Gaza’s ‘Humanitarian Disaster’
Gaza’s ‘Humanitarian Disaster’: 600 Millionaires
There are 600 millionaires living in Gaza, which mainstream media for years have reported is an “humanitarian disaster” blamed on Israel.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 9/2/2012, 3:13 PM
There are 600 millionaires living in Gaza, which mainstream media for years have reported is an “humanitarian disaster” blamed on Israel for what was a partial blockade of materials that could possibly be used to build weapons manufacturing plants and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.
The blockade has been all but lifted, except for the maritime ban that a United Nations report has said is legal. It reached its conclusion after investigating the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla, led by Turkish IHH terrorists who tried tried to kill Israeli commandos on the high seas when the IDF stopped the boats from heading to the Hamas-controlled area.
Even before the land blockade, which has been lifted except for materials used directly for terror, smuggling has been a staple of the Gaza economy for decades,
Rafiah, a city which straddles both sides of the border between Gaza and Egypt, is the home of hundreds of underground tunnels that are used to transport everything imaginable – drugs, slave trade, cement, medicine, terrorists, advanced weapons, explosive and even vehicles.
The same tunnels have turned Gaza smugglers into millionaires, according to the Arabic language Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, quoted by Gatestone Institute contributor Khaled Abu Toameh
After years of headlines stating that a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza is imminent, the United Nations last year finally called off the warning, admitting there is no such thing.
By all accounts, Gaza is poor. It always has been, even more so under Egyptian control. The region began to prosper after the Six-Day War in 1967, when it came under Israeli jurisdiction.
New Jewish communities in Gush Katif and construction companies in southern Israel gave employment to tens of thousands of Gaza Arabs, and Jews frequently shopped in Gaza City and Khan Yunis.
The Intifada turned the economy on its head, slowing driving it into a recession as Jewish employers no longer could depend on workers not being terrorists.
With the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, also know as the Oslo War in memory of the failed peace accords, Hamas increased its grip on Gaza and eventually threw out the rival Fatah movement in a bloody civil war in 2007.
It now pockets millions of dollars in payments from tunnel smugglers, while restricting legal imports so that both tunnel owners and Hamas can benefit.
Egypt has occasionally blocked entrances to the tunnels in response to terror activity, including the murder of 16 soldiers at the beginning of August in attacks on bases in the Rafiah area.
“If Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood tie the hands of the Egyptian army's generals and keep them from completing the mission” of demolishing the tunnel smuggling system, “Hamas will become even stronger and wealthier,” wrote Toameh.
With an estimated 25 percent of Hamas’ government income coming from taxes on merchandise and owners of the tunnels, destroying them could infuriate Hamas as well as throw a monkey-wrench into what now is a stable but suppressive economy.
Egypt’s problem is that the same tunnels are used to smuggle advanced weapons for the use of Arab terrorists on both sides of Rafiah against the Muslim Brotherhood regime.
Re: Gaza’s ‘Humanitarian Disaster’
Gaza's tunnel tycoons
Some 600 new millionaires made their fortunes by smuggling goods in Gaza tunnels, at the expense of thousands of workers risking their lives. Social uprising on the way?
Doron Peskin Published: 03.19.12, 15:10
The Gaza Strip usually makes headlines for rocket launching and IDF raids, but the daily lives of its residents are mostly affected by poverty, unemployment, faulty infrastructure and Hamas government corruption. A new study shows that in the past five years a new class of young millionaires emerged in Gaza.
The Gaza blockade enabled many to capitalize on the smuggling of goods via the Rafah tunnels. A new class of 600 young "tunnel millionaires" made their fortunes often at the expense of thousands of workers risking their lives in the tunnels.
Many of the new financial tycoons invested their money in grandiose real estate projects such as luxurious shopping malls and hotels, out of the reach of most Gaza residents. This resulted in a spike in real estate prices that further worsened the economic stagnation. Many of the new millionaires are associated with Hamas leadership, and are involved in money laundering schemes, investing mostly outside Gaza.
As a result, their contribution to the Gaza market is slim, many claim in Gaza. They are furious with the new elite that use their capital to further monopolize the market to their own benefit rather than invest in the local market and create new jobs.
From horse and carriage to luxury cars
For some of the millionaires, theirs is a Cinderella story. A carriage driver turned became a luxury cars dealership owner, and a simple construction worker evolved into a real estate tycoon. Arab media recently showcased the story of 27 year-old Abu Ibrahim who turned his demolished house into a tunnel and in less than five years became a millionaire. The prices of smuggled goods, said Ibrahim "skyrocketed" in the past years, allowing him to earn up to $100,000 a day. His workers were paid $100 a day.
The Hamas government cooperates and supports the nouveaux riches. It refrained from enforcing clear financial laws and regulations, and under the premise of "the struggle against Israeli blockade" it allowed the tunnel business to flourish without any regulation, while earning millions from taxes on gas, cigarettes and illegal drugs and pills.