Haaretz benadrukt dat slechts een kleine groep in de Gazastrook kan
profiteren van de sterk verlichte blokkade sinds vorig jaar en de beperkte
economische opleving die daarvan het gevolg is.
Gaza kent veel problemen, zoals dat het overbevolkt is en nauwelijks
natuurlijke hulpbronnen bezit. De blokkade, vooral nog van exportprodukten,
maakt het moeilijk om werkgelegenheid te vinden voor de vooral jonge
bevolking. Probleem is dat inkomsten vooral het Hamas regime ten goede komen
en deze steeds zwaardere wapens kan bemachtigen om Israel mee te bestoken.
Nieuwe verkiezingen zouden het begin van een oplossing kunnen zijn; Hamas
zou bij een democratisch verloop daarvan waarschijnlijk haar meerderheid
verliezen, want ze heeft de bevolking veel ellende gebracht in de afgelopen
jaren. Langs andere weg lijkt het regime niet weg te krijgen te zijn.
Resentment toward Hamas grows among Gaza's budding middle class
While two-thirds of Gaza's 1.6 million people live in poverty and rely on UN
food aid, a growing middle class fuels grass roots opposition to Hamas rule.
A budding middle class in the impoverished Gaza Strip is flaunting its
wealth, sipping coffee at gleaming new cafes, shopping for shoes at the new
tiny shopping malls, and fueling perhaps the most acrimonious grass roots
resentment yet toward the ruling Hamas movement.
This middle class, which has become visible at the same time as a
mini-construction boom in this blockaded territory, is celebrating its
weddings in opulent halls and vacationing in newly built beach bungalows.
That level of consumption may be modest by Western standards, but it's in
startling contrast to the grinding poverty of most Gazans, who rely on UN
food handouts to get by.
Some of the well-off are Hamas loyalists. That rankles many Gaza residents
because the conservative Islamic movement gained popularity by tending to
the poor, through charitable aid, education and medical care - along with
its armed struggle against Israel.
"Hamas has become rich at the expense of the people," fumed a 22-year-old
seamstress, Nisrine, as she stitched decorative applique onto a dress. She
wouldn't disclose her family name, not wanting to be seen criticizing the
Gaza's Hamas government denies its loyalists have gotten wealthy since the
group came to power. Corruption "doesn't touch us," said Hamas official
But others - even those close to Hamas - say the militant group must pay
attention. "There is a nouveau riche that has followed the rise of the
government," said Alaa Araj, a former Gaza economic minister and businessman
considered close to Hamas. "We must sound the alarm," he said. "(Resentment)
is growing in Gaza."
Gaza residents are also resentful because they feel they have suffered the
worst effects of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade that was slapped on the
territory when the militant group seized power in 2007. The blockade was a
failed attempt to crush Hamas; instead it impoverished already poor Gazans,
killed off trade and effectively imprisoned residents inside the territory.
Some two-thirds of Gaza's 1.6 million people live in poverty and rely on UN
food aid. About half the work force is unemployed. Many employed Gazans are
paid miserly wages, keeping them struggling.
They include the seamstress Nisrine, who is paid 5 dollars a day, money that
her family keeps. Baker Sami Awad, 27, earns 9 dollars a day to support his
five siblings and his sister's two children. Their father abandoned them
years ago; his sister's husband was killed in an Israeli incursion. Their
stories are typical.
Hamas has always had a small core of prominently wealthy loyalists. But it
appears another small group has seen its fortunes rise since the Hamas came
to power, primarily investors and high-level civil servants in Gaza's
The territory also has an established middle class of old merchant families,
senior aid officials and loyalists of Fatah, a Palestinian group that rivals
Hamas. But there's less resentment toward them - perhaps because they are
not in power.
The new signs of prosperity are due to a mini-construction boom that can be
traced back to Israel's easing of the blockade it imposed on Gaza in 2007.
To circumvent the blockade, Palestinians built hundreds of underground
tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza-Egypt border to bring in scarce consumer
goods, as well as weapons. But after Israel started letting in more consumer
goods a year ago, tunnels were freed up to bring in materials that remained
severely restricted - such as raw construction materials.
The prices of raw materials dropped, sparking a flurry of construction. Some
150 of Gaza's estimated 700 tunnels are solely used for raw materials, said
two tunnel traders who requested anonymity because they dodge Hamas taxes.
Some 120 tons of raw materials are typically hauled daily through a single
tunnel, they said. The rush of new building materials pushed down concrete
from a blockade high of 900 dollars a ton to 157 dollars. Gravel was 990
dollars, now it's 28 dollars .
Restrictions on exports and imports make some construction projects,
including factories, unfeasible. Investors are instead undertaking projects
that target domestic consumers, such as the al-Andulusia mall that opened in
The 4 million dollar, three-story shopping center, is a humble operation by
global standards. It has a large supermarket and an assortment of clothing
and shoe shops. The third floor - a future cinema - hasn't opened yet.
For many Gazans, whose lives have stalled in fighting and the blockade, the
novelty is apparent. On a recent visit to the al-Andalusia mall, two women
clutched the escalator's rubber grip, giggling and shrieking as they rode up
to the second floor. Another woman stared at the escalator in fright, unsure
how to get on.
At another newly constructed area, parents sip coffee as their children play
on swings at a specially built private play garden. A series of small,
beachside bungalows in Gaza City hug the shore where the well-off can spend
summer days. Cafes and gift shops line the summer getaway. White tents are
strewn on the sand. Entrance costs about 3 dollars a person, unaffordable
for most large Gaza families.