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September 19, 2005

Missing UN Report on Palestinian Living Standards


Palestinian Arabs living in the Israeli-controlled West Bank and Gaza Strip have fared better in terms of life expectancy, adjusted real income, and educational attainment than many fellow Arabs, according to the United Nations. The U.N.’s 2005 Human Development Report, released to coincide with this month’s opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, ranks the Arabs of what it calls “Occupied Palestinian Territories�? at 102 out of 177 countries.

The Associated Press and other wire services filed dispatches mentioning the report’s general finding – that not enough is being done for the 40 percent of the world’s people who live on less than $2 a day. But a September 19 Nexis search showed no news coverage of the study’s ranking of Palestinian Arabs under “Israeli occupation�? higher than Algerians (103), Syrians (106), Egyptians (119), Moroccans (124) and Yemeni (151). Based on data for 2003 – a period of frequent Israeli counter-terrorism responses to the “al-Aqsa intifada�? – the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip also were not far behind Tunisians (89) and Jordanians (90).

Contradicting the story-line

A great deal of news media commentary, and not a little reporting, has portrayed the Palestinian Arabs as impoverished, and forced by Israel to endure substandard if not subhuman living conditions. The U.N.’s 2005 Human Development Report suggests otherwise, the Palestinian ranking of 102 falling into the “medium human development�? listing. For purposes of comparison, Norway (1), Iceland (2), Australia (3), the United States (10) and Japan (11) are among the 57 countries classified offering “high human development�? and Madagascar (146), Swaziland (147), Sierra Leone (176) and Niger (177) bookend the “low human development�? category.

Israel ranks 23 in the U.N. report. The top Arab states are the oil-rich, population poor sheikdoms of Qatar (40), United Arab Emirates (41), Bahrain (43) and Kuwait (44).

Arabs' Self-Inflicted Woes

At first glance, the 2005 study might seem to conflict with the U.N.’s 2004 Arab Human Development Report, which asserted that the standard of living for 58 percent of the Palestinian population fell below the poverty line. But without the self-inflicted damage of the Palestinian’s 2000 - 2005 terrorism war against Israel, the territories – whose economies had grown markedly in the Oslo “peace process�? years of 1993 - 2000 – likely would be listed even further ahead of Algeria, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen. As the under-reported 2004 study noted, much of what really ails the Arab countries, and the Palestinian Arabs, are “deficits of freedom,�? including lack of Western-style political, religious, minority and women’s rights and the prevalence of corrupt, oppressive, unrepresentative governments.

Harry Golden, editor of the Carolina Israelite and author of the 1958 bestseller, Only in America, said that after a lifetime of clipping news articles, he often found that the important stories were on the back. Or, in this case of Palestinian living standards under Israeli control, especially compared to Arab brethren under their own sovereign governments, nowhere at all.

This important story deserves to be covered for at least three reasons: 1) the facts it reveals about Palestinian standards of living – as compared to fragmentary and often misleading feature reporting about “Palestinians under Israeli occupation�?; 2) the under-reported reality of life in many Arab states;, and 3) the virtually unreported Israeli efforts to normalize daily life for peaceful Palestinians as much as possible.

The 2005 U.N. Human Development Report can be found here, and the Index ranking 176 countries plus the Palestinian Arabs here. (Hat tip: Leo Rennert)

Posted by ER at September 19, 2005 01:22 PM


Here's a story that puts flesh onto the statistics: Egyptian girls are willing to marry complete strangers for the privilege of living in Gaza.

Egyptian brides smuggled into the Gaza Strip

Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 20, 2005


Many Palestinian men who flocked into Egypt after the IDF evacuated the Philadelphi corridor have seized the opportunity to search for brides. Palestinian sources estimated on Tuesday that at least 100 Egyptian brides were smuggled into the Gaza Strip in the past week.

"Most of the brides came from the Egyptian part of Rafah and the town of Al-Arish, which were invaded by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after the border was left wide open," one source told The Jerusalem Post. He said Palestinian men were encouraged to marry Egyptians mainly because of the low expenses involved, especially the dowry.

"When you compare the situation with the Gaza Strip, it's much cheaper to marry a woman from Egypt," said another source. Some of the men were already married and had decided to take a second or third wife after discovering that Egyptian families were eager to send their daughters to a relatively better life in the Gaza Strip, the source added.

The influx into Egypt started almost immediately after the IDF left the border. Hamas gunmen blew up several holes in the concrete barrier built along the border, enabling tens of thousands of Palestinians to enter Egypt unhindered. Earlier this week the Palestinian Authority and Egypt announced that the border had been sealed, but many Palestinians have yet to return home.

On Tuesday, the Egyptian authorities issued a warning to the Palestinians who are still on its territories to leave within 72 hours or face arrest and trial.

Many Palestinians were reported to have exploited the open border to smuggle large amounts of weapons and drugs into the Gaza Strip. Others, particularly wholesale merchants, are said to have brought cheap cigarettes, food, livestock and electrical appliances.

But while they were in Egypt, many Palestinian men also discovered that there were many single women eager to marry and move to the Gaza Strip. Hastily arranged marriages enabled the women to return with their new husbands to the Gaza Strip without seeking permission from the Egyptian or Palestinian authorities.

One of the brides, who identified herself as Samira, said she agreed to marry the man she met only hours earlier "because this was an opportunity that should not be missed." Samira, 28, lived with her family in Al-Arish.

"In Egypt, it's very difficult for a woman my age to get married because I'm considered too old," she said. "Moreover, the economic situation in Egypt is not as good as in the Gaza Strip."

Another bride from Al-Arish said that she always been dreaming of marrying a Palestinian. "Palestinian men are better than Egyptian men," the 27-year-old said. "They know how to look after their wives and provide for them a decent living."

In a related development, PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub announced on Tuesday that the Palestinians were opposed to the presence of international forces at the Rafah border crossing. "We don't see a need for the presence of a third [non-Arab] party at the border with Egypt," Rajoub said after holding talks in Gaza City with Gen. Ibrahim Shukri, a senior Egyptian intelligence officer.

"The border, from Dahniyeh in the south to the sea in the north should be under joint Palestinian-Egyptian control. I believe that within a few weeks we would be able to organize the border crossings so that Palestinians could travel to Egypt."

Rajoub said that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas was expected to visit Cairo on Wednesday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak on ways of ending the chaos along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Posted by: Diana at September 21, 2005 09:00 AM

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