Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Analysis
Written by Daniel Schloss– please keep reading – I promise you will be surprised and informed.
My friend Jordan Birenbaum posted some very interesting facts on my Facebook wall yesterday with regards to quality of life indicators in the Gaza Strip. It got me thinking, and I’ve done a little bit of research to show that, qualitatively, there is absolutely NO humanitarian disaster in Gaza, let alone one caused by Israel. This Flotilla and world outrage directed at Israel are entirely political and artificially conceived.
Israel, has an OBLIGATION, in keeping with their blockade of Gaza under international humanitarian law, to ensure that the Gaza Strip is provided with the basic necessities to ensure life. While Gaza’s unemployment rate is 40% (and despite the claim that this is the worst in the world, again, it is not. There are 13 countries worse, mostly MUCH worse, than Gaza), and as much as 70% is below the poverty line (once again, roughly a dozen countries are worse in this subjective category too), Israel’s responsibility is to ENSURE A BASIC QUALITY OF LIFE (medical, food and water, and so on). As many anti-Israel forces will argue, it doesn’t. However the statistics simply point to another reality, as you will soon see. Despite the high unemployment rate and abject poverty, basic aid, as per international humanitarian law, is provided to see that a basic quality of life is ensured. Another point concerning this issue is that all that needs to be done in Gaza to lift the blockade is for Hamas to accept Israel’s right to exist and to put down their arms. Furthermore, Israel has no legal responsibility nor even an ability to control the monetary or fiscal policies of the Gaza Strip. That responsibility falls under Hamas, as does the distribution of food, water and medical aid (as well as the UNRWA). The corrupt and cruel leadership becomes starkly evident when one considers that there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, regular windsurfing competitions and rather lavish middle-upper class restaurants (http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/05/25/fancy-restaurants-and-olympic-size-pools-what-the-media-won’t-report-about-gaza/). If there are people starving in Gaza, while others live high off the hog eating chicken cordon bleu, swimming in olympic-sized swimming pools and ripping it up with their windsurfing boards, that is absolutely an internal issue of aid management and not Israel failing to provide necessary aid.
This is not to downplay the suffering, unemployment and very problematic conditions of the Gaza Strip. It certainly exists, though more than ever after doing some basic research, I’m convinced that it is Hamas & the thuggish feudal oligarchical system which exists under Hamas rule in Gaza:
So, some basic statistics which can be used to qualitatively analyze the quality of life in Gaza:
Infant Mortality Rate
According to the CIA World Factbook, “this rate is often used as an indicator of the level of health in a country.”
Infant Mortality Rate is recorded as deaths per 1000 live births.
As of available 2010 statistics so far, there are 108 countries/areas of governance in the world which have higher infant mortality rates than Gaza.
GAZA STRIP sits at 17.71 deaths per 1000 births. Also worth noting is that Gaza’s life expectancy rate IMPROVED from 2009 to 2010. In 2009, the infant mortality rate was 18.35 deaths per 1000 live births.
Other areas with higher infant mortality rates (not all, but a select sampling of some)?
Dominican Republic- 25.04
Trinidad and Tobago- 28.90
South Africa- 43.78
WORLD AVERAGE- 44.13
North Korea- 50.15
Morrocan-occupied Western Sahara – 61.97
Pakistan – 65.34
Highest in the world – Angola with 178.3
Source: CIA World Factbook 2010
You will also note of these countries, Pakistan, South Africa, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, Libya and Philippines have all condemned Israel. Further to that, you’ll note that a large number of Arab states (who largely refuse to deal with Israel in any capacity) also have higher numbers. Finally, TURKEY, the country where the Mavi Marmara was organized, and has routinely been sabre-rattling against Israel and the “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza has a HIGHER infant mortality rate itself!
Life Expectancy at Birth
According to the CIA World Factbook, “Life expectancy at birth is also a measure of overall quality of life in a country and summarizes the mortality at all ages.”
As of available 2010 statistics so far, there are 114 countries/areas of governance in the world which have lower life expectancy at birth than Gaza.
