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Everyone washes their hands as Gaza’s economy goes into ‘freefall’

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The moment long feared is fast approaching in Gaza, according to a new report by the World Bank. After a decade-long Israeli blockade and a series of large-scale military assaults, the economy of the tiny coastal enclave is in “freefall”.

At a meeting of international donors in New York on Thursday, coinciding with the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, the World Bank painted an alarming picture of Gaza’s crisis. Unemployment now stands at close to 70 per cent and the economy is contracting at an ever faster rate.

While the West Bank’s plight is not yet as severe, it is not far behind, countries attending the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee were told. Gaza’s collapse could bring down the entire Palestinian banking sector.

In response, Europe hurriedly put together a €40 million aid package, but that will chiefly address Gaza’s separate humanitarian crisis – not the economic one – by improving supplies of electricity and potable water.

No one doubts the inevitable fallout from the economic and humanitarian crises gripping Gaza. The four parties to the Quartet charged with overseeing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN – issued a statement warning that it was vital to prevent what they termed “further escalation” in Gaza.

The Israeli military shares these concerns. It has reported growing unrest among the enclave’s two million inhabitants and believes Hamas will be forced into a confrontation to break out of the straightjacket imposed by the blockade.

In recent weeks, mass protests along Gaza’s perimeter fence have been revived and expanded after a summer lull. On Friday, seven Palestinian demonstrators, including two children, were killed by Israeli sniper fire. Hundreds more were wounded.

Nonetheless, the political will to remedy the situation looks as atrophied as ever. No one is prepared to take meaningful responsibility for the time-bomb that is Gaza.

In fact, the main parties that could make a difference appear intent on allowing the deterioration to continue.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored repeated warnings of a threatened explosion in Gaza from his own military.

Instead, Israel is upholding the blockade as tightly as ever, preventing the flow of goods in and out of the enclave. Fishing is limited to three miles off the coast rather than the 20-mile zone agreed in the Oslo accords. Hundreds of companies are reported to have folded over the summer.

Intensifying the enclave’s troubles is the Trump administration’s recent decision to cut aid to the Palestinians, including to the United Nation’s refugee agency, UNRWA. It plays a critical role in Gaza, providing food, education and health services to nearly two-thirds of the population.

The food budget is due to run out in December, and the schools budget by the end of this month. Hundreds of thousands of hungry children with nowhere to spend their days can only fuel the protests – and the deaths.

The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, headquartered in the West Bank, has no incentive to help. Gaza’s slowly unfolding catastrophe is his leverage to make Hamas submit to his rule. That is why the Palestinian Authority has cut transfers to Gaza by $30 million a month.

But even if Abbas wished to help, he largely lacks the means. The US cuts were imposed primarily to punish him for refusing to play ball with US President Donald Trump’s supposed “deal of the century” peace plan.

Israel, the World Bank notes, has added to Abbas’s difficulties by refusing to transfer taxes and customs duties it collects on the PA’s behalf.

And the final implicated party, Egypt, is reticent to loosen its own chokehold on its short border with Gaza. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi opposes giving any succour either to his domestic Islamist opponents or to Hamas.

The impasse is possible only because none of the parties is prepared to make a priority of Gaza’s welfare.

That was starkly illustrated earlier in the summer when Cairo, supported by the UN, opened a back channel between Israel and Hamas in the hope of ending their mounting friction.

Hamas wanted the blockade lifted to reverse Gaza’s economic decline, while Israel wanted an end to the weekly protests and the damaging images of snipers killing unarmed demonstrators.

In addition, Netanyahu has an interest in keeping Hamas in power in Gaza, if barely, as a way to cement the geographic split with the West Bank and an ideological one with Abbas.

The talks, however, collapsed quietly in early September after Abbas objected to the Egyptians. He insisted that the Palestinian Authority be the only address for discussions of Gaza’s future. So, Cairo is yet again channelling its energies into a futile attempt at reconciling Abbas and Hamas.

At the UN General Assembly, Trump promised his peace plan would be unveiled in the next two to three months, and made explicit for the first time his support for a two-state solution, saying it would “work best”.

Netanyahu vaguely concurred, while pointing out: “Everyone defines the term ‘state’ differently.” His definition, he added, required that not one of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank be removed and that any future Palestinian state be under complete Israeli security control.

Abbas is widely reported to have conceded over the summer that a Palestinian state – should it ever come into being – would be demilitarised. In other words, it would not be recognisable as a sovereign state.

