Photo: AP
Palestinians dismantling greenhouses
Photo: AP
Hamas gunmen in Rafah
Photo: AP

Gaza's Singaporean dream turns Afghan

Two years after disengagement, situation in Strip worsens every day, dragging more people down path of poverty and Islamic fundamentalism

"We reject the establishment of a separate tax and customs authority – one in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip – because this only serves Israel which is seeking to separate between the two. Therefore we will not set up an independent commission for the Gaza Strip after the disengagement. This is dangerous."


The remarks, which sound especially ironic today, were made my Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan on the eve of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.


Dahlan, who was in charge of coordinating the withdrawal with Israel, then promised to turn the Gaza Strip into the "Singapore of the Middle East." He promised to create jobs by developing agricultural lands left by Jewish settlers, Gaza's airport and seaport.


Over 40 experts were tasked to draft strategies to develop Gaza's economy and create jobs but two years after the disengagement, the situation in Gaza is a far cry from Dahlan's dream.


The Rafah Airport is in ruins and its damages structures are used by gunmen to launch attacks against Israeli targets. The airport's only undamaged structure, the control tower, was leveled by an Israeli raid last week.


At Gaza's port, the fishing industry is in dire straights because of the Israeli army's sea embargo which limits the movement of Palestinian fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea.


The border crossings remain closed and plans to privatize them have long been shelved. Their frequent closure costs the Palestinian economy millions of dollars each month in potential exports.


Seventy percent of the greenhouses left intact by Israel after the disengagement are almost completely destroyed. The plastic covers and steel arcs that once formed the greenhouses have been stolen and sold by looters.


Al-Qeada ideology

Roads and other infrastructure networks are unrecognizable, not due to World Bank investments, but thanks to months of internal strife between Fatah and Hamas as well as frequent Israeli airstrikes and land incursions.


The only factories built on lands evacuated by Israel belong to Palestinian armed groups who set up training camps and military bases.


The United Nations estimates that some 80 percent of Gaza's 1.3 million inhabitants live either in poverty or below the poverty line.


Gazans have also had to get accustomed to a new calendar to celebrate national holidays like the commemoration of Israel's withdrawal from the tiny coastal territory. The Hamas government set new dates for national holidays according to the Muslim calendar and many fear the Islamic group is planning to declare an Islamic state in the Gaza Strip.


Many Palestinians believe that al-Qaeda's fundamental Islamic ideology is spreading in the Gaza Strip and capturing the minds of many unemployed and hopeless young Gazans.


If the trend continues Gaza's inhabitants will have to brace for a Taliban-style disengagement that will cut them off from the rest of the world.


פרסום ראשון: 08.13.07, 10:21
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