GAZA STRIP life expectancy at birth (in years) as of 2010 is 73.68. Like Infant Mortality Rates, this has also IMPROVED since 2009, albeit meagrely up from 73.42 years.
Other areas in the world with lower life expectancy (in years) (this is once again, a select sampling of countries):
WORLD AVERAGE- 66.12
North Korea- 64.13
Morrocan-Occupied Western Sahara- 60.74
South Africa- 49.20
LOWEST IN THE WORLD, Angola- 38.48
Source: CIA World Factbook 2010
Interestingly, once again, the among the countries with a lower life expectancy than the Gaza Strip, ones to strongly condemn and/or criticize Israel include Pakistan, India, Honduras, Philippines and the ship to arrive in Israel yesterday, the MV Rachel Corrie, was co-organized by Malaysia, also a lower life expectancy than Gaza.
A constant claim by Israel’s detractors is that children in Gaza don’t get a proper education. In addition, it’s claimed that Israel will not let in school supplies to the blockaded strip. While the veracity of these claims is not verifiable, the literacy rate of the strip suggest a different story.
The CIA World Factbook describes literacy rate as, “the ability to read and write at a specified age…Information on literacy, while not a perfect measure of educational results, is probably the most easily available and valid for international comparisons.”
Unfortunately, the CIA World Factbook does not compile comparative data on literacy rates, however as of 2010, it reports the GAZA STRIP literacy rate to be at 92.4%. The most recent comparative data on literacy rates across the world I could find are from the United Nations Development Programme Report in 2009. As of this report, there are 92 areas of governance in the world with lower literacy rates than Gaza out of 179 countries with available data.
Areas with literacy rates the same or lower than the Gaza Strip:
Sri Lanka 90.8
United Arab Emirates 90.0
Saudi Arabia 82.9
South Africa 82.4
WORLD AVERAGE- 82.0
LOWEST IN THE WORLD, Burkina Faso 23.6
Sources: CIA World Factbook 2010
United Nations Development Programme Report, 2009
Once again we see a very high incidence of country’s expressing condemnation of Israel in addition to a high proportion of Arab and Islamic countries expressing dismay over the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.
Another interesting comparison: Women’s Literacy Rate
As per the CIA World Factbook, women’s literacy rate at last calculation in Gaza was 88%. There are 87 areas of governance in the world with lower female literacy rates, 109 with higher female literacy rates. These statistics are not as impressive as the previous ones I have posted, however one must also consider Gaza’s religiosity and Islamic dominion under Hamas. As far as Muslim areas of governance go, Gaza is among the very highest in female literacy.
Areas of governance with lower female literacy rates:
South Africa: 85.7%
United Arab Emirates: 81.7%
El Salvador: 77.7%
WORLD AVERAGE: 77%
Saudi Arabia: 70.8%
Iraq: 24.4% (as of 2002, prior to the war)
LOWEST FEMALE LITERACY RATE IN THE WORLD, Afghanistan: 12.6% (as of 2000, prior to the war)
Sources: CIA World Factbook 2008
Once more, the hypocritical anger and condemnation at Israel is startling, given the record of many of these countries.
Also worth noting is that TURKEY falls behind the Gaza Strip in EVERY SINGLE set of comparative data I have posted to this point. Of all of the hypocrisy in the world, theirs in this Flotilla fiasco is the most ridiculous and ill-founded. It becomes clear that it was ALL politically contrived.
School Life Expectancy
Another measure of basic decency of life, education, and a direct fact to disprove claims that Gazans have little to no access to education is that the GAZA STRIP school life expectancy averages 14 years. 13 years for males and 14 years for females.
While not as valuable qualitatively as literacy rates, it is valuable to see how it is consistent with the rest of the statistics available to show basic standards of life in the Gaza Strip.
Of the comparatively limited data available (only 110 areas of governance), Gaza sits at 29th in the world with 81 areas/countries with lower school life expectancy.