Hamas has made notable compromises to its original doctrine of military resistance to secure all of historic Palestine. But it is hard to imagine it agreeing to peace on those terms. This makes a reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas currently inconceivable – and respite for the people of Gaza as far off as ever.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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24 Responses

  1. mondonut on October 2, 2018, 3:32 pm

    Abbas is widely reported to have conceded over the summer that a Palestinian state – should it ever come into being – would be demilitarised. In other words, it would not be recognisable as a sovereign state.

    Countries without Armed Forces: Andorra, Dominica, Grenada, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vatican City.

    Countries with no Standing Army: Costa Rica, Iceland, Mauritius, Monaco, Panama, Vanuatu.

    • Jethro on October 2, 2018, 5:05 pm

      Countries without Armed Forces: Andorra, Dominica, Grenada, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vatican City.

      I’ll let the Magnes Zionist answer here: “Do you see on this list a country whose land has been occupied and expropriated for decades, whose people have been denied citizenship and representation, and who will be located alongside the settler state from which it was displaced, and which has one of the most powerful armies in the world, and an irridentist population?”

      • mondonut on October 2, 2018, 7:09 pm

        @Jethro I’ll let the Magnes Zionist answer here…

        Once again missing the point entirely. The claim is that being demilitarized would make Palestine, “not be recognisable as a sovereign state”. Clearly that is false.

      • Jethro on October 2, 2018, 7:16 pm


        Actually, you’ve missed the point entirely. The states you listed are demilitarized and yet still sovereign precisely because they do not have the settler state from which they were displaced, with one of the world’s most powerful armies in the world and an irredentist population, right next door.

        In other words, it is the lawless character of Israel that would prevent a demilitarized Palestine from being sovereign. Palestine needs to be able repel Israel militarily at any time, given Israel’s past behavior.

      • mondonut on October 2, 2018, 9:24 pm

        @Jethro Actually, you’ve missed the point entirely.

        Nice try with the spin, but again the claim was that if demilitarised Palestine would not be recognisable as a sovereign state.

        Everything that you chose to add to the claim “lawless character” and “need to repel” are your words., not Cook’s.

      • Stephen Shenfield on October 2, 2018, 10:16 pm

        What Palestine needs to deter Israel is nuclear weapons.

      • Misterioso on October 3, 2018, 11:05 am


        More Hasbara Central bafflegab.

        To state the obvious, the envisioned state of Palestine would not be “sovereign” if it is demilitarized, i.e., denied the means to protect itself from an “armed to the teeth” bordering country with a history of racism and fascism, illegal expansionism by force of arms, brutal occupation and dispossession/expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants.

      • mondonut on October 3, 2018, 5:32 pm

        @Misterioso, ” brutal occupation and dispossession/expulsion of the indigenous inhabitants.”


    • RoHa on October 3, 2018, 12:05 am

      The various demilitarised countries you have named have chosen for themselves not to have a military. That is a sovereign decision.

      If the proposed Palestinian State can choose for itself whether or not to have a military, then it can be both demilitarised and as sovereign as possible while under perpetual Israeli threat. (Which is not very.)

      • mondonut on October 3, 2018, 1:23 pm

        @Roha, If the proposed Palestinian State can choose for itself…

        Exactly. The nascent sovereign State of Palestine can choose to be demilitarized and they will be just as sovereign as if they had not. And to whatever degree they need Israel’s assistance in becoming a sovereign state, they can decide if it worth it.

      • eljay on October 3, 2018, 2:27 pm

        || mondonut: @Roha, If the proposed Palestinian State can choose for itself…

        Exactly. The nascent sovereign State of Palestine can choose to be demilitarized and they will be just as sovereign as if they had not. … ||

        Correction: The nascent sovereign State of Palestine can choose to be demilitarized and they will be just as sovereign as if they had chosen not to be militarized.

        Because there’s no way the “Jewish State” (or its lackey, the U.S.) is going to allow nascent sovereign State of Palestine to become militarized. (Assuming it allows a State of Palestine to come into existence at all.)

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on October 3, 2018, 4:00 pm

        mondonut, i think RoHa is making a different argument than the one you are imputing to him. Here is what RoHa said:

        “If the proposed Palestinian State can choose for itself whether or not to have a military, then it can be both demilitarised and as sovereign as possible while under perpetual Israeli threat.”

