One year has passed since the Israeli raid by commandos on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which left nine dead. The Mavi Marmara was part of a larger flotilla whose stated aim was to break the blockade on Gaza and bring
desperately needed supplies, like medicine, school supplies and construction materials into the area.
Gazan Economy in Growth Mode
Today in Gaza the economy is growing, with only small signs of the Israeli blockade on the citizens here. Technically the blockade is still in force, and Israel does turn away materials it believes can be used in attacks against its citizens, but short of that limitation, almost all items are allowed in.
The restrictions on people entering and leaving Gaza have also been reduced, most notably in May along the Egyptian-Gazan border. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the economy of Gaza has expanded by 15.2% in the past year as freer access of people and goods allowed economic activity to thrive.
In the case of the purchase of chickens, there are three main sources: Egyptian chickens, which are still mostly smuggled in through a network of tunnels under the border. They go for about 50cents a pound, but even at that
price they are not popular for fear of diseases. Frozen chickens from Israel are also available, ranging in price from 50 cents to $1 per pound. The most expensive choice is fresh chicken from Gaza, from $1 to $1.50 per pound. For many Gazan consumers, the Israeli chicken is the preferred choice.
“I came all this distance to buy Israeli frozen chicken,” said Suha Al-Mushrugi, mother of four, who travelled 20 miles from Rafah to Gaza City to go shopping.
“The Egyptian chicken sold in Rafah is sick and now the Palestinian fresh local chicken has gotten sick, too, so the Israeli chicken is the best in the market now and the price is good.”
New Flotilla Planned
Despite the evidence that consumers in Gaza have food and other essentials readily available for purchase, a new flotilla is in the planning stages by the organizers of last year’s disastrous flotilla. Named the “Freedom Flotilla Two,” the Turkish Islamist Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is hoping to launch 10 boats with more than 1,000 activists on board.
According to most observers this flotilla is completely unnecessary. Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reports that trucks delivering goods into Gaza has increased dramatically since last year, with an average daily number of trucks delivering goods to Gaza at 120 in April 2010, increasing to 237 each day, on average, in March, 2011.
Smuggling Not Needed
The average Gazan will explain that whereas smuggled Egyptian goods used to be a necessity, they are now only an option utilized to fill in the gaps when Israeli goods don’t get through or are in short supply. Gazans say that they purchase Israeli products because there are more choices and of higher quality.
“In Gaza, you’ll find the basics most the time and a huge variety of goods usually,” says Abu Wael Bseiso, age 43.
Shopping Mall Set to Open
Underscoring the lack of need of the latest flotilla, is the fact that just days before the flotilla is scheduled to arrive the largest shopping mall so far to be developed in an autonomous Palestinian area is set to open. The mall will be three stories tall with over 3,000 square meters of stores to shop in. It will be near the Haidar Abdel Shafi Square west of Gaza City. It is also the second shopping mall to open in Gaza in the past year.