Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone

Gaza is ground zero for Israel’s longstanding ethnic cleansing policy to achieve maximum Jews and minimum Arabs – on stolen Palestinian land, acquired by mass slaughter and displacement, a ruthless, racist, rogue state agenda, violating the letter and spirit of core international laws with impunity.

The world community is complicit with its high crimes – doing nothing to stop them, ongoing for nearly seven decades with no letup, raping millions of Palestinians, defenseless against its killing machine.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) annual report says “Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current economic trends persist.”

Blockade since mid-2007 and three Israeli wars of aggression against 1.8 million defenseless people trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison “shattered (the Strip’s) ability to export and produce for the domestic market, ravaged its already debilitated infrastructure, (prevents) reconstruction and economic recovery, and accelerated the de-development of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed.”

“The social, health and security-related ramifications of the high population density and overcrowding are among the factors that may render Gaza unlivable by 2020.”

Gaza already is “unlivable.” Israeli inflicted pain, suffering and deprivation is suffocating an entire population – slow-motion genocide by any standard, while the world community yawns and does nothing to stop one of history’s great crimes.

It’s just a matter of time before another Israeli war, premeditated aggression – on whatever pretext it invents to justify the unjustifiable.

Gaza’s 225 square miles is home to one of the world’s highest population densities. Wars of aggression at Israel’s discretion, intermittent ground and air attacks, as well as blockade created nightmarish conditions for its people.

Deplorable socioeconomic conditions are at their worst level since Israel’s so called war of independence – naked aggression stealing 78% of historic Palestinian, taking the rest in June 1967, committing high crimes against millions of Palestinians, Gazans suffering most of all.

UNCTAD’s report highlights the Strip’s water and electricity crisis, as well as destruction of vital infrastructure last summer.

Its population largely relies on coastal aquifers for water – 95% of it is unsafe to drink. Economic losses from three devastating wars since December 2008 almost equals three times the size of Gaza’s GDP.

“The total cost may be substantially higher once indirect economic losses are included and lost future income streams from destroyed productive capacities are added,” said UNCTAD.

Nearly 250 factories and 300 commercial centers for entirely or partly destroyed. Gaza’s sole power plant was hugely damaged. Before last summer’s war, its capacity met less than 40% of what’s needed.

The socioeconomic crisis is exacerbated by Israel’s grand theft of offshore oil and gas in Gazan waters – depriving Palestinians of the right to develop their own resources and earn desperately needed revenues for economic growth and sustainability.

Nearly half of working aged Gazans are unemployed, many others hugely underemployed earning sub-poverty wages. Food insecurity affects nearly three-fourths of the population.

Gazan exports are blocked – imports and cash transfers extremely restricted. Israel prevents “the flow of all but the most basic humanitarian goods,” said UNCTAD – and not enough of them.

Advisor to former prime minister/convicted felon Ehud Olmert, Dov Weisglass, commenting on Gaza’s siege once said “(t)he idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

In other words, bring Gazans to the point of malnutrition and starvation without crossing the line – or at least make it appear this way.

Gazans are dependent on outside aid to survive. Last month UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) staff protested the agency’s rolling back vital services it provides, including schooling and healthcare.

UNCTAD warned that donor aid remains essential – but not enough to sustain Gaza, offset Israel’s blockade, or be able to reverse de-development conditions.

Nothing in prospect suggests constructive change. Gazans remain isolated on their own – abandoned by world leaders, save for meaningless lip service.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at