has been claiming for quite some time that the desire to break through the blockade on the Gaza Strip is devoid of any basis since it is possible to transfer essential goods to Gaza through the monitored crossings. This claim received unexpected reinforcement on Thursday from none other than the Gazans themselves.
In a conversation with Ynet Palestinian businessmen expressed veiled criticism saying that the flotilla organizers
were missing their target since the main problem wasn't getting goods into Gaza – but exporting them outside of the strip.
"The flotilla isn't bringing things that reach the man on the street," says Salah Ayash a textile manufactory owner in the strip who, until the beginning of the month worked with Israeli fashion labels who would produce their goods at his factory.
"I think they might be bringing medication, but I'm not sure what they are bringing if anything. The only important thing from our perspective is not importing equipment but exporting goods," said Ayash adding that there is no shortage of stock – but they can't get it out.
Mohammad Tilbani, who owns a candy and cookie factory in Deir el-Balah explains that most of his work is based on exports. "60% of the production at my factory was intended for the West Bank, today I'm working at a very low output because production is exclusively for the Gaza market."
Data published by the Palestinian Industrialists Association reveals that over 80% of Gaza factories have halted operations or are working at less than half of their usual output. Businessmen explain that this has led Gaza Strip unemployment to surge.
"In the past I had 80 workers in my factory, now I'm forced to employ only six or five and only part time," Ayash explains, "some of the workers are forced to find other income sources and enlist in Hamas or Fatah to support their families."
The Gisha movement has criticized both the flotilla organizers and Israel over their remarks and claim that they are misleading. "Gaza doesn't need anymore humanitarian aid. There is only one way to allow Gaza residents long term economic development while maintaining Israel's legitimate security needs and that is a removal of the sweeping limitations on transfer of goods subject to individual security checks," said Sari Bashi the Director of Gisha.
The Gazan businessmen stress that they are not opposed to the flotilla: "It is not that we don't support the flotilla, we just want both. Not just the entry of goods but their export so that the economy will be rehabilitated and people can return to the workforce in the factories," said Tilbani.
The coordinator of the government activities in the Palestinian territories presents a more optimistic picture. At a briefing Wednesday, Major-General Eitan Dangot said that Israel is in the final stages of approving an additional export package for the Gaza Strip.
Dangot noted that Israel is working in coordination with EU and Palestinian representatives to export produce like potatoes and tomatoes to Jordan and that the preparation work will soon be completed and exports will commence.
He stressed that in the past year Israel enabled the export of dozens of tons of flowers and hundreds of tons of fruits and vegetables from the Gaza Strip to European markets. According to Dangot, the exports ceased because it was the end of the season and due to the fact that some of the produce failed to adhere to European standards.