Israel’s supposed partial lifting of the Gaza siege is treated inside Gaza as the farce it is:
Manal Hassan plucks a date biscuit from an industrial tray, breaks it in half to inspect the filling, and discards it with a shrug of despair. “You see, they allow in dates, but not date paste,” she says, referring to Israel’s economic blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Alawda, the factory for which she is purchasing manager, has been forced to find an alternative source for the ingredients for its biscuits, wafers and ice-cream, which it has manufactured in dramatically reduced quantities since the siege of Gaza was intensified three years ago. Most of its raw materials are now illegally imported through the tunnels to Egypt which have become Gaza’s lifeline.
Hopes that Israel‘s announcement last weekend of a relaxation of its blockade might lead to a recovery of Gaza’s shrivelled economy are rapidly evaporating among local businessmen and women – if, indeed, they ever rose.
The practical consequences of the new policy are still opaque, but few in Gaza realistically expect even a trickle of the raw materials essential to revitalise factories like Alawda, let alone a resumption of anything approaching normal import-export trade.
As Hassan tours her half-idle factory in Dair El Balah, she recites a list of banned materials, among them cocoa powder, food chemicals, milk powder, packaging materials and spare parts for machines. “They don’t give any explanation. Can cocoa powder be used to make weapons or rockets?” she asks.