A Palestinian vendor sells pickles in a market in Gaza City, Aug. 20, 2009. (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Thousands of unemployed in the Gaza Strip wait for the summer season to get their small projects up and running to support their families in light of the continuing economic downturn. These projects include the sale of boiled corn and summer fruits on small carts, moving between markets and beaches. The owners of these projects, who are trying to fight poverty and unemployment, usually face several types of harassment by local authorities, most notably the latter’s imposition and collection of taxes.
Economist Mohsen Abu Ramadan believes the spread of street carts and vendors is a natural phenomenon resulting from economic deterioration, increasing poverty and unemployment rates, accumulation of university graduates, the Israeli blockade and repeated wars. “The economic situation in Gaza does not give the breadwinner the opportunity to find a job to protect his family from [the need to] beg. Therefore, he would work at any job to support his family,” Abu Ramadan told Al-Monitor.
Abu Mohammed Mekdad, 42, who worked at a concrete factory that was destroyed in Israel’s last war on Gaza, was forced to borrow some money from relatives to buy a cart to sell fruit in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in northern Gaza City to provide for his family that was displaced by the war. “Police cars are always on our tail, claiming that our work is illegal and unauthorized. Each time they confiscate our weighing scale and the cart’s umbrella and we can only get those back by paying a fine of 40 shekels (about $10),” he told Al-Monitor.
Mohammed Abu Dalfa, a 27-year-old fruit vendor, said, “Police raids have increased recently. They used to occur once a month, but during the past few months they are repeated three or four times [a month].” Abu Dalfa grudgingly added, “These raids aim only at imposing and collecting fines.”
He pointed out that the vendors are each time forced to go to the police station and pay the fine to recover the confiscated items. “If the vendor fails to pay the fine within one month, the items are permanently confiscated and sold at auction as spare junk,” Abu Dalfa said.
He indignantly indicated that instead of being concerned with improving water, electricity and sanitation services to citizens, local authorities are preoccupied with raising money from taxes and fines.
The poverty rate in the Gaza Strip stood at 65% as of the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
Two blocks from Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, Khoder al-Iff, 19, stands on the corner of the street holding a box containing packets of cigarettes. He fears his goods will be confiscated. He reaps profits from the sale of cigarettes for 30 shekels a day (about $8) and this is the only source of livelihood for his family of four.
“The police are after us in an arbitrary manner. Sometimes they chase us and sometimes they let us go,” he said. “If they arrest us they confiscate our goods.”
The police in Gaza decided April 6 to prevent street vendors from selling cigarettes on main and secondary streets. The Interior Ministry website said this decision aims at reducing the prevalence of smoking among those younger than 18.
Iff questioned the credibility of these claims and sarcastically said, “If the [Interior Ministry’s] arguments were true, why did the police allow shops to sell cigarettes to people of all ages without any impediments?”
He added, “The real reason behind this decision is that we obtain our goods before they are subject to customs duties through dealers who smuggle cigarettes. Therefore, this decision aims to fight [the selling of] cigarettes that are not subject to customs duty only.”
Ahmed Abu Assi, 25, built a cart for selling boiled corn on the beach of Gaza, which is the entertainment escape for Gazans during summer. He was shocked that at the end of April, officials from the Municipality of Gaza destroyed his cart following skirmishes between him and municipality employees, claiming that it was illegal.
“The buliding of this cart, which I called ‘Roots al-Glaba’ [luxury for the poor people], cost me 550 shekels [about $140], but I was surprised that officials from Gaza’s municipality destroyed it, allegedly claiming its illegality despite the existence of dozens of other carts on the beach,” Abu Assi told Al-Monitor.
Social media activists started the hashtag #Roots_algalaba on Facebook in solidarity with him. Some of them collected money and rebuilt the corn cart in a move that gained great popularity.
The Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) cited a World Bank report saying unemployment in the Gaza Strip is the highest in the world, reaching 43% at the end of 2014.
The May 22 article’s quoted the report: “Gaza’s economic performance over this period has been roughly 250% worse than that of any relevant comparators including that of the West Bank. … Real per capita income is 31% lower in Gaza than it was 20 years ago. … GDP losses caused by the blockade [are] estimated at over 50%.”
For Abu Ramadan, it’s extremely unfair to impose taxes on these vendors; rather, they must be given support and commercial facilities and legislation must be issued to facilitate their life instead of complicating it.
He said Hamas is suffering from a financial crisis because of the closure of tunnels and the drained external financial support sources that forced it to impose taxes on citizens to obtain money.
“The tax imposition policy adopted by Hamas, most notably the Solidarity Tax law, cannot be applied onto a society like the Palestinian society in Gaza, which has been suffering from living, political and economic instability for years,” Abu Ramadan said.
The Ministry of Economy in Gaza’s government had announced in October 2013 that the closure of tunnels caused losses estimated at $230 million a month.
According to Hamas leader Yahya Moussa, about $9 million in taxes were being reaped every month in the Gaza Strip before the imposition of the Solidarity Tax law, while local authorities need $40 million per month to manage governmental institutions and ministries.
Street vendors are calling on the local authorities to provide decent jobs that could help vendors face unemployment and poverty — instead of imposing taxes.
