UNRWA Report: Intentionally Painting a Bleak Picture

The issue with the UNRWA’s latest report on Gaza uemployment  is more about its timing — the fifth anniversary of Israel’s blockade after Hamas took over the Strip.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness made that clear enough:

It is hard to understand the logic of a man-made policy which deliberately impoverishes so many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially productive people to a life of destitution.

It’s not that hard to understand.

Israel’s blockade — what’s left of it — is a response to hundreds of rockets and mortars being fired at Israel by Hamas, Gaza’s democratically elected leaders (well, sort of). The Islamists refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, refuse to renounce violence, and refuse to honor previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. You contain people like that.

Moreover, a blockade is only as strong as its weakest link, and there are plenty of those nowadays. Egypt already re-opened the border. People and goods entering the Rafah crossing are monitored not by Israeli cameras or by EU volunteers, but by Hamas policemen.

The blockade hasn’t prevented the construction of the largest Palestinian shopping mall next to Gaza City or a new water park in Khan Yunis. How many jobs were lost last year when Hamas burnt down the Crazy Water Park for providing too much fun?

While BBC and Reuters reacted to the UNRWA report as you’d expect, credit NY Times bureau chief Ethan Bronner for pointing out some context and seeds of economic growth:

But it also compared the second half of 2010 with the same period in 2009, a common approach for economies where many jobs are seasonal. That number shows that unemployment fell 1.09 percent, a figure more in keeping with other international analyses of the Gazan economy . . . .

Recent reports by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have generally shown Gaza’s economy to be growing. The data put out by the United Nations agency show 2008 to have had higher unemployment than the full year of 2010 — 44.9 percent versus 43.6 percent.

Israeli officials said that the report seemed intended to paint as bleak a picture as possible. They also criticized the use of the so-called broad employment figures, which include the underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work — over the more commonly used number of those recently looking for work. The narrower number for Gaza unemployment in 2010, according to the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics, is 37.8 percent.

Would that the UN and Big Media deign to take interest in the economic impact of terror on Sderot.

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