Areas of governance with lower school life expectancy than Gaza:
Uruguay: 13.7 years
Hungary: 13.6 years
Bahrain: 13.5 years
Czech Republic: 13.5 years
Chile: 13.5 years
Tunisia: 13.5 years
Malta: 13.4 years
Luxembourg: 13.1 years
Qatar: 13.1 years
Lebanon: 12.8 years
Bulgaria: 12.7 years
Cuba: 12 years
Lithuania: 11.6 years
Romania: 11.6 years
Algeria: 11.5 years
Mexico: 11.5 years
Malaysia: 11.5 years
Croatia: 11.4 years
Iran: 11.3 years
Latvia: 11.2 years
Philippines: 11.2 years
Georgia: 11 years
Thailand: 10.8 years
Cyprus: 10.8 years
United Arab Emirates: 10.7 years
Azerbaijan: 10.6 years
Egypt: 10.3 years
Costa Rica: 10.1 years
Syria: 9.5 years
Turkey: 9.5 years
Jordan: 9 years
Saudi Arabia: 9 years
Oman: 8.8 years
Kuwait: 8.7 years
Yemen: 8.5 years
Morocco: 8.2 years
Cambodia: 7.3 years
LOWEST IN THE WORLD, Mali: 2.1 years
Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics
INDEED, IN EVERY SINGLE QUALITY OF LIFE STATISTIC I HAVE LOOKED AT, TURKEY FALLS USUALLY WELL BELOW OF THE GAZA STRIP! Their criticism of Israel over the “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza is the absolutely quintessential example of “the pot calling the kettle black.”
LEGALITY OF ISRAEL’S BLOCKADE AND MAVI MARMARA FLOTILLA BOARDING
As per research undertaken by my colleague, Noah Shack:
The Gaza blockade has been enforced by Israel and Egypt since Hamas’ violent takeover of the Strip in 2007, with the goal of diminishing Hamas’ capacity to produce and procure weapons.
Blockade is a legitimate tool under international law used as an effective naval measure by several Western countries, including the NATO blockade targeting the former Yugoslavia from 1993-1996. According to section 7.7.1 of the US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations, the “right of blockade is intended to prevent vessels and aircraft, regardless of their cargo, from crossing an established and publicized cordon separating the enemy from international waters.”
Section 67A of the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea clearly states that a country has the right to intercept vessels that are “believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture.”
Maritime blockades are often enforced in international waters. In fact, section 7.7.4 of the US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations states that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time it leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.
Since the blockade of Gaza began in 2007, Israel has continued to ensure adequate delivery of humanitarian supplies via multiple land crossings on a daily basis. However, Israel is not legally obliged to allow any goods into Gaza that would give Hamas a military or economic advantage.
AID DELIVERED TO THE GAZA STRIP IN TANGIBLE NUMBERS
As per research conducted by my colleague Steve McDonald:
The facts put these charges to rest – just take a look at how much aid Israel regularly delivers to Gaza, and what it means in real terms for Gazans:
Over one million tons of humanitarian supplies were delivered by Israel to the people of Gaza in the past 18 months – that’s equal to nearly one ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza.
In the first quarter of 2010 alone (January-March), Israel delivered 94,500 tons of supplies to Gaza. It’s very easy to miss what that actually means for the people of Gaza. The breakdown includes:
40,000 tons of wheat – which is equal to 53 million loaves of bread;
2,760 tons of rice – which equals 69 million servings;
1,987 tons of clothes and footwear – the equivalent weight of 3.6 million pairs of jeans; and
553 tons of milk powder and baby food – equivalent to over 3.1 million days of formula for an average six-month-old baby.
This reflects a long-term effort on the part of Israel to deliver a massive and comprehensive supply of aid to Gaza’s civilians, while restricting the ability of Hamas to import missiles that have been launched at the cities of southern Israel. In 2009 alone:
During the Muslim holy days of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, Israel shipped some 11,000 head of cattle into Gaza – enough to provide 8.8 million meals of beef;
More than 3,000 tons of hypochlorite were delivered by Israel to Gaza for water purification purposes – that’s 60 billion gallons of purified water; and
Israel brought some 4,883 tons of medical equipment and medicine into Gaza – a weight equivalent to over 360,000 260-piece mobile trauma first aid kits.