A common but mistaken reading of the current strategic situation in the Middle East presents the region as approaching the end of a period of instability. The “return of the Arab state” is one of the more arresting refrains that this perspective has produced.
According to this view, the wars in Syria and in Iraq are drawing to a close. The defeat of the Islamic State in these countries represents the eclipse of the political ambitions of Salafi jihadi Islamism for the foreseeable future. Assad is set to restore his repressive but stable rule in Syria. In Iraq, the firm reaction by the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to the Kurdish bid for independence has ended prospects of the imminent fragmentation of the country. In Lebanon, attempts by Sunni jihadis to export the Syrian war have failed, and all is quiet.
In July 2016, Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria (pictured in front at center)—the leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—hosts Ignatius Aphrem II (left), patriarch of Antioch and All East of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and Aram I, head of Lebanon’s Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has been arguably the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. A new report by the Christian charity group Open Doors has found that most of Israel’s neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are among the world’s most dangerous places for Christians.
Kingdom says Jerusalem agreed to pay compensation over deaths of three people, in order to end diplomatic standoff
Jordanian protesters wave national flags and chant slogans during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in the capital Amman on July 28, 2017, calling for the shutting down the of the embassy, expelling the ambassador, and canceling the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. (AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI)
Israel is paying $5 million in compensation to the families of two people shot dead by an Israeli embassy guard last year, as well as a Jordanian judge killed in a 2014 incident, diplomats in Jordan told the al-Rai newspaper Saturday.
Ultra-Orthodox women and children attend a ceremony to welcome new Torah scrolls in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, Oct. 1 2014.
Reuven K., who is about 30 years old, is an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic man who lives in Betar Illit, one of Israel’s most prominent ultra-Orthodox localities. Reuven studies in a yeshiva, a Jewish school for Talmudic learning, but works half of each day as a wholesale merchant selling religious ritual supplies. His wife, Bracha, works as a bookkeeper in a governmental institution.
Palestinian boss Mahmoud Abbas recently declared that Israel is “a colonial enterprise that has nothing to do with Jewishness.” Moses, King David and thousands of years of Jewish history would disagree. Israel and the Jews are part of the story of human civilization. Over 50% of the human race has a holy book that tells of the Jewish journey to Israel. That includes Mohammed’s own copy of the Koran.
Israel isn’t a “colonial enterprise.” Palestine is.
Anyone who wants to find out where the name Israel comes from can open the Book of Genesis 32:29. The story even appears in Islamic hadiths. But where does “Palestine” really come from?
It may not be a shooting war. For the most part. (Though don’t tell that to some Republicans at a charity game practice who were targeted by a Bernie Sanders supporter.) But it’s a war all the same.
The war is still being fought with paper and protests. But it’s based on irreconcilable differences between parts of the country. Much like the ones that brought on the war between brothers.
This is a topic that I’ve written about quite often over this past year. Rush Limbaugh saw fit to read and promote some of those pieces. And now I’ll be giving a talk on the subject at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC. It’ll take place from Jan 20-22. I’m scheduled to speak on the 21st, but there are plenty of other great speakers there.
The speech was loud and clear. It wasn’t just the “may your house be demolished” curse that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas fired at the leader of the strongest world power. It was the utterly delusional ideology, with false claims that only make the Palestinians sink deeper into a path of delusions and collapse.
The reactions were predictable: We have to understand him. He’s under a lot of pressure. He has no political horizon. The Palestinians are desperate. He didn’t really mean it.
A document drafted by members of the global Christian community convening at the 3rd International Christian Forum held in Moscow, detailed how over the past 10 years the Middle East’s Christian population has shrunk by 80 percent and warned that unless current trends are reversed Christianity “will vanish” from its ancient homelands in a few years’ time. Around the year 2000, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, whereas today there are only 100,000, roughly a 93 percent drop, the document notes. In Syria, the largest cities “have lost almost all of their Christian population.”
Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has delivered a speech triggered by his rage at the President of the United States Donald Trump, going so far as to hurl the most bitter curse in the Arabic language at the POTUS: “May your house be destroyed.”
This imprecation does not merely relate to someone’s present home, but to all the members of his family being thrown into the street to lead lives of destitution, humiliation, and shame. Only someone familiar with Middle Eastern culture understands the real significance of this curse.
The 1964 presidential election was the second in which I voted. Lyndon Johnson who had succeeded John Kennedy was running against Barry Goldwater. I didn’t like either candidate: Johnson’s personal characteristics were obnoxious, though he had achieved much, especially in the area of civil rights; Goldwater’s personal characterizes seemed fine, but I disapproved of his conservative political views.
I was shocked to read an article in Fact magazine, based on interviews with more than 1,000 psychiatrists, which concluded that Goldwater was mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to be president. It was Lyndon Johnson whose personal fitness to hold the highest office I questioned. Barry Goldwater seemed emotionally stable with excellent personal characteristics, but highly questionable politics. The article was utterly unpersuasive, and in the end, I reluctantly voted for Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater went back to the Senate, where he served with great distinction and high personal morality. Lyndon Johnson got us deeply into an unwinnable war that hurt our nation. The more than 1,000 psychiatrists, it turned out, were dead wrong in their diagnosis and predictions.