        I interpreted RoHa’s conditional as counterfactual, not as indicative. In other words, i take RoHa to be saying the following: “If Palestine had free choice as to whether it can have an Army in its hypothetically newly formed state, then it would be sovereign as much as possible under the circumstances. But Palestine is not given that free choice, because Israel is coercing it to accept demilitarization as a necessary condition for statehood, therefore it is not free to choose whether to have an Army or not, therefore it can’t be a sovereign state even if it accepts Israel’s hypothetical offer of a statehood that forbids Palestine from having an Army”.

        And RoHa, according to my interpretation of his argument, would argue that it is precisely this feature of a hypothetical newly formed Palestinian state that distinguishes it from the countries you mentioned, namely the lack of free choice in its decision about whether to have an Army after it acquires statehood. But then, so RoHa would conclude according to my interpretation, Jonathan Cook was right all along to claim that a demilitarized Palestine would not be truly sovereign, on account of its lack of free choice on the matter after it acquired its hypothetical statehood.

      • mondonut on October 3, 2018, 5:35 pm

        @dionissis_mitropoulos “lack of free choice in its decision about whether to have an Army”

        By that argument, post WWII Japan was not a sovereign state. And I presume still is not.

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on October 3, 2018, 6:56 pm

        mondonut, i was only attempting a charitable exegesis of RoHa’s argument, i wasn’t offering an argument of my own.

      • RoHa on October 3, 2018, 9:44 pm

        Thank you for spelling that out, Dionissis. That was, indeed, my argument.

      • RoHa on October 3, 2018, 9:47 pm

        “By that argument, post WWII Japan was not a sovereign state.”

        During the occupation, Japan was not a sovereign state.

        “And I presume still is not.”

        Japan now has a very powerful military.

  2. lonely rico on October 2, 2018, 4:16 pm

    Copy of letter to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
    This past Friday Sept. 29, Israeli snipers murdered seven unarmed Palestinians in Gaza, wounding 210 (including 35 children), many with grievous injuries which will cripple them for the rest of their lives.
    This violence was to celebrate the six months of murderous cruelty by the Israeli military resulting in the death of 194 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. During this time more than 10,000 Palestinians have been injured. Heavily armed Israeli military units fire from the perimeter of the concentration camp called Gaza, into the largely defenceless unarmed imprisoned population .
    Shamefully, the Canadian government has done nothing in response to this barbarity, our dear friend and ally Israel seemingly beyond criticism.
    The government of Canada must demand that Israel cease this brutality immediately, and lift the criminal blockade of the Gaza strip which amounts to a slow-motion death sentence on the Palestinian population.

  3. Keith on October 2, 2018, 4:51 pm

    JONATHAN COOK- “After a decade-long Israeli blockade and a series of large-scale military assaults, the economy of the tiny coastal enclave is in “freefall”.

    Welcome to the new normal. The “endless war” isn’t going to end anytime soon. Severe environmental deterioration soon to get worse will bring massive upheavals and chaos. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Gaza are the leading edge of the destruction and death soon to follow. We are CURRENTLY in the 6th great extinction event, soon to accelerate. This, along with nuclear war, is the greatest existential threat that humanity has ever faced.

  4. Kay24 on October 2, 2018, 8:58 pm

    Where are their Arab brothers and sisters in the region? How can they just watch and do nothing? Are they so afraid of the US, that they dare not criticize Trump/America for what has been done? As for Saudi Arabia, they are in bed with Israel, and they do not care what happens to the Palestinians. They are more focused on bombing Yemen. Shame on them all.

    • Marnie on October 3, 2018, 12:45 am

      Well this is the world we now live in. tRUMP announced he and Kim are ‘in love’ and that he received ‘beautiful letters’ from the dictator he called lil’ rocket man and was rightfully called a ‘dotard’ just last winter. tRUMP declared his love for lil’ Kim J.U. in Kentucky, amerikkka’s best kept secret as the bastian and safest harbor for gays, lesbians, trans folk for years. Wait, it’s land-locked. Well they’ve accepted the dotard in chief as the first openly queer president. Will wonders never cease? No they won’t, because in the good ol’ ME, Netanyahu has been getting his balls and ass lovingly greased by the Saudis; he hasn’t yet declared his love, but their relationship I hear is purely physical and he’s mostly in it for the thrill that’s name will not be spoken…yet.

