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In a previous article by Fanack, I discussed the Gaza Strip’s symbolic and historical position in Palestine. The Palestinians of Gaza have made sacrifices and achieved heroic feats in a unique, challenging and isolated place considered the world’s most crowded and the most scarce in natural resources.
In this article, I will present data that paint a different image of the Gaza Strip and its two million Palestinian residents. This is necessary to explain how Gaza has managed to display such extraordinary endurance, resilience, and struggle, despite unfair conditions.
Firstly, Gaza’s Palestinians live in giant prisons with high poverty and unemployment rates, resulting from the blockade on people and goods imposed since 2007. The Gaza Strip lacks resources and investments, and repeated wars destroy homes and erode infrastructure.
For example, Gaza’s contribution to the Palestinian GDP is minor. The Strip’s contribution in 2021 was only $2.5 billion, compared to the West Bank’s $12.3 billion contribution, equaling 14.8 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively. In contrast, Israel‘s GDP is $481 billion.
Gaza’s per capita GDP does not exceed $1200 per year, compared to $4200 for residents of the West Bank. Israel’s per capita gross national product is $51,000 per year.
Most importantly, Gaza depends on external resources and is, for example, dependent on Israel for water, electricity and fuel. Moreover, Israel determines the fishing zones at sea, expanding or narrowing them.
Secondly, the Palestinians of Gaza have suffered significant casualties in the wars that Israel has waged against them.
The first war in 2008, which lasted 23 days, killed 1,436. In the eight-day second war in late 2012, the number of martyrs reached 155. The death toll in the 50-day third war in the summer of 2014 rose to 2,174. The number of martyrs of the fourth war, which spanned 11 days in the summer of 2021, totalled 243. And the fifth war lasted almost three days in the summer of 2022 and resulted in the deaths of 44 martyrs.
In contrast, Israel’s combined losses from these wars did not exceed 100. There is a massive difference in the casualties between the two sides relative to the might of the Israeli military.
In addition to these wars, after the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, the Gaza Strip witnessed a heavy military campaign which resulted in the deaths of 556 Palestinians (out of 692 Palestinians killed that year).
A further 326 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli bullets as part of the Great March of Return held every Friday throughout 2018 and 2019, according to al-Mezan Center for Human Rights statistics.
Thirdly, 20,000 Gazans work in Israel, making up 10 per cent of the Palestinian labour force in the Israeli labour market. There are signs of an increase in the total number, as 250,000 Gazan workers registered themselves to apply for work permits in Israel.
It should be noted here that the wage of a Palestinian worker in Israel is six times that of a Palestinian worker in the already weak Palestinian labour market in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
It is clear that Israel, as an occupying power, is primarily responsible for the deterioration of living conditions in Gaza. Thus, it is responsible for the loss of opportunities for younger generations.
It is also responsible for the spread of frustration and anger, which fuels resistance. The data show that Palestinians face a strong and dominant state, politically, economically and militarily.
Of course, the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility in raising awareness of meaningful and legitimate forms of resistance.
The leadership should also act instead of leaving things to temperament and emotional and vengeful spirit since resistance is not just revenge or reaction but a gradual and long-term process, which not only requires sacrifice but awareness, organisation and achievement on a national level.
Palestinians are not interested in proving that they are struggling, sacrificing and stubbornly resisting to regain their just and legitimate rights. They have proven this for a century in the face of racist Zionist colonialism.
Palestinians need to prove their ability to turn their sacrifices into national achievements. This requires national leadership that strengthens national unity, manages its people’s circumstances as best and most appropriately as possible, and guides their struggle.
In conclusion, it is not enough to know about Gaza’s perseverance and the heroism and sacrifices of its people. It is equally important to understand their complicated economic and social reality and how to support them in these circumstances.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.