In Gaza, 70% Youth Unemployment Leads to Despair


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In Gaza, 70% Youth Unemployment Leads to Despair
Gazans can continue to believe Israel is the source of all their woes – or they can face the truth.
By Hugh Fitzgerald

For young Gazan Arabs, life is terrible. There are scarcely any jobs, even for those with higher degrees. Positions are filled not on merit, but on the applicant’s connections to Hamas, or Fatah, or to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Corruption is colossal, siphoning off billions that ought to have gone to all of the people, and not just to the handful of Hamas leaders and the well-connected relatives and friends of those leaders. The officials who run the Strip’s economy are by and large not talented technocrats, but merely the relatives of the leaders, enjoying their well-paid sinecures as they help to make a mess of the economy. Naturally some young Gazans have been trying to leave the Strip for Europe.

More on this human disaster can be found here: “Trapped and jobless, Gaza youths look for a way out,” by Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Reuters, March 22, 2023:

Sabreen Abu Jazar was only hours from completing the perilous journey from Gaza to meet her husband in Europe last month when her migrant boat flipped and sank 100 meters from the Greek coast. Her body was finally returned home this week.

“She phoned me just before traveling and asked me to pray for her,” said her mother, who sat in a mourning tent in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip….

A rising number of Palestinians are making the perilous crossing to Europe, driven to escape repeated wars and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade that has left Gaza cut off since the Islamist movement Hamas assumed power in 2007….

There are two kinds of violence in Gaza. The first kind consists of the conflicts between and among the various Palestinian factions over who is to rule in the Strip. In 2007, for example, Hamas and Fatah went to war over who would take power in Gaza; Hamas won, killing hundreds of Fatah operatives and expelling several thousand. More recently there have been conflicts in Gaza between Hamas, which at present wants to maintain a relative calm with Israel, and the even more violent terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which does not.

The second kind is the violence that Hamas and PIJ let loose against the Israelis, usually with rockets launched into Israel (with some of those rockets falling short, and landing in Gaza, sometimes killing Palestinians),and the response of Israel to punish the perpetrators with its own rockets and airstrikes. Since Hamas hides its men, weapons, and rocket launchers among civilians, in or near schools, hospitals, apartment buildings, and places of work, Israel must strike at those sites, destroying civilian infrastructure, but minimizing civilian casualties by warning the Palestinians in advance, with emails, telephoning, and the “knock-on-the-roof” technique, of an impending strike. This incessant violence takes its toll on Gazans, who cannot ever be sure when Hamas or the PIJ will decide to strike Israel, and when or where Israel will strike back. This intermittent violence affects everything from school attendance to working in a factory, to preparing goods for export, uncertain in the Strip. And this uncertainty takes its toll on the Gazan economy.

Jobs in Gaza are scarce, for college graduates as well as others, and when a position arises, it often goes to someone with a connection to political factions.

Merit plays no part in winning employment in the Gaza Strip. Whom you are related to, and whom you know, determines whether you will be hired, and for what jobs. Those who are relatives of the Hamas leaders can be sure of a well-paid government sinecure. Those who know someone powerful will also be favored, albeit less so. But those without those connections wait a long time to be hired, enduring years of desperate unemployment, with no assurance that an opening will ever be made available.

Underlying the crisis is a 16-year-old Israeli-led blockade on Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, coupled with internal political divisions that have weakened Palestinians’ political aspirations for statehood.

It is not Israel’s so-called “blockade” that is responsible for Gaza’s economic woes. The Israelis allow in food, medicine, clothes without limit, and most other goods as well. The only things that Israel keeps out are “dual-use materials” that could be used to build weapons, or military infrastructure, including the vast network of terror tunnels that Israel has found under the streets and buildings of Gaza.

Israel’s “blockade” has nothing to do with the colossal corruption in Gaza that has deprived Gazans of billions of dollars in aid. It has nothing to do with the violence that the terror groups in Gaza visit upon one another and on civilians who protest against the Hamas. The Jewish state has nothing to do with the attacks launched by both Hamas and the PIJ on Israeli cities. It is to be expected that young people in Gaza, raised in hate for the Jewish state, would blame Israel for their problems, but unlike Hamas, Israel has been trying to help the Gazans economically. The Jewish state now allows in 20,000 Gazans to work in Israel, where they are paid wages that are more than twice the going rate in Gaza. And if the peace with Hamas in Gaza holds, Israel is prepared to allow more Gazans to work in Israel. Israel has no desire to inflict misery on the ordinary people of Gaza.

Ahmed Al-Deek, an official of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, urged Palestinians from Gaza and refugee camps in Arab countries to shun illegal trips but said the Israeli-led blockade was the prime reason for Gaza youth leaving for a better future abroad.

Ahmed Al-Deek of course blames the Israelis for the unemployment plight of young Gazans. What else can he do? But he surely knows that those who leave Gaza are the victims of the colossal corruption, the mismanagement, the grotesque favoritism shown to relatives and friends of the Gazan leaders. The young Gazans who now wish to leave the Strip may not know that just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Moussa ibn Marzouk, have each managed to acquire fortunes worth $2.5 billion. But they have seen, in Gaza, the 600 villas owned by Gazan leaders and their relatives. They know that the Hamas government is full of incompetents who owe their jobs not to merit but to whom they are related to, or whom they know.

Deek also blamed the continued internal divisions between Fatah and Hamas and urged “all officials in Gaza Strip to shoulder their responsibilities and resolve the problem of youth and offer them dignified life.”…

What Deek demurely calls “internal divisions” is in reality a constant fight for money and power among a slew of factions in Gaza: Hamas still arrests Fatah loyalists in Gaza, Palestinian Islamic Jihad fights Hamas, the PFLP fights with both, and the Lions’ Den, a new terror group that started in the West Bank, has now started to expand into Gaza where it has set itself up as the new kid on the block, an opponent of the established, and sclerotic, terror groups.

