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 2018 demonstration against antisemitism in Berlin. Photo: Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch.
A slight drop in the number of antisemitic incidents in Berlin during the first half of this year is no excuse for complacency, the city’s antisemitism commissioner emphasized on Thursday following the publication of statistics for hate crimes targeting Jews in the German capital from January-June 2019.
“Antisemitism remains a serious problem that we cannot tolerate in Berlin,” Lorenz Korgel — the city’s commissioner for combating antisemitism — told local news outlet Berliner Morgenpost. “The number of antisemitic incidents remains at a high level. ”
People wear kippas at a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue denouncing an antisemitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (photo credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH / REUTERS)
The population of the State of Israel has increased 2.1% since last year, according to a report released in time for Rosh Hashanah by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which some 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the report shows. The country’s citizens also include 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% of “others,” including Christians and those of other minority groups.
A women holds up a sign against anti-Semitism at a rally in New York City on Sept. 22, 2019. Photo: Rhonda Hodas Hack.
JNS.org – Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in front of City Hall in New York on Sunday, calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other municipal leaders, as well as those on the national level, to act against antisemitism and the wave of antisemitic hate crimes taking place against the Orthodox Jewish community.
The beach in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ammar Awad.
On the eve of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, ushering in the Jewish year of 5780, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics released its traditional end-of-the-year findings.
Israel’s population now stands at 9.092 million people — 6.744 million (74.2 percent) of whom are Jews, with 1.907 million (21 percent) Arabs and 441,000 (4.8 percent) listed as “other.”
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason. Photo: Instagram.
Drew Seigla and Stephanie Lynne Mason play Pertshik and Hodl, whose love story takes them all the way to Siberia in the award-winning show by the National Yiddish Theatre.
Sep 30, 2019 0Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign secretary, has recently commissioned a report on the persecution of Christians, most acutely occurring in the Muslim World, and especially in the Arab/Muslim...
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“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Boscombe Valley Mystery
“Israel must, in the most blunt and clear way possible, illustrate to Washington that the prosperity of Jordan is a first-rate Israeli security and strategic interest.” — Former head of Mossad Ephraim Halevy at “Between Jerusalem and Amman: 25 Years Since the Signing of the Peace Agreement Between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Institute for National Security Studies, Sept. 25, 2019.
A thought came to mind the other day.
For all the bluster about Judaism and anti-Semitism in America, I am not convinced that far-out-left and liberal young Jews, who have been very strident and even threatening on Israel-related issues and local American political battles, have done much on the ground to confront and quash, one way or another, attacks on Jews. They have portrayed themselves as gliding along a moral highway but have permitted immoral actions to exist quite close to home, far from Gaza (did any of them recite a public Kaddish in the town square for murdered and injured Jews, or their damaged and desecrated property)?
One of the hallmark features of Yom Kippur are the communal sins which we need to repent for. Most Jews focus on what we have done personally towards G-d and towards others. Little thought is given to how we could be better as a community. Or the sins we bear as a community.
However, the communal recitation of the Al Chet, repeated over and over on Yom Kippur is to drive the point home that we are responsible for one another
Incoming freshman Member of Knesset from the leftist, Democratic Union list, Yair Golan, did it again. Golan’s constant delegitimization of his political opponents on the right, smacks of the same delegitimization that tyrants, dictators, demagogues and assorted totalitarians always use, just before the Putsch.
In that regard, he’s right when he said recently, “I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that radicals with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government.” Think “
As Israeli frustration mounts about violence coming out of Gaza, the idea of a ground invasion, and once and for all to finish with Hamas aggression, becomes more appealing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has endorsed this approach, saying, “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime.” While sympathetic to this impulse, I worry that too much attention is paid to tactics and not enough to goals. The result could be harmful to Israel.