There is absolutely NO humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip. While Gazan Palestinians suffer under fascist Hamas rule, poverty, unemployment and certainly do not live desirable lives, Israel does provide more than adequate amounts of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. This is perfectly evidenced by the fact that despite having higher amounts of poverty and unemployment than most places in the world, by all quantifiable statistics usable to determine quality of life, Gazans live a life better than the average human being in the world. In fact, in comparison to other Arab and Muslim nations with similar values, governments and beliefs, the Gaza Strip is actually a leader in quality of life indicators. While suffering and unfortunate aspects of life are not necessarily quantifiable tangibles, statistics truly determine the MOST objective view of how Gaza’s citizens live by comparison to the rest of the world.
Furthermore, one must consider the fact that if Israel had no blockade on Gaza, rockets would hit Israel and psychologically terrorize (despite a low incidence of death caused by rockets) civilian populations to the point that life would be unliveable as it was in Sderot, for example, before Operation Cast Lead.
On the other hand, if Hamas and Gaza renounced violence and accepted Israel’s right to exist, the blockade would be IMMEDIATELY lifted (as we stand right now, world opinion is divided on the blockade, because Israel legitimately does have major security concerns). If Hamas accepted Israel and stopped firing weapons, Israel would have absolutely ZERO argument to the international community for upholding the blockade– let alone to Israelis concerned with the lives of their soldiers, the amount of expenditure to uphold the blockade, and OF COURSE, the basic, human morality Israelis express loudly and frequently. The blockade would be ended by the government or Israeli and the international community’s (justified this time) outrage would necessarily cause Israel to lift it.
The world is absolutely being DUPED into believing that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and this is not the case, at all, as I have shown. We need to use basic logical arguments and statistics as I have provided above to explain this rationally. The world’s excessive focus on Israel and Gaza are a red herring and while the world expends its limited protest capital on a difficult situation with no easy solution in the Middle East, there are dozens, even hundreds of areas around the world where there IS a dire humanitarian situation. The wrong-headed international focus on Israel effectively shifts pressure and resources away from these humanitarian situations, where, if not tackled soon (like in Darfur or the DR Congo, to name a couple), there won’t be a dire humanitarian situation anymore. Unfortunately, there won’t be any more humanity at all in such places.
The real issue at hand is that the Hamas government in Gaza and the totalitarian leaders in most Arab states put international opinion as a priority far and above their civilians lives and livelihoods. Israel, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. It clearly puts the lives and livelihood of its people much higher than it does international opinion. Unfortunately, the world seems to be blind to these obvious facts and prefers the evil deception inherent in the governing styles of Hamas and other dictators around the world.
PLEASE DO NOT MISTAKE ME, ISRAEL HAS A MORAL AND LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SUPPORT GAZAN CIVILIANS DURING ITS BLOCKADE, AS I HAVE ACKNOWLEDGED AND STATED REPEATEDLY. BUT I THINK THE ABOVE STATISTICS AND ANALYSIS SHOW THAT IT IS DOING PRECISELY THAT. HOWEVER, IN POINTING OUT THESE REALITIES, THAT IN NO WAY EXCUSES ISRAEL FROM ITS OBLIGATIONS. IN FACT, AS A DEMOCRACY, ALL ISRAELIS AND SUPPORTERS OF ISRAEL HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO STRIVE AND EXPECT FOR ISRAEL TO CONSTANTLY LOOK TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION IN GAZA WHERE IT IS ABLE TO. THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF A DEMOCRACY, AND OF SUPPORTING A DEMOCRACY, WITH VALUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN LIFE IN GENERAL.
To put life in Gaza in perspective with visuals, as well, here’s a couple of links you may find helpful:
Am Yisrael Chai!
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