For its part, Hamas puts the blame for the dire economic situation on the shoulders of Israel, which has fought repeated wars with Gaza’s Islamist rulers in Hamas while maintaining its blockade of the enclave.

To repeat: the “blockade” by Israel allows medicines, food, clothing, and household goods into the Strip. It only prevents “dual-use” items, that can be used to manufacture weapons, launching systems, and terror tunnels.

“Our problem is the occupation and isn’t an internal problem,” Ehab Al-Ghsain, Hamas-appointed deputy of the Gaza Labour Ministry, told Reuters.

The five billion dollars stolen by two Hamas leaders has nothing to with the “occupation.” The constant fighting for money and power among Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have nothing to do with the “occupation.” The favoritism that Hamas shows when it employs relatives of its leaders, and the equally damning favoritism that Fatah shows when it finds jobs for the relatives of its leaders, has nothing to do with the “occupation.” In fact, there is not now, and there has not been since 2005, any Israeli “occupation” of Gaza; that was the year that every single Israeli was pulled out of the Strip.

As part of its policy of ensuring a basic level of economic stability in Gaza, Israel offers some 20,000 permits to allow Gazans to work in Israel but, within Gaza, Hamas has struggled to provide work for more than a select few.

Israel is a better employer of young Gazans than is Hamas. It now offers employment inside Israel to 20,000 Gazans, and if calm is maintained between Hamas and Israel, the Israelis will increase the number. Israeli employers pay salaries to these Gazans that are double what those workers would be paid in Gaza.

In 2022, Al-Ghsain’s office created temporary jobs for 9,000 young people, a fraction of the 236,000 looking for work, he said. Even the 40,000 public servants it has hired in Gaza since 2007 have not received their full salaries.

So Hamas only managed last year to create 9,000 temporary jobs, less than half the number of Gazans who were provided much better paid, and permanent — as long as the Gaza border remains relatively calm — employment by Israeli employers. That should be a great embarrassment, but El-Ghsain, the Hamas apparatchik, of course blames Israel for all of Gaza’s problems.

In the heart of Gaza City, Saeed Lulu, a media graduate, stands selling hot drinks to passersby and taxi drivers at a stall he calls “The Graduates stall”. He is the only breadwinner for a family of six.

“I graduated 16 years ago and so far, I have failed to find a job,” he said.

Saeed Lulu has gone sixteen years without ever getting a job In his field, Now he sells hot drinks at a roadside stand. All his education has gone to waste. Meanwhile, just two Hamas leaders, and their extended families, are enjoying the billions they stole from the aid money sent to Gaza. And 600 Hamas leaders, lower down on the totem pole, have helped themselves to millions. 70% of young Gazans are jobless, and those who do manage to be employed are often the sole breadwinners supporting large families.

In that, he is little different from other graduates. Maher Al-Tabbaa, a Gaza economic analyst, said fewer than 10% of around 14,000 students who graduate every year get jobs.

Standing outside Lulu’s cafe, Majd Al-Jamal, 20, a college undergraduate, wondered whether she should complete her studies after seeing three of her siblings failing for years to find a job.

“I don’t have much enthusiasm,” she said. “We already know what is going to happen.”

The people of Gaza can continue to believe that Israel is the source of all their woes, or they can face the truth. They are being held prisoner by the terrorist kleptocrats of Hamas, just two of whose leaders have stolen the colossal sum of five billion dollars from the aid money meant for the people of Gaza. They can see 600 Hamas big shots living in their million-dollar villas; not all of those Gazan villas are hidden inside gated communities. Theft of aid money is only one aspect of that corruption; another is rampant nepotism, where relatives and friends of the powerful get jobs while others, like the impoverished Saeed Lulu, go for years – in Lulu’s case, for sixteen years — without a job in the field for which they have trained. The sight of the well-connected with their safe government jobs, well-paid sinecures which are not terribly taxing, must infuriate all those – the vast majority of college graduates – who do not receive the jobs they have trained for and deserve.

It is not Israel that has forced Hamas to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on its vast network of underground tunnels, where it hides both its fighters and weapons – rockets, missiles, drones — that it hopes to someday unloose against the Jewish state. Hamas has made its choice; it chooses to spend much of what is left of the aid money after a handful of its leaders and their relatives, have helped themselves to the lion’s share, on preparations for war. That includes weapons and a vast network of very expensive terror tunnels. Hamas’ priorities are all wrong. It could be spending all that aid money on building housing, kindergartens, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure to improve the lives of the Gazans who will live, study, work, and be healed, in them, and also will provide jobs for those engaged in building them. The terror tunnels that have been built by Hamas do not improve the lives of Gazans, but instead, become targets for the Israeli Air Force that, in destroying those tunnels, also inevitably destroys the infrastructure positioned on top of the tunnels.

Israel should broadcast to the Gazans the real source of their immiseration. Tell them about the five billion dollars stolen from donors’ aid by just two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa ibn Marzouk. Post on social media the names of the Hamas millionaires and pictures of their villas in Gaza. Publish videos of the now-destroyed network of terror tunnels and put a price tag on what they cost to build, so that Gazans will know how many hundreds of millions of dollars Hamas wasted on that project, so quickly reduced to smithereens by Israeli bombs. Publish the names, and the government job titles, of relatives of the leaders. Make the people of Gaza very angry, so that mass protests might be held, not against Israel but against their true tormentors.