Response to Gaza Unemployment

Response to Gaza Unemployment

16 June 2011

Commenting on the UN Report website led to this longish exchange with Penelope Chester of UN Report

deegeeDISQUS: (my username on DISQUS

According to the C.I.A World Factbook unemployment in Gaza was 50% in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Actually higher before the blockade than after.

8 reasons for high employment – nothing to do with the blockade.

  • No work in Israel since the 1st Intifada
  • No work in the Gulf since the 1st Gulf War
  • Gazans destroy the infrastructure left after 2005
  • HAMAS attacks the factories giving work to Gazans
  • Civil war drove out the Fatah aligned entrepreneurs
  • Gazans are used to living on welfare
  • The Gazan population is rising so fast jobs can’t keep up
  • HAMAS are terrible economic administrators

I forgot the elephant in the room. Gaza is in a state of war with it’s largest potential employer; market; supplier of raw materials, power and water; and port.

Penelope Chester: 

Hi there, you bring up some good points. I don’t see the unemployment stats you mention on CIA world factbook’s website – perhaps you could share the source? From what I’ve been reading, it seems that unemployment rate was around 30% in the late 90s/early 2000s.

A 2008 UNCTAD report notes:

“Palestinians have experienced a dramatic decline in their living standards and a regression of the economy due to internal and external movement

restrictions, limited control over natural resources, restricted access to local

and international markets, limited access of Palestinian labourers to their

former work in Israel and low rates of economic production.”

…”The unemployment rate in 2007 was 29 per cent, as compared with 21 per cent in 1999″

(quoted in this UK Home Office paper:…

Your 8 reasons are based on a number of assumptions that I don’t think are particularly helpful to understanding why there is high unemployment in Gaza. While these are all factors, you cannot honestly discount the blockade as a major reason why economic activity has slowed and for the further economic marginalization of people living in Gaza. It’s a vicious cycle, because as long as Hamas rules over Gaza, the situation with regards to international support and opening up borders will likely not change. The continued alienation of Gazans, in my opinion, will lead to a deeper entrenchment of Hamas.

Let’s keep in mind that in 2009, during the 3-week war, Israeli forces destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of factories, and wreaked havoc on an already fragile Gaza. That, in addition to the economic asphyxiation created by the blockade, cannot be discounted as significant factors accounting for the high unemployment rate, the fact that two of the main employers are UNRWA and Hamas. As you say, many entrepreneurs fled, but what would they stay for? Gaza is cut-off from the rest of the world.

I want to make clear that this is not about “taking sides” in the conflict… It’s about recognizing that Israeli policy towards Gaza and Hamas is having dangerous collateral effects…


My source was the index mundi statistics website which claims the CIA World Factbook as source.…. Their graphs show extreme fluctuations in the last decade from a low of 14.5% in 2000 to a high of 50% in 2003-4-5. Your memory is correct. Unemployment averaged about 30% between 2000 and 2003 and about 36% for the decade. I quoted the high figures to point out that Gaza had extreme unemployment before the blockade and blaming it specifically on the Israeli blockade without mentioning this is deceptive to say the least.

One point I didn’t make and should have. Official Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) figures have unemployment at 30.8% for Gaza. That’s around 15% less that your figures!… If those figures are correct and I see no reason to trust the UNWRA estimate over them, Gaza’s relative unemployment drops from 184/200 to about 176/200 and puts it in with a bunch of countries none of whom can blame Israel. American Samoa, Mauritania, Mali, Cameroon, Libya, and Macedonia.Indeed the ‘among the world’s highest’ remark which has been seized by most of the world’s media is equally deceptive without mentioning that others are much higher.
For the record I didn’t mean to suggest that the flight of entrepreneurs was voluntary. They were killed by HAMAS or fled for their lives because they were associated with Fatah.

I don’t mean to suggest that HAMAS’s decision to go to war in 2009, the consequences of badly losing that war and the further consequences of continuing to threaten Israel with further wars have no effect on Gaza’s economy. Still I believe it extremely deceptive to ignore the other causes as this report does and ignore that the root of the ‘fragile’ economy are continuing bad decisions made by Palestinians themselves, some going back thirty years. Indeed, in any other arena, a country going to war against its largest, closest potential employer; market; supplier of raw materials, power and water; and port would rightly be considered suicidal. That would make a mess of any economy.

As you may have noticed I repeat the word deceptive three times in my reply. It is not accidental. The UN report ignores that much of the dangerous collateral effects stem from HAMAS and the Palestinian’s policy choices and lays it all at the feet of Israel. That is taking sides.

It’s impossible not to repeat Chris Gunness “It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.” But that is being sarcastic and I want to keep this civil. The logic is actually clear. HAMAS, true to its word seeks Israel’s complete destruction and considers the economic price worth paying. Should the blockade be lifted in entirety tomorrow that won’t change.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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