      Frank Zappa – Bobby Brown Goes Down – YouTube

  5. dionissis_mitropoulos on October 3, 2018, 8:52 am

    PART 1

    There is a strange silence emanating from the New York Times and the Guardian concerning the situation in Gaza. In Israel it is a known fact that the risk of a war with Hamas has increased exponentially as we are speaking, mainly (but not exclusively) due to Palestinian President Abbas’s intransigence regarding the reconciliation with Hamas, a reconciliation that is required by Israel and the Diaspora’s pro-Israel activism establishment as a necessary condition for the urgently needed rehabilitation of Gaza by the international community. The risk of war — a war that is going to produce one more round of child-killing by the self-pronounced most moral Army in the world, the IDF – is stressed and lamented on September 29 in the following (commendable) Haaretz editorial (Haaretz is the most objective Israeli newspaper):

    “The [recent] escalation in the Gaza Strip was expected and senior Israeli defense officials believe a military confrontation is only a matter of time. They point to two reasons: stagnation in the reconciliation process between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas…

    After a blockade of 11 years, without regular supplies of water and electricity, without fuel, without revenue sources, in the world’s largest prison and, soon, without humanitarian aid, Gazans have nothing to lose”

    But it is not just Haaretz and the IDF that are cognizant of this war risk, here is prominent Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff from the Times of Israel on September 27:

    “The United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, warned Wednesday that Israel and Hamas are on the verge of a new war in Gaza.”

    Mr Avi Issacharoff managed even to get the causation right (though he didn’t cast it as such, but at least he mentioned the facts — albeit mildly peppered with a biased pro-Abbas evaluative attitude:

    “The PA president [Abbas] is suffering from an unprecedented dip in support in West Bank and Gaza public opinion polls, and is blamed by Gazans for the Strip’s humanitarian decline. Israel is not ready to engage in any dialogue with him, but at the same time expects him to accept responsibility for the Hamas-run coastal enclave [through the reconciliation with Hamas].

    The Egyptian efforts to reconcile Hamas and [Abbas’s faction] Fatah have not borne fruit at this stage, and the possibility of a long-term ceasefire with Israel has apparently fallen off the agenda.
    The economic situation has once again reached an unprecedented low, stoking fury among Gazans that is being directed against Israel, the PA [Abbas], Hamas, and even Egypt.

    And here is again Mr Avi Issacharoff on the same topic on September 28 winning the 2018 prize for understatement – referring to Abbas’s intention to start a war of Israel against Hamas as “Abbas’s seemingly not minding seeing” a war between Hamas and Israel erupt:

    “And so Abbas, is planning moves that will cause major headaches for Israel in Gaza… [I]t seems he would not mind seeing Hamas and Israel clash for the umpteenth time to the south [Gaza].”

    Unlike Mr Avi Issacharrof, Ms Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, was more upfront in her judgement about Abbas and his attempt to start a war of Israel against Hamas. Here is the rightwing Israel Hayom, Israel’s most read newspaper (September 30):

    “ “We believe that the Palestinians are going to have come to the table. President Abbas is not helping the Palestinian people at all. He hasn’t acknowledged Hamas,” Haley said over the weekend, while meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She [Nikki Haley] added that Abbas is using Hamas against Israel.”

    The IDF is even more explicit that Abbas is avoiding to reconcile with Hamas (by making absurd demands of Hamas, namely that Hamas disarm immediately, that Hamas cannot possibly accept) so that he can cause a war of Israel against Hamas (September 28):

    “Israeli officials believe there are two main causes pushing Hamas toward military escalation, the newspaper report said: The failed reconciliation talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the West Bank and has maintained a chokehold on Gaza’s finances in a bid to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis of the enclave under the Israeli-Egyptian blockade, …

    IDF officials believe Abbas is now actively pushing Hamas to go to war against Israel, according to Friday’s Haaretz report. Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas broke down in recent weeks over Abbas’s insistence that the terror group hand over all its weapons to the PA’s security forces…

    This list of [prerequisite to reconciliation] demands [made by Abbas] seems hand-picked to ensure Hamas continues to refuse them, thus stymieing any progress toward reconciliation. “

    More corroboration that war is imminent due to Abbas, this time from the Jerusalem Post and, well, the Prime Minister of Israel, September 29:

    “[Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ] blamed the crisis [the violence on 28 September that resulted in the killing of 7 Palestinians during the 28 September March of Return] on the crumbling [Gaza] economy and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.”

    And, just so that I repeat the point ad nauseam, here is Haaretz and the IDF repeating that war is imminent due to the lack of reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas and due to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and placing blame on Abbas (September 30):

    “Conflict inevitable unless progress made on stalled Palestinian reconciliation, Gaza humanitarian crisis. Israeli defense agencies say Abbas pushing Hamas into war with Israel.”

