Hamas is building a society of sorts in Gaza

There are increasing numbers of reports from inside Gaza, including this piece today in the New York Times that rightly says, “Gaza, on almost every level, is stuck”.

Journalist David Rose offers a slightly different view, claiming that while life in Gaza is undoubtedly tough, many people are simply getting on with life and the situation is complex:

Reporting from Gaza usually consists of two well worn tropes, and conveys little of the realities of life there. Liberals tend to focus on the story of Israel’s blockade, and the economic hardship it continues to engender, despite its partial easing. Running such coverage a close second come ritual denunciations of Hamas, whose relationship with facts observable on the ground sometimes seems shaky. Hamas, one is invited to believe, is close to creating an authoritarian Islamic emirate that will require all women to wear burqas and govern through Sharia law. After spending a week in Gaza City and other parts of the Strip, however, all I can say is that I found little evidence for such a project.

The blockade has made Gaza a global symbol of hardship. To be sure, it has reduced much of its economy to ruins: with exports to the outside world impossible, the factories and workshops are closed, and unemployment is perhaps as high as 80 percent. Moreover, it is only 18 months since the end of Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack conducted to stop a rain of Gazan rockets, which reduced thousands of buildings to rubble and killed close to 1,500 civilians.

Yet tough as most Gazans’ lives are, they are getting on with them. And the often unspoken truth is that while the blockade has imposed a comprehensive block to Gazan productivity, it has become completely ineffective as a means of preventing imports. Moreover, not everyone is on welfare. The Palestinian Authority continues to pay the salaries of some 55,000 workers. There are NGOs, and the UN. In the teeming refugee camps, there is poverty and deprivation, but the blockade’s worst consequence is the frustration of potential and productive energy.

One hears a great deal about how the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is trying to ”˜build institutions’ fit for statehood on the West Bank. It seemed evident to me that Hamas is trying to do exactly the same thing in Gaza. ”˜There was nothing wrong with the laws we inherited from the Palestinian Authority,’ Fathih Hamad, the Hamas interior minister, told me. ”˜But they weren’t being enforced. Now they are.’ The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits Gaza’s prisons.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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