changes in the coming weeks and months.

Indeed, like most places in the world, people here are more preoccupied with the World Cup. The cafes of Gaza City on Friday were full of people cheering on Algeria as they thrashed out a dire draw with England.

The beaches in Gaza are packed this weekend with thousand of children enjoying summer camps and frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea.

But as they play in the water, a reminder that the blockade of Gaza is still very much in place – the sound of machine-gun fire just a few kilometres off the coast.

Israeli navy ships, which continue to occupy and control Gaza’s territorial water, regularly open fire on Palestinian fishing boats that stray beyond the limits of where Israel allows them to fish.

Yet most of the children did not even bat an eyelid at the gunfire.

The blockade here has been come a way of life. Few people are optimistic that will change.

KEY ENTRY POINTS INTO GAZA

map of Gaza showing key entry points• Rafah – under Egyptian control. Since flotilla deaths, opened indefinitely for people only. Has been closed for the vast majority of the time over the last three years. Makeshift tunnels in this area used to smuggle in goods, including weapons

• Erez – under Israeli control. Crossing for pedestrians and cargo. Access restricted to Palestinians under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and to Egyptians or international aid officials

• Karni – main crossing point for commercial goods

• Sufa – official crossing point for construction materials

• Kerem Shalom – for commercial and humanitarian goods. These last three crossings have been frequently closed by Israeli army since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007

• Opening of seaport and bus routes to West Bank had been agreed in 2005 but plans since shelved

• Airport – bombed by Israel in early years of the 2000 Intifada

• ‘Buffer zone’ inside Gaza where it borders Israel. Gazan farmers forbidden to enter the zone

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As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israeli occupation, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31/07/2009 by 3071km

Written by Rami Almeghari

Date published: 31st July 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

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As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 31 July 2009

Fourteen-year-old Jihad sells chewing gum to drivers in Gaza City. (Rami Almeghari)


Zaher and Jihad are two boys living in Gaza. Every day they get up early and rush to Gaza City’s streets so that they might find something to sell to those walking or driving by. Their fathers have been unemployed since the the intifada — the uprising against Israeli occupation — began in 2000 and they, along with thousands of others, were no longer allowed to work inside Israel. Conditions worsened after Israel imposed a siege on the territory in June 2007. The boys work in order to help their families.

Zaher, 17, from Gaza City’s al-Tuffah neighborhood explains that, “I get up at 6am every day, then I go to a local farmer, where I pick up mint leaves. I carry the leaves and start my working day as you see me now.” He buys small bunches of mint leaves for one shekel ($0.25). Working sunset to sunrise, Zaher earns about 90 shekels a day.

Zaher added, “I am forced to sell these leaves here. Otherwise my family cannot live. There are 10 members in my family, including me, my brothers and parents. No one helps us as my father has been without work for the past nine years. The only assistance we get is some food rations provided by UNRWA [the UN Agency for Palestine refugees] from time to time as well as some help from a generous relative.”

While running among the cars in the street, Zaher explains that not everyone is supportive or generous. Stating that, “Sometimes some people, especially young ones in luxurious cars, mock us. I recall that one day while I was trying to sell mint to some young men in a car, they took the leaves from me and then drove away fast as the light turned green. When they stopped they gave me the leaves and said sarcastically ‘who told you we want these leaves?'”

Standing on another corner at the al-Saraya crossing, Jihad al-Jael sells small packs of chewing gum. Jihad, 14, and his 15-year-old brother walk to the crossing every morning from the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Mujama al-Islami, which is about three kilometers away.

Jihad explains that, “I have five sisters and five brothers as my father has been without work for the past nine years. Under these harsh conditions me and my brother are forced to come here in the heart of Gaza City, in order to earn a living for hungry stomachs.”

Jihad’s father is not only unemployed but is also ailing. The family does not have another source of income other than the occasional food rations they receive from UNRWA.

Sadly, Jihad and Zaher are not alone. Children can be seen on Gaza City’s other street corners, selling in front of stores or to passing cars. Other children sell tea, coffee or tissues at the Jundi al-Majhoul public garden in the al-Rimal district. All of them work to help their families.

Although the Palestinian Child Law of 2004 forbids children under age 15 from working, the phenomenon has become more prevalent among that age group and younger due to the harsh economic conditions in Gaza. In June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a report stating that the closure of Gaza has pushed the unemployment rate to 44 percent and caused a dramatic rise in poverty. Currently, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s population lives in poverty, with an income of less than $250 a month for a family of seven to nine.

A crippling Israeli blockade has hampered public life in Gaza, with 95 percent of local industries being forced to shut down, due to lack of essential raw materials and shortage of machineries. According to the ICRC, only 2,662 truckloads of goods entered Gaza from Israel in May. This represented a decrease of almost 80 percent from the 11,392 truckloads Israel allowed in during April 2007, before Hamas took over the territory amidst factional fighting with the US-supported Fatah party of West Bank Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Israel imposed a siege on Gaza after Hamas’ takeover.

Sajy al-Mughanni, communication officer for the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) in Gaza, blamed Israel’s 25-month siege for the growing poverty as well as the increasing number of working children in the region. He explained that, “We do have a high level of unemployment in Gaza. In terms of child labor, we don’t have specific numbers. But we do use our teams to go out in the field, to do an assessment and try to intervene with the families. I can confirm to you that the phenomenon of child labor is growing. The increase of this phenomenon can be mainly attributed to the Israeli blockade.”

Al-Mughanni added that, “We are coordinating with all UN agencies to provide food aid or health care to many families, in an attempt to provide relief and prevent further spread of the child labor phenomenon. However, this is not solving the problem drastically. So if we want to realize an end to such a phenomenon, the Israeli blockade should come to an end and Palestinians in Gaza should go back to their normal life, prior to the imposition of the siege.”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.