Skip to comments.Pain of Hamas boycott worse than feared for Gaza's people
Posted on 05/09/2006 9:26:10 AM PDT by Leisler
The international boycott of Hamas is having some unintended consequences.
Staff at the Palestinian Authority's environmental protection agency are grounded for lack of petrol money and are no longer able to monitor levels of industrial waste and sewage entering the water supply.
Surgeons at Gaza's biggest hospital have suspended non-essential surgery for lack of sutures, laboratory kits and anaesthetics.
The owner of a once-prosperous supermarket is pondering whether he can extend the credit limit of customers - who long since ran out of cash - without going broke himself.
As the World Bank re-ported at the weekend, the economic crisis confronting the Palestinians is even worse than that projected when international donors announced a cut-off of direct aid to the Hamas-led government.
Its own estimate that personal incomes would sink by 30 per cent this year while the number of people living in poverty would rise from 44 to 67 per cent of the population appears, in the words of the report, to have been too rosy.
The paper was prepared ahead of Tuesday's Middle East Quartet meeting in New York at which the US, European Union, United Nations and Russia will have to decide whether restrictions on aid will force Hamas to modify its stance towards Israel or, more likely, as the World Bank warns, provoke a humanitarian crisis, increased violence and the collapse of the PA.
The poor, many living in refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank, have had to adjust to living on humanitarian handouts since an Israeli ban on day labourers entering Israel deprived them of their readiest source of income.
The latest crisis, however, has begun to hit the middle classes, among them government employees who have remained at their desks in spite of facing a third straight month without pay.
Nabil Zakout, assistant director-general of the PA's Environment Quality Auth-ority, has not had a pay slip since March 5.
Mr Zakout's income was always modest - the equivalent of $500 a month for a senior grade post. With a $25,000 mortgage and four children to feed, he is surviving on loans from relatives until the money runs out.
Like most of his staff, he still turns up for work every day. "It's better to be employed with no pay than not to be employed at all."
But the British-trained water engineer is concerned about the wider impact of the crisis.
"There can be very serious consequences if institutions can't operate. In our case, water and air quality can deteriorate if we can't monitor," he says.
At Gaza's Shifa hospital, 1,300 doctors, nurses and administrators - also unpaid since March - are struggling to maintain essential services.
"Ninety per cent of people in the Gaza Strip depend on government health services," says Ibrahim al-Habash, hospital director. "We've suffered in the past but now it's worse and there is a real shortage of medication and other supplies. On top of that, some staff can't even afford the fare to work any more."
Ismail el-Jadba, a vascular surgeon, gets by on the salary his wife earns as a physician with Unrwa, the UN refugee agency not affected by the aid boycott, plus work at a private out-patient clinic. "That used to bring me Shk500 ($110) a day. Now it's down to Shk50."
Many of the 160,000 public employees now survive on credit - their combined debts amount to $340m, according to the European Commission - or on help from their families. "Palestinians are very close and what little they have they share," said Mr Zakout. "We haven't lost our social fabric. We're not that western yet".
At the Lebanon Paradise supermarket, an elderly veiled woman has come to beg for change. "A woman like that would never have done such a thing before," says Imad M'ttar, the owner, as he counts the day's takings - Shk1,940 ($430).
In the same day, he gave credit to trusted customers of twice that amount. "This store used to take $5,000 a day. Now no one has any money. I've had to lay off five of my 10 staff. I deal with a lot of government institutions and they always paid up. Now they want me to double their credit".
So far, few are blaming Hamas for their plight, in spite of the fact that the Islamist group's refusal to recognise Israel, lay down its weapons and abide by existing agreements provoked the international boycott.
"I didn't vote for Hamas or for Fatah," says Mr Zakout. "At the beginning of the boycott, we believed the west would eventually see our point of view because everyone knew it was a free and democratic election. Who's suffering? Not Hamas ministers or Fatah leaders but the people."
There is, nevertheless, concern that a deteriorating economic situation will exacerbate tensions between Hamas and Fatah. Three men were killed in clashes between the two factions yesterday. The mood is made worse by daily shellfire that booms almost constantly from the northern Gaza Strip as the Israeli army responds to sporadic rocket fire by militants.
Hamas insists that Palestinian steadfastness will prevail. "They have misunderstood the Arab mentality," says Khalil Abu Leila, a Hamas leader in Gaza. "As long as the pressure increases on Hamas, the more popular it will become. If it accepts conditions, its popularity will decrease
It is, in fact, a state hardly worthy of the name; more accurately, it is the semblance of a state set up deliberately not to nurture its inhabitants but to act as a proxy agent for warfare, its state mechanisms provided for by international charity rather than internal economic surplus. The Israelis did not do this to the Palestinians, nor did the international community at large. Their supposed supporters did.
They didn't think suicide bombing would affect their access to Israeli jobs???
IT'S ISRAEL'S FAULT!!!!.....(oh, and Bush's too)....../sarc
Well they only manufracture bombs, Kutusa rockets and hate.
Those they can do without.
As far as the sewage...Well.. lets look at the bright side, if they keep the money cut off that also will cease to be a problem.
Or they could give Israeli citizens a tax rebate. :)
Amazing - some Palestinians would rather blow things up than eat!
I don't know why you're surprised. They say it all the time: "you love life, we love death"
You know when they really love death? When it comes with a chuckle- the US paying.
It's always someone else's fault.
Yeah well, the Israelis should be allowed to deduct the cost of the utilities that they have been providing to Gaza for free.
I thought the PA paid the Israeli electic company?
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