The blockade of Gaza and the ongoing relevance of Edmund Silberner

This is not a surprise, but it is worth keeping in mind:

The blockade has also decimated Gaza's private sector, key to weaning the territory from its dependence on imports and aid. The merchant class here has long provided a chunk of Gaza's employment, and it is one of the few sectors that fostered constructive contact with Israel, through trade.

"This is like a death penalty for us," says Mohammed Al Telbani, chief executive of Al Awda Factories Co., a cookie and ice-cream maker.

Businesses can't import raw materials or export finished goods. Since the blockade, more than 3,000 private-sector enterprises, including factories and small businesses, have closed, contributing to an unemployment rate of 44%, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

Many of the businesses that have managed to stay open have turned to smugglers to bring in machines, spare parts and raw materials from Egypt, severing trade ties between Gaza and Israeli manufacturers and traders.

All this has bolstered Hamas, businessmen here and aid agencies say. Hamas exerts oversight over the tunnels and their operators. It has expanded its own public-sector payroll, earning local praise for creating new jobs. It has also extended economic tentacles into new businesses.

Yaser Alwadeya, chairman of Alwadeya Group, a 54-year-old trading and manufacturing conglomerate, calls the new economic reality here "the Hamas private sector." Before the blockade, his company made 171 different brands of food, including chips and candy. Some 60% of his products went to Israel or the West Bank.

Much of his manufacturing line was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes during the December 2008-January 2009 Gaza war, he says.

Facilities that survived are now starved of basic raw materials like cocoa powder, reducing his product line to just 11 items. That includes ice cream sold in clear plastic bags, because, Mr. Alwadeya says, Israel won't allow in proper packaging.

He no longer exports anything, and he now employs 45 people, down from 276 before the blockade. "Where do you think they are?" asks Mr. Alwadeya of the employees he has had to fire. "Either on the streets or with Hamas."

Edmund Silberner's classic treatment of trade and war remains relevant and of course he was also a prominent Zionist, albeit a mostly forgotten one today. 

Most journalistic coverage, by the way, focuses on diplomacy and negotiations. Perhaps it refers to concepts such as "strengthening the hard liners," but often it goes no further.  Yet frequently the real action stems from how policies shift the relative balance of power among interest groups, a point which Silberner understood well.  There is much related information here, from The Jerusalem Post, which notes that 95 percent of the factories and workshops in Gaza have had to close.  Furthermore:

Before 2007, 70 trucks laden with export goods such as furniture, clothing and produce left Gaza daily for Israel. Now, only the export of strawberries and flowers to Europe is allowed in certain instances…

I wonder if anyone in Israel right now is reading or citing classical liberal Edmund Silberner.  Here is a good, short piece on Silberner (in German), although it focuses on his work on socialism and anti-semitism rather than the roots or war.


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