In one of the small benefits to be derived from the recent Israeli assault upon the Gaza relief flotilla, Israeli politicians have declared they will relax certain import restrictions enforced by their long running siege of the Gaza Strip. Life is hard and you take whatever good you can, and not only has this move alleviated the suffering of the Palestinians to a degree but also it’s given the world a shining example of what hell is wrought in any society which allows the mixing of the political with the economic.
Now you’d think any relaxation of the hands about Gaza’s throat would be a welcome change for the (...ahem) gentlemen who run Hamas, but that would be asking a bit too much. Amazing but true, it seems they are a bit taken aback by the Israeli decision to open the Gaza juice market to imports, the best minds in Israel finally declaring fruit juice to be an item not fitted for military operations. And now from the sordid coupling of politics with business has birthed an abomination - in this case Hamas re-imposing the blockade in fruit juices. Yes. The one Israel just lifted. That one.
For the Palestine Food Industries Co. (PFI) (the only functioning juice maker in the Gaza Strip) sales have increased ten fold since the seige began as they have been handed a (literally) captive audience thanks to the Israeli military. Since the PFI is under the umbrella of the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), which is a political entity controlled by Hamas (in 2006 Omar Abdel-Razeq, at the time Hamas finance minister, referred to the PIF as "our Palestinian Investment Fund"), here you have the root of the continuing blockade of Gaza in the area of fruit juices, the ultimate aim of every political creed: Other Peoples’ Money.
Israel has removed the blockade, lightening the load off the working masses of Gaza, and Hamas quickly slaps it right back on, all so they may continue to take more from the pockets of the Palestinian workers than would be possible under a free market in fruit juices. As always when it comes to political maneuverings of this kind, the politicians insist it is being done for the benefit of a beloved, mythical unicorn called The People and not to line the pockets of them and their politically connected cronies. Per Bloomberg:
"The policy of the government is to protect and maintain local products and industry and employ a large number of workers who have no job due to the seige," Ziad Zaza, the Hamas economy minister, said in an e-mailed response to questions about the restrictions on Israel goods.
Excellent logic! Irrefutable! In fact, so much so that I ask why lift the Israeli blockade at all? If the policy of restricting imports - in effect, blockading yourself – is such a wise, beneficial economic policy, why isn’t Gaza blessed with a booming economy already? So if I follow his train of thought correctly, according to Hamas official Ziad Zaza the Israelis (bless their altruist hearts!) by blockading imports have been protecting and maintaining Gaza products and industry and making sure that they’re employing a large number of workers. I suppose Amnesty International, the G8 leaders, and myself all owe the Israelis an apology. And so does Hamas, for that matter, if they too believe economic blockades, whether internally or externally imposed, are of benefit to the working masses.
Forget all the blathering of the Hamas talking heads and focus on what they’re doing – maintaining a blockade on the people they supposedly speak for in order to keep alive their sordid, politically protected monopoly in the fruit juice market. And forget all the blathering of the Ivy League "economists" who agree with Ziad Zaza’s protectionism for a moment and think about their logic. If restricting your own imports – blockading your own country – was of such economic benefit, why do we strive to do exactly that to our enemy during times of war?
So either Adam Smith was a fool or Hamas owes Israel an apology and should, by their logic, stop biting the hand that feeds them and embrace the Israeli blockade.