Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are excited. Israeli authorities have decided to allow thousands of them to work in Israel. The news about the Israeli decision spread like wildfire, prompting tens of thousands of Palestinians to converge on the offices of the chambers of commerce throughout the Gaza Strip in the hope of obtaining a permit to work in Israel.
The scenes of Palestinian scrambling to receive permits to work in Israel have angered and embarrassed many Palestinians and Arabs, many of whom believe that Palestinian leaders are not doing enough to end the suffering of the Palestinians.
The fact that a large number of Palestinians are desperate to work in Israel is a sign of the failure of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority [PA] to improve the living conditions of their people despite the massive sums of money they receive from various sources, including the United [States], European Union and United Nations.
Instead of providing job opportunities to the young people and university graduates, Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, has been preoccupied with amassing and manufacturing weapons and digging tunnels that would be used to attack Israel.
Instead of building schools and hospitals and industrial zones, Hamas has been investing millions of dollars in arming and training its military group, Izaddin al-Qassam. Hamas prefers to spend money on any Palestinian who is prepared to join the jihad (holy war) on Israel than on an unemployed university graduate in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has no problem allowing Palestinians to work in the “Zionist entity” as long as its leaders are enjoying a luxurious life in Qatar.
The only problem Hamas and its supporters have is when photos and videos of the desperate job-seekers appear on various social media platforms. Hamas and its supporters are so embarrassed that they are now beginning to float around conspiracy theories regarding those behind the documentation of the Palestinians who rushed to apply for permits to work in Israel.
The head of the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions, Sami al-Amsi, said that “there are certain parties that are not innocent” behind the lines of thousands of workers in front of the chambers of commerce in the Gaza Strip. He is apparently trying to create the impression that anti-Palestinian parties sent the thousands of workers to apply for jobs in order to embarrass the Palestinians.
The dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip—65% unemployment and 80% poverty—was the main reason, al-Amsi said, for the Palestinians’ “thirst” to work in Israel.
Instead of holding Hamas responsible for the unemployment and poverty, al-Amsi and other Palestinians choose to blame Israel.
This view is in keeping with the longstanding habit of the Palestinian leadership to evade their responsibility for thievery and non-governance by blaming Israel for everything.
Many Palestinians and Arabs, however, are no longer buying this nonsense and know exactly who is trying to help and who has not done a thing to end their suffering.
Palestinian writer Lina Ibrahim wrote that the scenes of the Palestinians applying for permits to work in Israel “expose the shame” Hamas has brought to the Gaza Strip. In addition to the high rate of unemployment and human rights violations, she said, “young people are unable to get married because of Hamas’s violation of their basic right to work in the Gaza Strip.”
Syrian journalist and political analyst Hoda Jannat posted a photo of the Palestinians at one of the registration offices along with the following comment: “This is the Gaza Chamber of Commerce. Thousands of Palestinians, including those with [academic] degrees, are fighting for a job in Israel. I guarantee you that if Israel announced that it wants workers from Algeria, they would cross the Sahara [Desert] on foot to work in Israel to escape the hell they are living in at home.”
Another Saudi activist, Al-Hamoodi, remarked: “The Gaza Strip needs to be liberated from the Hamas gang. The truth is being revealed to the world. Workers from the Gaza Strip express their joy at the issuance of work permits in Israel. The rate of unemployment has reached 50%, most of them young people. One of them said that after he heard the news [that Israel was accepting workers], he couldn’t sleep all night.”
Interviews with some of the poor job-seekers revealed the sad reality of living under Hamas.
“For the past 15 years, we have not worked, no income,” said one worker.
“In the Gaza Strip, there is no work, no life. I have children who are taller than me and I cannot get them married,” remarked another worker.
An official in the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza City, who preferred not to be named, said that on the first day of registration, more than 10,000 people applied for permits to work in Israel. He expected the number to double in the coming days. Thousands of others have applied in other registration centers in different parts of the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority, headed by [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas, also bears responsibility for what many describe as the economic and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Four years ago, Abbas imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip in the hope that the Palestinians there would revolt against Hamas. He cut off the salaries of thousands of civil servants and halted financial aid to many impoverished families. He also contributed to the increase in the rate of unemployment by firing many civil servants.
Repeated appeals by Hamas and other Palestinians to lift the sanctions have been ignored by Abbas and others in the international community. As far as many international parties are concerned, why hold Abbas and the Palestinian Authority responsible for their crimes when you can conveniently pass the blame onto Israel?
The desperate Palestinians who are now lining up to work in Israel are the victims of failed Palestinian leaders. They are the victims of the corruption and incompetence of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
These Palestinians are also the victims of the ongoing conflict between the two rival parties, a conflict that has left the Palestinians with two separate mini-states in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian leaders who are inciting violence against Israel on a daily basis have no problem begging Israel to allow Palestinians to work in Israel.
One final question: Where is the responsibility of the Arab countries towards their Palestinian brothers? Why isn’t Egypt, for example, opening up its shared border with the Gaza Strip to allow Palestinians to come and work in Egypt? Why don’t the Arab governments allow the Palestinians, who are knocking on Israel’s door for help, to go and work in Arab countries?
There is, sadly, only one answer: The Arabs want the Palestinians to remain Israel’s problem. If Palestinian leaders could not care less about their own people, why would any Arab ruler step up?
As has now become clear for all to see, Israel has become the only hope for the hungry workers in the Gaza Strip—who have been abandoned not only by their leaders, but by the rest of their Arab brothers as well.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.