Gaza’s tragically peculiar economy

Rex Brynen in Foreign Policy:

ScreenHunter_04 Mar. 18 08.49 Last week Palestinians marked the 1,000th day of the “siege” of the Gaza Strip. The continuing economic embargo, with its attendant social and economic effects on the more than 1.5 million Gazans, makes for a depressing story. Equally depressing is the extent to which this situation has somehow become accepted as normal and acceptable by much of the international community.

The “1000th day” is in some ways misleading, for Gaza has long endured economic restrictions. The Israeli military occupation after 1967 (or, for that matter, Egyptian administration before it) was never especially development-friendly. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 there was hope for future economic growth. Instead, however, some incidents of terrorism led to a sharp reduction in the number of Gazans permitted to work in Israel-from tens of thousands in the early 1990s, to essentially zero today. Increasing limits on Gaza's imports and exports followed, and intensified with the eruption of the second intifada in late 2000. With Hamas' victory in the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, as well as the seizure of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in June of that year, the restrictions tightened still further in an attempt to unseat the Islamist movement. When Hamas seized direct control of Gaza in June 2007, the Israeli government officially designated the territory as an “enemy entity.”

Today, what is or is not allowed into Gaza is never entirely clear and can change from month to month. Broomsticks and chamomile have recently been permitted; toys, music, books, and shampoo with conditioner have been prohibited; and the importation of pasta required the direct intervention of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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