More to the point, the free flow of aid disrupts the very backbone of the Gazan economy--the tunnels. In The Myth of the Siege of Gaza, Jonathan D. Halevi writes:
"Smuggling" is not the correct word to describe the network of tunnels along Gaza's border with Egypt. Whereas smuggling connotes illegal activity carried out clandestinely, the Palestinian tunnel network is out in the open and extends the whole length of the border.But now, even the rumor itself of the easing of restrictions had an immediate impact. In Tunnels for Sale, Cheap, Legal Insurrection quotes from an article in The Daily Star:
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) published an abstract in May 2009 of an investigative article that appeared on the Al Arabiya network which presents the method of operation of the tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border. The following are the main points as described on the ITIC website:
The reporter for the Al Arabiya network, Waal Issam, toured Egyptian Rafah, in the market where goods sent to Gaza through the tunnels are sold. The report said that the market is the major source of the fuel supply to Gaza. Some 10,000 people work in the "tunnel industry" on a daily basis. The value of the trade via the tunnels is estimated at approximately $200 million annually. Along the border, which is some 13 kilometers long, nearly 800 tunnels have been excavated. According to the report, most of the tunnels that were attacked during Operation Cast Lead have been reconstructed. The smugglers who were interviewed claimed that a tunnel can be built nowadays in 10-15 days. One of the smugglers reported that the tunnels end in buildings, groves, chicken coops, etc.20
As the news spread that Israel would ease its four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, merchants in the territory’s main smugglers’ market raced to unload their merchandise.Legal Insurrection sees news such as this as justification for Netanyahu's decision to ease restrictions. I suppose that only time will tell, especially as one of the main points against easing restrictions is that it would enhance the prestige of Hamas.
The prices of televisions, refrigerators and washing machines that had been hauled hundreds of meters through tunnels beneath the Egyptian border plummeted in the Rafah border town’s sprawling Al-Najma market....
Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza off from all but basic goods in June 2006 following the capture of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants and tightened the closures a year later when the Hamas movement seized power.
Since then nearly all goods in the territory, including fuel, cigarettes, animals and appliances, have been brought in through a vast network of tunnels taxed and regulated by the Hamas-run government.
So far, that does not seem to be the case--especially if you are a Gazan. According to Ma'an News:
Dissatisfaction with Hamas within Gaza may be one of the reasons that elections at the beginning of the year have been postponed.Several of Gaza's tunnels have been shut down temporarily as traders search the market for goods following Israel's decision to allow certain previously banned products in, tunnel owners say.
Abu Ahmad, who supervises three tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, says the industry has seen a sharp drop both in import and profit.
...Abu Ahmad said the tunnel industry also saw a sharp drop after Egypt completed construction of its underground wall, under US pressure. As a result, between 80 to 100 tunnels are operational, down from previous estimates of 2,000.
The number of tunnel workers has dropped significantly as well, from 25,000 to 3,000.
It is all very well for pro-Hamas apologists to crow that Hamas is the democratically elected government of the Gaza--the trick is whether they will ever be known as the democratically re-elected government of Gaza. Given Hamas's reluctance to put their popularity up to a vote, Hamas is going to the "democratically elected" government of Gaza for a long, long time.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad
Technorati Tag: Gaza and Hamas.