[Note the date. -jlt]
In one of many reports and accounts of economic life in the Gaza Strip that I have recently read, I was struck by a description of an old man standing on the beach in Gaza throwing his oranges into the sea. The description leapt out at me because it was this very same scene I myself witnessed some 21 years ago during my very first visit to the territory. It was the summer of 1985 and I was taken on a tour of Gaza by a friend named Alya. As we drove along Gaza's coastal road I saw an elderly Palestinian man standing at the shoreline with some boxes of oranges next to him. I was puzzled by this and asked Alya to stop the car. One by one, the elderly Palestinian took an orange and threw it into the water. His was not an action of playfulness but of pain and regret. His movements were slow and labored as if the weight of each orange was more than he could bear. I asked my friend why he was doing this and she explained that he was prevented from exporting his oranges to Israel and rather than watch them rot in his orchards, the old man chose to cast them into the sea. I have never forgotten this scene and the impact it had on me.
Politics and Economics
Over two decades later, after peace agreements, economic protocols, road maps and disengagements, Gazans are still casting their oranges into the sea. Yet Gaza is no longer where I found it so long ago but someplace far worse and more dangerous. One year after Israel's 2005 "disengagement" from the Strip, which was hailed by President Bush as a great opportunity for "the Palestinian people to build a modern economy that will lift millions out of poverty [and] create the institutions and habits of liberty,"i a "Dubai on the Mediterranean"ii according to Thomas Friedman, Gaza is undergoing acute and debilitating economic declines marked by unprecedented levels of poverty, unemployment, loss of trade, and social deterioration especially with regard to the delivery of health and educational services.
In 2005, the international community (through the Ad Hoc Liason Committee) concluded that the most important factor in Palestine's economic decline is not reduced aid levels but movement and access restrictions and the suspension of revenue transfers.
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Friday, February 13, 2009
[Note the date. -jlt]