bandannie : I have my doubts about that when I read Abbas Quisling’s statement at the White House

I think a number of people are starting to feel that way in Gaza, although probably not a majority, yet. Hope is scarce, and people can’t stand to have it dashed too many times, or even to voice it publicly. The end of the siege will give the people living here in Gaza some freedom from overwhelming psychic pressure, the hardest thing to begin to understand as an outsider, and also to fix their infrastructure and begin to fix the economy. The recent ILO report gives a summary of the scale of the damage incurred by ongoing “closure,” the Israeli euphemism for imprisonment.

A leading Palestinian industrialist called Gaza a “graveyard of industries.” The tunnel economy provides consumer goods to fill the stores in the Rimal, enough fuel for private use for those families that can afford it, and low-quality building materials. Production plants are shuttered or destroyed. Most workers cannot earn a decent living. The average daily wage in 2009 was 71.5 shekelim in the public sector, 43.7 shekelim in the private sector. With unemployment as officially measured at 39.3 percent, most of the population is basically excluded from the cash economy. Many rely on credit to purchase basic food items—stores have books in which people pay their tab monthly, or when they can. That unemployment rate is probably an underestimate. Workers who haven’t been formally laid off but neither work nor receive wages are classifies as “temporarily absent employees,” rather than unemployed.

Amidst this devastation, children cannot enjoy schooling, and there are few leisure activities. Gaza has long been marked by a bifurcated social structure—those with cash employment and those without meaningful employment—and that bifurcation is becoming starker, as some profit from the recent processes, especially tunnel operators and those catering to the NGOs and journalists who jet in, and those whose economic and thus social lives remained “crushed.” One observer points out, “If this state of affairs goes on, the long-term effects on the social fabric, and hence on the peace process, will be disastrous.” 60 percent of the population is food insecure. Gazan families are “exhausting coping mechanisms.”

Gaza is a worst-case example of ongoing trends within the broader Palestinian economy. As the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of National Economy comments, the “Palestinian private sector is caged.” Israeli military occupation has underdeveloped the territories, and in Gaza prevented even dependent capitalist development from taking place through denial of access to the raw inputs needed for materiel improvement and production—water and land. Sara Roy has called this “de-development.” The multifaceted closure policy has fragmented the West Bank, cut off East Jerusalem, and placed a barrier between Gaza and the West Bank. Economies of scale are impossible, and so Palestinian industry is basically uncompetitive.

The West Bank cannot effectively trade with the population of Gaza, and faces further constraints from the Apartheid Wall and the impossibly difficult Allenby Bridge, to Jordan. Paltrade, which monitors commercial crossings into ’48, lists a range of high transaction costs: the expense and inconvenience of being forced to “palletize” goods according to absurdly strict limitations, and (I think deliberately) lengthy waiting, transfer, and inspection times associated with the “prevailing back-to-back trucking system, as well as the higher risk of damage to products.”

The struggle to break the siege on Gaza is unfortunately a defensive action against the ongoing Israeli strategy of territorial and political, and, it hopes, ideological and national fragmentation and splintering of the Palestinian people, something that began at the physical level with the Nakba, qualitatively shifted with Oslo, through a legal sleight-of-hand reducing the Palestinian population by two-thirds, and walling off the West Bank from Gaza, and then accelerated further, first, at the beginning of the 2nd Intifada as movement restrictions mounted between the West Bank and Gaza and then in 2005-2007, when the siege began.

Lifting the siege partially frees the people living in Gaza. It does not stop cantonization of the Palestinian population into population centers separated from one another by Israeli territory and Israeli roads. And amidst political fragmentation, the prospect of a Bangladesh-Pakistan “solution” looms.

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