Question to Harriet Sherwood: How are Gazans living in sovereign Palestinian state still “refugees”?

Before addressing the issue noted by our title, per Harriet Sherwood’s “Gaza builders lead economic recovery with some help from the black market“, Jan 22, a few not so minor corrections, to claims made by Sherwood and her Palestinian protagonists, need to be made:

First, there’s this:

Despite easing the blockade in 2010, Israel has maintained a ban on the import of construction materials on the grounds that they could be used to make rockets or build weapons stores or bunkers

This is classic Guardian and classic Sherwood: Sowing doubt by casually noting what Israel claims, without any further attempt to corroborate the facts. Is she suggesting there’s any doubt that Hamas uses such materials for weapons or bunkers?

According to the Terrorism and Information Center,

Hamas makes extensive use of cement to rebuild military infrastructure hit in Operation Cast Lead and to create new military infrastructure. For example, Hamas establishes outposts, training compounds, and storage sites; digs defensive and offensive tunnels; and creates rocket launch sites lined with concrete. Such activities are part of an overall strategy of giving priority to the rehabilitation and buildup of military infrastructure over the needs of the population. Hamas Political Bureau Chief Khaled Mash’al said as much at a conference in Damascus when he said, “On the surface, [statements in the Gaza Strip] refer to reconciliation [between Hamas and Fatah] and rebuilding, however, what is not revealed is that most of Hamas’ funds and efforts are invested in the resistance and military preparations…”

Second, Sherwood writes:

Israel still bans almost all exports, apart from a few truckloads of strawberries and flowers. Industries such as textiles and furniture, once mainstays of the Gazan economy, struggle to recover without the possibility of trade beyond the territory.

Yet, in a prior passage Sherwood acknowledges that Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing (on Gaza’s southern border), a border which Israel does not control and could certainly be used to facilitate exports.

Third, there’s the following claim which Sherwood doesn’t challenge:

Poverty, remains among the most severe in the world,” said Salem Ajluni, an economist who compiled a report on Gaza’s labour market for Unrwa. 

This claim is just flat-out untrue. As we’ve noted previously, and as even the NYT acknowledged, Gaza “has never been among the world’s poorest places. There is near universal literacy and relatively low infant mortality, and health conditions remain better than across much of the developing world.”

Finally, though a throw away line which Sherwood likely wrote with little or no reflection, the following passage needs to be fisked:

Unemployment in Gaza has fallen, but one in three of the potential job market is still without work and poverty is widespread in the teeming refugee camps.

I’ve pointed this out before, but I truly would like Sherwood, or any of this blog’s critics, to explain how you can sincerely make the case that Palestinians living in a  sovereign Palestinian ruled state (more than six years after Israel evacuated every remaining Jew from the territory) can still be considered “refugees”?  

To characterize them as refugees – even assuming these are Arabs who used to live in Israel proper (boundaries set for the Jewish state, per the 1947 UN Partition Plan) and were displaced by the 1948 War – would necessarily suggest that Jews displaced by the ’48 war from homes where they were lived in East Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria (The West Bank), and are now living within the post-war boundaries of the Israeli state, should similarly be considered refugees.

Moreover, what set of political criteria needs to be met for Palestinians to lose their refugee status, according to UNRWA and Western journalists like Sherwood who uncritically accept the group’s expansive and logically absurd understanding of the term? 


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