    • dionissis_mitropoulos on October 3, 2018, 8:56 am

      PART 2

      Isn’t it embarrassing for the New York Times (and the Guardian) that an Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is more objective in its reporting on Israel? Isn’t it embarrassing that the New York Times covers up for Abbas by being silent, when there is Israeli consensus across the board, from the right-wing Prime Minister to the left-wing Haaretz to the IDF, that Abbas is about to cause war in Gaza? Isn’t this news fit to print?

      A trouble with this silence is that it makes the people of Gaza feel that when they scream for what Israel is doing to them, the world may be hearing but not listening:

      people hearing without listening
      Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence (1966)

      Hamas complained for this international silence at Israeli violence on September 28 (killing of 7 Palestinians and unprovoked airstrike by the IDF of at least one Hamas outpost, to which Hamas did not retaliate):

      “The [Israeli] occupation was encouraged to perpetrate these crimes by the silence of the international community”

      Some way they’ve got there at the New York Times to make the world a better place – but I guess they will respond that things are “complicated”, you know, like that female medic, Razan al-Najjar:

      P.S 1: Abbas is Israel’s collaborating guard dog (he still keeps the security cooperation intact even now, after everything Trump has done). It is not just Abbas that will be responsible for the child-killing that might erupt, it is Israel too, in that Israel probably has enough power over him to either coerce him to reconcile with Hamas, or, even better, bypass him and alleviate the humanitarian situation in Gaza even without a reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas .

      P.S. 2: the war, if it erupts, won’t erupt because Hamas attacked, it will erupt because the IDF, as it has been doing sporadically in the previous months, will attack Hamas positions in an attempt to force Hamas to stop the return Marches and also in an attempt to pose as strong for the PR benefit of appeasing an ultra-hawkish public opinion in Israel that can’t stand any sign of insubordination from the prisoners in Gaza – the Israelis want that the Gazan people be immediately taught a lesson the hard way whenever they misbehave, like in cases they fly arson kites that haven’t hurt a single Israeli. Israel already struck Hamas outposts without Hamas provocation on September 28. Anyone interested should keep an eye for this sort of information (i.e. the unprovoked Israeli strikes against Hamas positions during the return Marches) because the media will present any Hamas retaliation meant to make Israel stop attacking Hamas as the starting point of any conflagration, obscuring the temporally prior IDF airstrikes or shellings at Hamas positions. Here is some evidence about Hamas’s good behavior with regard to conflagrations with the IDF (my last comment, response to commenter Jackdaw):

      P.S. 3 This is an Avi Issacharoff’s September 22 shameful article that throws two million Gazans to the lions of unnecessary poverty and an imminent war for the sake of not inconveniencing Abbas. His article makes the innuendo (below the title, and he is an extremely well-connected journalist) that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had been trying to do something about Gaza. I responded to him at the comment section, but the full response is at my Facebook page – the full comment couldn’t be posted, it kept disappearing, I think the Facebook plug in does not allow one to post comments that link to the very site she is commenting:

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on October 3, 2018, 6:43 pm

        And just to make my point against the New York Times (NYT) more concrete: if your variety of the two state solution is such that it can never be accepted by the Palestinian people in a referendum (for it does not cede the Temple Mount to the Palestinians), and, consequently, you need to support contra Hamas a dictator like Abbas or whoever his successor will be, in the hope that they will sometime sign against the Palestinian people’s wishes whatever suboptimal version of a two-state solution you offer them, then sooner or later you will find yourself again in such a moral morass like you have now: you are knowingly hurting by omission right now two million Gazans by not speaking out against Abbas’s collective punishment of half of his own people, the Gazans. This is not journalism, it’s pro-Israel activism.

        The kleptocratic autocrats that you have to support so that they rule Palestine against the wishes of their own people will be a constant source of moral embarrassment.

        Maybe it’s high time the New York Times decided to speak in favour of democracy and elections in Palestine?

      • dionissis_mitropoulos on October 4, 2018, 7:40 am

        And just to make clearer what i mean: the New York Times should stop silencing those Palestinian voices that are asking for free elections in the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians have the right to be governed by whoever they want without asking the US pro-Israel establishment. That this silencing is perpetrated not through action but through omission (i.e. by ignoring those Palestinian pro-elections voices and thus condemning them to obscurity in the Western mindset) should be no source of moral comfort for the New York Times: ignoring those who are in grave need for help and are asking for it is very bad, especially when helping them is not onerous. Even more so when part of the New York Times’ institutional role is precisely to bring to light instances of grave oppression and injustice – isn’t that a big part of what the media are for?

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