Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Gaza: “Decorators Are Never Available”

by Elliott Abrams
October 29, 2012


On October 20 Israel intercepted the latest in a series of vessels seeking to break its maritime blockade of Gaza. This ship, the MV Estelle, carried five European parliamentarians and a former Canadian member of parliament. The ostensible purpose of these visits, mostly by European “activists,” is to draw attention to the horrendous, horrible, impossible isolation and the desperate humanitarian conditions there, all imposed by the Israeli blockade.

This week The New York Review of Books, a fashionable left-wing periodical, told a different story. Nicolas Pelham, who writes primarily for The Economist and The New Statesman, noted the recent visit of the Emir of Qatar (bearing $400 million in gifts) and described Gaza this way:

Thanks to Gaza’s supply lines to Egypt, its GDP outpaced by a factor of five that of Hamas’s Western-funded rival, the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Further propelling Gaza’s economy, Arab governments across the region, like Qatar’s, have been shifting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money from the PA to Hamas, signaling what may be a historic shift in Palestinian politics….According to World Bank figures, construction starts in the first half of 2011 grew by 220 percent….after notching 6 percent growth in 2008, the Gazan economy grew by 20 percent in 2010 and a whopping 27 percent last year; unemployment in the formal economy fell to 29 percent, its lowest in a decade and an improvement of eight percentage points in a year. A recent International Labor Organization report cited the emergence of 600 “tunnel millionaires”; many of them, seeking somewhere to park their profits, have invested first in land, and then in hundreds of luxury apartment buildings. So great is the demand that Gazans complain builders have to be booked months in advance, and decorators are never available.

Pelham does not suggest there is no poverty: “for the first time shantytowns are cropping up on the outskirts of Gaza City.” And he discusses the complex relationships between Hamas and the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, the Gulf donors, and even more extreme Palestinian groups.

But his article demonstrates the remarkable blindness of the “activists” going to Gaza to help alleviate its imagined isolation and non-existent humanitarian disaster. In fact there is a humanitarian disaster in the neighborhood, in Syria. I am still waiting for the ships full of European “activists” and parliamentarians heading into Tartous and Latakia to express solidarity with the Syrian people.

Post a Comment 6 Comments

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    more than 1.8 mill displaced Syrian refugees inside Syria , more than 200 thousands in tents in Jordon and 100 thousands in tents in Turkey , NO ships from any European “activists” ,,I would recommend for all the Syrian refugees to find a way to get to Gaza ( through Tunnels maybe ?) and become refugees in Gaza to get help and noticed by those “activists”. I mean it .

  • Posted by John Bibby

    I’m not quite sure what the point is that you are trying to make. Of course the situation in Syria is dreadful, and it would make no sense to send an aid ship there, as aid is not the issue. Similarly in Gaza, aid is not the issue. The issue is occupation and siege.

    Your point about Syrian refugees would be well-made if you added that the only one of Syria’s neighbours not to take refugees in the recent fighting is the Jewish state. I understand some Syrians did approach the Israeli border but were fired upon by IDF soldiers.

  • Posted by Ricky Jones

    Bibby – the point being that aid could be made an issue. European governments are sitting on their hands as the Syrian government slaughters its citizens, and the focus of their activism is the far less harmful low-hanging fruit of Israeli security policy. It’s such a blinding double-standard it makes one wonder how you could possibly be oblivious to such a glaring point.

  • Posted by Jaime

    Ok 3
    bibby do not make sense your paralelism
    We are talking Israel survival
    Of course you have shorth memory
    It seems to me that you forgot the happines thaat gazanz madea joyful celebration of 9/11
    You have and envy jewish people

  • Posted by Anonynmous

    There is no point. There is distraction.

  • Posted by Ricky Jones

    Anonynmous – Yes, there is distraction. Efforts like these distract from genuine humanitarian disasters which result in a truly massive loss of life. Distractions like these divert attention from Syria and serious efforts that could be made to prevent the massive loss of human life occurring there.

    It is truly sad that you refuse to look past your own nose on this one.

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required