Sunday, September 13, 2009

Economic embargo increasing prices in Gaza during Ramadan

Sources: Gaza at Ramadan: blockade, dress code fray tempers Gaza: Red meat prices too high for Ramadan
Xinhua: Israel rejects Ramadan commodities, stationery into Gaza
Ma’an News Agency: Gaza: Residents complain of high prices as gov't announces decline
IPS InterPress-Services: MIDEAST: Malnutrition Begins to Bite
The Jerusalem Post: UNRWA starts Gaza Ramadan campaign

The economic impacts of the Israeli embargo on Gaza are poignantly felt this Ramadan. The cost of fruits, vegetables, and meat have increased dramatically during the Israeli blockade over the last two years. Basic food aid is available, but many of the special foods used to celebrate this holiday are available only when smuggled in via flourishing underground tunnels. This black market price gouging, combined with unemployment near 50%, means that many are going without traditional holiday staples such as pickles, dates, and jam this season.

Ramadan is the Islamic holy month that centers on both prayer and community celebration. Fasting during the day is designed to help increase empathy for the poor. Breaking the fast each night is a joyous occasion for most, with food and candy playing a large role.

The Israeli blockade on Gaza has lasted for three years since the election of Hamas. The impact has been even more crippling since the “Operation Cast Lead” military campaign in December of 2008. Israeli control over the border crossings has been uneven—at times allowing in shipments of cattle to reduce the cost of beef, but at other times denying some shipments of Ramadan supplies. These policies led the World Bank to describe the economic situation in Gaza as “extreme closure”, and one merchant said that the Ramadan economy was “the worst in 50 years”.

This dire economic reality has led the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) to launch a special appeal. Their fundraising goal is U.S. $181 million, but so far donations have not been prolific. However, it points out that as long as Israel maintains the blockade it will make serious efforts to rebuild Gaza very difficult.

1) Who should be the targets of economic blockades? How does this embargo differ from the one the United States has placed on Cuba?
2)What materials should be the target of economic sanctions? Do international development goals supersede those of national security?

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