Financial Times perpetuates the myth of “sealed off” Gaza

An article at the Financial Times written by their Jerusalem correspondent John Reed (Extreme remote working at Gaza’s ‘weird news’ bureau’, July 29th) focuses on a Gazan named Rawa Othman.  Othman’s job, according to Reed, involves “scanning the shallows of the internet in search of what he calls ‘the weirdest news'”, working remotely for the Saudi owned Abu Nawaf Network.

However, the story isn’t about one unusual job. Reed uses this example of a Gazan employed by a client based in another country – and the broader problem of high unemployment in the Palestinian-controlled territory – to highlight Gaza’s ‘isolation’ from the rest of the world.

This is no ordinary workplace: Mr Othman translates weird news in a high-rise in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. Gaza is sealed off from the world by an Israeli naval and aerial blockade, and its land borders with Egypt and Israel that only let a few travelers through.

Israel sealed off Gaza’s land, sea and air borders after Hamas took over in 2007, and now only admits a trickle of special cases: senior businesspeople, medical patients, religious pilgrims, and family reunification.

First, Israel’s legal naval blockade of Gaza wasn’t initiated until 2009 (after the 2008-09 Gaza War), not 2007 as Reed claims.

Moreover, it’s less than clear how precisely Reed defines the word “trickle” or the term “sealed off”.

  • 115,000 Gazans crossed the Erez Crossing for medical treatment in Israel and abroad in 2014.
  • On any given day in 2015, over 1,000 Gazans cross into Israel, including hundreds of merchants.
  • Hundreds of trucks carrying thousands of tons of humanitarian, construction and consumer goods enter Gaza every month.

In fact, here’s the latest daily stats by COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories), from July 28th, the day before the Financial Times published their report:

cogat graphic

Additionally, as we noted previously, Gregg Carlstrom, a Jerusalem based journalist who contributes to Times of London, has explained that “the restrictions imposed by Gaza’s other land neighbour, Egypt, are far more severe” than Israel’s “partial” blockade. 

Reed’s claims – that Gaza is “sealed off” and that only “a trickle” of Palestinians leave the territory – erase important context and are, at best, extremely misleading

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